There's no need to burn bridges or make threats.
When I first started No Limit Agency, my naïve self thought we would build a culture of forever, quickly resembling the companies of yesteryear, the ones our parents worked at, where forever was a reality. I envisioned a company that provided ultimate flexibility, culture, revenue and dreams that come true. Nearly eight years later, I still envision a company with all of the above, but the frank reality is that forever is not possible.
But memories can be.
When exiting a business or a relationship, keeping the door open seems like the most logical step — sidestepping the f-bombs and the “I’m going to sue you” mentality. Luckily for me, I have experienced every type of exit — as an employee and as an employer. The advice that many of our parents gave us to never burn bridges is alive and well.
The first time I quit an adult job (after college), I dreaded it. Not just because of the awkward conversation I was going to have with my boss, but because I really liked my job, enjoyed many of my co-workers and would have loved to ride the executive ladder to the top. But at that point in my career, I needed to make a change. I had this vast thirst for understanding more about business, so leaving a journalism job for a publicist job seemed like a logical step.
After receiving an offer, I resigned. Instead of being told to eff off, they asked if they could counter. Lesson one, when a counter is coming, listen — there is absolutely no pain in listening, especially if it motivates the employer to try to create a better situation for you. Employment is a game of poker – and ultimately one where both the house and you can win.
The counter was good. In fact, although I had lied (lesson two, people aren’t stupid, they can read your bs) about what the new employer was going to pay me, they came back and offered something very fair. After seeking the advice from everyone who was willing to give me some (lesson three, talk with those you respect, they may help you exit better so that the urge to strike the match doesn’t begin), I ultimately decided it was time to try something new. My former employer actually kept me on as freelancer for a year. That was a good exit.
The next exit was not so smooth. But I understand why. I tried playing cards with the vision of finding a mutually beneficial pathway to equity, but that wasn’t in my employer’s cards. Although I was ready to do everything I found to be morally correct when I quit, my employer was not. They were furious, primarily because I refused to tell them where I was going (I didn’t have to). Although the news of where I was going to go wasn’t great for them, I wanted to give them the fairest exit I could. Two weeks was the agreement, I was shown the door 2.5 days later in not the most graceful way. Lesson four, as hard as it is for the employee to walk away, it’s just as tough for the employer. The balance they worked hard to create is suddenly shaken. This creates unease, fear and sometimes anger. Although it is their intention to make the exit go smoothly, sometimes the spark plug comes undone. As an employee, putting yourself in their shoes may help to make that exit smoother.
As an employer, I have seen it all. I have experienced many kinds of threats from employees. The interesting thing from my seat is that we haven’t outright fired many people. We have tried to lead an exit the right way. Lesson number five, you can’t control people or outcomes — only your own. And the saying of firing fast and hiring slow is 100 percent correct. It’s just really hard to fire people — especially for me, because of the people side involved.
In the last year, from the quitting standpoint I have heard “I am going to unfriend you on Facebook,” “Screw you, I will get payback” and the one I hate the most, “Sorry, my job said I have to start immediately, so I am unwilling to give you two weeks’ notice.” Lesson six, each of those do burn. You win. But know, as an employer — and this seems true for many of my friends who are also employers — we didn’t see the exit as a “Let’s burn you moment” simply a, “Cool, it just wasn’t a fit.” Lesson seven, and most important, is to try not to burn the bridge. If you are a realist, you know life is short and life is small. What comes around goes around, which is why karma exists. Try to go out right, with a handshake. The get-you mentality rarely works out in the long term.
As much as I wish my business would keep people forever, I absolutely know that’s impossible. It’s likely that as I write this another employee is planning his or her exit. Lesson eight, it’s OK. The grass will always be perceived to be greener. As an employer, you do your best, try to constantly improve culture and do right as much as you can, and in the end, at the very least, you can say you did it as right as possible. Perhaps, if you look at the situations as business and not personal, that door can still be left open and a future reunion can be possible — even when the person leaving tries everything to close it.