Want a Good Measure of a Company? It’s How They Treat Those Who Quit

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Jan 22, 2015

I left my first post-college professional position after a little over four years on the job.

In that time, I had worked my tail off for the organization with 60-80 hour weeks as the norm, had been promoted twice, and had built a program that was one of the most innovative and forward thinking in the industry.

In return, after I gave my notice, I was refused any future reference (beyond confirming dates of employment), had no acknowledgement of my contribution, and was more or less treated like a leper for my remaining two weeks.

A great look into an organization’s true culture

The only thing I got from the leadership of my office on my last day was to be told that I shouldn’t bother attending the weekly staff meeting that morning. I sat through the whole thing just staring at the vice president (who refused to acknowledge that it was my last day) just to prove a point.

While that may seem like a rebellious move, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t fighting back tears while I did it because of how much it hurt me.

Principles and values only mean something if you stick to them when they are inconvenient as well as when they are easy to follow. A lot of lip service is paid to organizational culture by HR offices and senior leaders, but for my money, you can learn everything you need to know about an organization’s culture, and how much they value their employees, by the way they treat them on the way out the door.

Think for a moment about every job you’ve ever left – what did your sendoff look like? How did your management treat you after you gave your notice?

How did they treat you when you resigned?

So, for example…

  • Did they congratulate you, work to proactively put together a transition plan, host a sendoff for you to thank you for your hard work, and offer a reference for the future? That shows they genuinely care about acknowledging the value of their contribution, setting you (and the remaining team) up for future success.
  • Are they one of those organizations that will only host a get together or acknowledge the contributions of the departing employee if he or she is a senior leader in the company? That shows a lot about how much (or little) they value the rest of the team that is probably doing the day-to-day grunt work.
  • Does your organization have an official clause in the employee handbook stipulating that they will not provide a reference beyond confirming the dates of employment? That’s certainly a company I would want to dedicate years, or decades, of my professional career to.
  • Does your organization show an employee the door as soon as they give their notice, without giving them a chance to say goodbye to their co-workers or transition projects? Not only does that send a pretty clear message about how little you valued their contribution, you’re also sending a message to your current staff who may be thrown under the bus due to the lack of a proper transition.

It doesn’t require a lot of time or money to get the send off right — it just requires a bit of effort and appreciation.

How Apple sends off departing employees

It may seem cliché to point to Apple as an organization to aspire to, but in the case of the sendoff, they really get it right.

When someone leaves their job at an Apple store – whether they got promoted to another position at Apple or are leaving to go to another company entirely – the employees of that store will stop what they are doing, and loudly applaud them as they make their way out of the building. They hug, they high-five, they say “thank you.”

Imagine, for a moment, how you would feel about leaving an organization that made it a priority to have this be their last impression on you as an employee, to the point that they have their current staff literally turn their backs on their customers for a minute or two to participate.

Some people argue that your employee should be your most valued “customer.” While I’m not willing to go quite that far, I do believe that your employees should be treated just as well as your most valued customer, from the day they join the organization to the moment they leave.

Your best customer – or biggest critic

Your employees are your recruiters, your advocates, your biggest supporters or detractors. And after they leave, they may be your best customers or your biggest critics. The impression you choose to leave them with will always stand out strongly in their memory, good or bad.

If a leaving them with a lovey-dovey feeling doesn’t convince you, think about it in purely practical terms. Sites like Glassdoor have put the power in their hands.

Don’t want to give your employees references when they leave? Don’t want to take a minute to thank them for their work? What’s the cost-benefit analysis on the review they are going to write about the organization publicly on the internet that all your future candidates are going to have access to? How many great candidates are going to turn you down (or, worse yet, not even apply) because of how you’ve treated your past employees?

When you go out of your way to treat all of your employees, at all levels of the organization, with respect and gratitude, it will be reflected in your bottom line.

Apple’s stock price is proof enough of that.

This was originally published on Zen Workplace.