‘Hello Boss, when is a good time to speak to you for a few minutes?’
Most exit conversations start like this. Leaders are often tested when a subordinate broaches the issue of leaving the team. In such cases, there could be two types of exit. One, when a team member decides to quit. And two, when a request is made to transfer to a different team in the same company or another company within the same group.
There are several factors which come into play in the case of a request for transfer. Obviously, there needs to be a vacancy or opportunity in the desired team and its leader open to considering the candidate who is keen to move, for the open position.
In either case of exit or transfer, if the subordinate is efficient and reliable, the current team leader may be reluctant to let go of such a resource. The worry is two-fold: to find a good replacement may not be easy and the time taken to get the new recruit up to speed with the requirements of the job may take longer than necessary.
It is not uncommon to feel a sense of discomfort, in a leader, to follow this path. The process of finding and grooming a replacement cannot be taken for granted. It is dependent on extraneous factors. There could be a period of disruption at work once the team member leaves. Adjustments may need to be done in the team along with reallocation of roles. When status quo is altered, it does cause incovenience, particularly if things were going fine. The effort on the part of the leader, seen in many cases, is to try and retain the member in the same team.
In some cases, no sooner than the subordinate expresses a desire to leave, the boss views her or him as persona non grata. Such leaders take it personally.
‘How can you leave me and go? I have done so much for you. How could you even think of it?’
As silly as it may seem, in isolated cases, the boss may stop making eye-contact and tries to avoid meeting or speaking with the team member.
How often do leaders put themselves in the shoes of the subordinate who decides to move on? Is it good for her or him? How keen is she or he to make it happen? Why not let go rather than lose her or him to competition? This way, the company can continue to enjoy the service of a good resource. There is no point in trying to retain someone whose heart lies elsewhere. The passion will no longer be there to perform the job. Such situations help neither the team nor the member.
Mature leaders think as much about the team member, as they do about the team and organisation. If it is good for the team member in the long run, if she or he can grow more in the new role or is passionate about it, such leaders may even encourage the switch. If you wish well for your team members, think what is good for them.
The best leaders are known to guide the member who wants to switch and help to make the right decision. Sometimes, the subordinate may feel the switch is better for him or her, but in reality, it may not be so. At such times, the boss can discuss the pros and cons and help make sense. Not always is one best placed to decide for oneself. It is good to seek counsel from a more experienced professional. The boss should play this role.
How a boss handles a subordinate’s exit speaks a lot about her or his leadership. This has a lasting impact on the departing member as this forms the final impression not just about the boss but the organisation as well. Not being able to handle it well, on the part of the boss, is a huge disservice to the organisation. Because a leader in this case, is the brand ambassador of the organisation.
It is both incumbent and imperative for an organisation to prioritise and focus on this area. Very few actually do. If any of the chosen leaders are tarnishing its brand image by mishandling the exit experience, it is time to take corrective action. Often one hears of instances where recruits are welcomed with open arms and treated badly when they leave, which leaves a bitter taste in their mouth.
It’s not just the exit, the overall experience of an employee during the full length of service also matters a lot. The organisations who get this right become one of the best places to work in. Since leaders make an organisation, it is the quality of leadership which plays a big role in how the organisation is perceived.