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“Wait… What?!?!” Let me just say off the top that receiving our first version of the “2-weeks notice” flanked the $h_t out of me. I never saw it coming… Not even for a second. But after some time to reflect, process, and move forward – as they say, “Everything happens for a reason.” Now all that’s left to find out is whether that reason will set our family up for the next great step in life complete with increased happiness and wealth… or, if that reason is the start of the financial apocalypse as we know it…
So in that golden zone between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my amazing wife said, “Hey! Let’s call up [our friend group] to see if they want to head out for dinner one night next week. I’ll concede the margaritas if they’ll give me the Mexican food.” (The woman’s a gem…)
Our friends obliged and there we were the next Friday night. A couple of pitchers for the 5 of us and a taco salad for the lady (iceberg free). Sure, we all had food, too – but after they set those pitchers down in front of us, the food that would follow really lost any significance.
The dinner lasted about 2-3 hours and it was one of those nights where the upper portion of your cheeks are sore because you were literally smiling and/or laughing for the entire 120-180 minutes.
Damn, we had a great time
We bid our adieus and right before we were about to leave, sensing the 30-minute car ride before us and the pitchers in our wake, I opted for a quick trip to the men’s room. And it’s not 2018 if you don’t instinctively whip out the old cell phone to check emails and other notifications while… ya know.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were ignored for the evening but my 10 new emails over the last 3 hours caught my eye.
Familiar sender (one of our “Team”) with no subject. That impulse earned the click and when my eyes read the first few sentences – I sobered up quickly. In essence, 1 of our 5 employees (that’s 20% of our workforce) and someone who we trusted with a great deal of autonomy and responsibility essentially said:
“I Have Accepted Another Job Offer – This is My 2-Weeks Notice”
I walked out of the bathroom toward my wife and she knew instantly something was up… “What is it?”
The ramifications of that email are incredibly far-reaching and carry many other indirect consequences that I will no doubt cover at length in the coming months (seriously – we’re in for a ride and I’m sure there will be some useful content in there for many of you – well, at least some entertainment).
As a little background… Prior to this 2-weeks notice, we were a group of 5 full-time employees and 2 part-timers (one of those being me). Additionally, the one who handed in their notice was trusted with a great deal of responsibility and (as a deficiency of my planning) was one of 2 people in our office who could do the relevant job effectively. Losing her was not only losing 20% of our effective workforce. This departure left a hole in our operational capacity as well…
Como se dice… No bueno?
But for now – I’ll tell you exactly what we did as business owners to rally the troops, circle the wagons, stem the tide, and (insert your preferred cliche here)to move forward after receiving our first 2-weeks notice
1- Identify the reason for leaving
Is there some systemic failure of the business? A toxic situation or person, perhaps? Or maybe things just didn’t work out for some innocent reason or another. In any case, you’ll be much better off if you can find out why your former employee is out the door… And then, you’ll have to see if their words are believable – but that’s another story.
For us, I called shortly after receiving the email and while I wasn’t able to discern the reason at that time, I didn’t push while I respected the decision they had made, and I was able to learn more during their exit interview (Item #4 below).
2- Listen, don’t over-correct, and come up with a plan (act like an adult)
Whether you received an email (like me), phone call, or a visit in the office, it is vitally important to keep your composure and to treat the individual with the same respect that you would’ve prior to learning this information. They have chosen to make this decision for a reason and at this point, it’s your responsibility to hear that decision, respect it, and then figure out how the pieces may fall. This is not the time to blow up and act like an idiot.
Remember, in my case, she was providing a “2-week notice” and was, in effect, giving us 16 days to come up with a plan and start to take action. In fact, with her sticking around for 2 weeks we were able to make some pretty big decisions that would affect our business and family with the buffer of at least a few weeks.
From there, we moved on to #3:
3- Inform the team and relay the plan moving forward
We had the luxury of the weekend to digest the changes and to come up with a plan. While we did have those few days to work on details, we had the general path outlined in about an hour. I then took the opportunity to fill in our Team in case of any rogue social media posts or other private conversations.
Why did we decide to call our Team over the weekend?
Well, I pride myself on not calling or bothering our employees over the weekend unless it’s completely necessary… and I felt this was one of those necessary times. To answer my original question, we wanted to make sure (if they didn’t know already) that our Team heard the information from us rather than another source. In having those conversations, we were able to do a few things:
Instill confidence that we had a good plan of action moving forward and to make sure everyone was on board with that plan
Eliminate the chance for mass panic on a Monday morning
Discuss important details in private conversations
Gather some information to gauge any potential further fallout (anyone else planning on leaving anytime soon?)
4- Part amicably and thank the outgoing employee (preferably during the exit interview)
Hey, they’ve presumably put in some time and have helped the organization in some capacity. Thank them for doing so while opening up your exit interview. Then, ask the outgoing employee what they enjoyed about the job. Finally, (this is why you’re here) as them what you (as a boss or an organization) could’ve done better.
While taking in this new information is critical, you also need to be mindful of its source and take the appropriate level of action. Is this a scorned employee looking to burn it down on the way out?
Or are they just moving on to a different job (for whatever reason) and trying to help?
Either way, it is your job to hear their information, view it through the appropriate lens, and then take the appropriate level of action in response. Regardless of how the exit interview goes, thank the employee and wish them well.
5- Use the opportunity to strengthen our core group (battlefield promotions can have benefits)
I came to fully understand the term “battlefield promotion” while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, where Jocko Willink (Retired Navy SEAL commander) informs us that when a leader is no longer able to fulfill their duties on a field of battle, someone previously under them in the chain of command needs to step up and do their job. With this outgoing employee, you may now be forced to look at some of your other Team members in a new light. People may need to learn new skills, fill a new role, or at least increase their abilities.
Guess what? This could be the perfect opportunity for someone on your Team who has just been biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to shine. So hand out an appropriate level of responsibility to the ones who remain and wait to see if someone surprises you.
Pro tip(s): make sure you’re there for support and assistance during the early days. Nobody is interested in extra work without the training or requirements that come with it. Also, buy the team lunch the first day without the departed – nothing says “We got this!!” quite like your favorite Mexican restaurant (maybe keep the margaritas in the fridge until the workday is over?).
6- Realize that you can’t control others, listen, learn, and move forward
Sometimes the world doesn’t revolve around you (I know… This was hard for me too) and people make decisions not because you wronged them in some terrible way, but because they perceived a greener shade of grass on the other side of that picket fence. Time will tell on the accuracy of their assessment, but at this point and for you, that’s irrelevant.
Their decision is made, you’ve taken their parting shots (I mean critiques), you’ve decided what corrective actions (if any) need to be taken, you’ve created a full-proof and peer backed plan, and now it’s time to move forward. Don’t bicker, gossip, and waste your time. Get this damn show on the road and put a goal in front of your team…
Then go make it happen!
Have you ever handed in a 2-weeks notice? How did it go down? Did you blow things up on the way out??
Or have you ever received one as a boss? I’m really curious to hear what your experiences are in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
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