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It doesn't have to be all blues, following a pink slip

Suruchi Maitra
23rd Oct 2017
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You will always hear HR folks say that people are never bad. They just don’t fit the role. I believe this to be true for most cases and obviously for the purpose of this article we are not referring to cases of breach of integrity or security or such other causes.

There could be various reasons for the misfit – cultural misalignment, individual reaching his level of competence while the organization needs someone to help evolve it to the next level, mis-match of skills needed to make a material difference on the ground etc. When organizations finally part ways with senior leaders because things didn’t work out for a variety of reasons as given above, somehow things become awkward, from both sides. It is not so that the individual never contributed something meaningful in the company, it is not so that the individual didn’t have some great ideas or wasn’t a nice person. They may have goofed up a few times, may have made some honest mistakes or taken wrong judgement calls but that doesn’t wipe out the other good things they did from the past. Then why does the relationship become like a dating relationship has gone sour?

The individual in question also goes through a lot of emotions ranging from denial to being a victim to asking questions on self-esteem. In our world, a forced separation from a job becomes a permanent mark on a person’s career and sometimes his own confidence to look for other jobs is shaken. Sometimes the mindset of the interviewer on the other side is limited and not open to see the big picture.

Therefore, I have always wondered what can leaders do to avoid falling in this trap of awkwardness? Is there a certain responsibility leaders have towards this employee and his future? Most organizations demonstrate responsibility by a generous separation package including paid time off to look for something in the market. This is of course greatly appreciated but I am wondering if there is more. It is not that I have not let go of people. I have many times over. But for all the reasons cited above, I have also taken responsibility for those decisions. Here are a few tips from my experience on how not to make such situations awkward (most of the times).

  • Have an open conversation with the person being separated telling them why it isn’t working out and discuss next steps.
  • The generous separation package always helps and is greatly appreciated. All organization should do what they reasonably can to help tide over the difficult period.
  • Discuss next steps authentically. Most of the times, the employee may not be even ready to discuss next steps because they may still be living through the early stages of the change curve (shock, denial, range of anger and frustration). This may mean that multiple conversations may be needed for a person to reach a place of willingness to receiving support – the hanging point before options could be tried and the person actually moves forward. This needs genuine effort and time for the other person to realize that you actually mean it.
  • Do what you can in your network if the employee asks for your help. Be candid and straight-forward with your network and lay out the employee’s strengths and opportunities focusing on their person fit for the role.
  • Stay in touch before and after the employee starts another life. You will note that if all this happens, the relationship itself has evolved to a whole new level and is deeper.

If a leader follows these steps, then they have demonstrated leadership authentically and for humanity.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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