When silent departure policy backfires

By Avary Chong | Wednesday, 02 Jan 2019

cpjobs.com has partnered with code-R to bring you examples of challenges faced at work and practical advice to empower yourself and others.

Captain Chaos: I’m leaving my job. However, company leadership is enforcing a policy preventing leavers from telling colleagues, so I’m also forbidden to warn my own team. My boss prefers to hire an external replacement rather than promote one of my team. I think the company hopes to control my successor, which would be easier with a newbie rather than someone who I trained and mentored.

You see, I am an unusually independent leader in the company and wasn’t afraid to say no to my bosses or be upfront about flaws in the company’s strategy. This caused a lot of tension between me and the upper leadership, and I’m sure their first choice is to find a puppet who would cause much less headache for them.

This is another instance where I disagreed with the company and confided my plans to the leaders I’d chosen in my team. I strongly felt that one of them should be considered as a replacement rather than an unknown external hire who had no idea of the hard work we’ve been doing. So I pointed the three of them in the direction of the advertisement posted by our recruitment agency, encouraging them to apply.

Unfortunately, this led to drama...One of my team was so angry the company’s first choice was to hire externally that an exploratory meeting she’d requested with the HR Director became a shouting match. A second team leader went straight to my boss to argue that he was the best team leader I’d trained, and threw his colleagues under the bus.

Of course, this all revealed to my bosses that I’d broken the non-disclosure policy, leading to accusations that I was trying to sabotage the company on my way out. This wasn’t my intention at all, though the third of my team leaders decided to quit as well rather than suffer the transition, creating another critical gap. How can I navigate my team through all of this?

Code-R: So...how many people exactly am I giving advice to? Your company seems like a den of dysfunction! Reading between the lines, it’s obvious that there are long-standing issues of transparency, as well unresolved internal conflicts. I actually suspect you’re leaving because you yourself had enough, and that at least one of your team leaders agrees with your assessment.

Everyone needs to let go of their attachment to control. Above you is a confederacy of dunces demanding your silence and purposefully devaluing your team. Of course your team would not take it well, and it could never have remained a secret in any case. It stinks of blatant disrespect that your bosses were willing for your team to only find everything out at the last minute. This isn’t leading by example.

But below you is a comedy of errors, with two of your deputies abusing your trust and mismanaging the information you’d gifted them. Neither the temper tantrum nor the backstabbing sets them up to be successful leaders. You should advise them to be more mindful of the optics of their actions and the effects on their careers. No matter their ambitions and emotions, they should carefully manage their emotions so they can act within healthier boundaries.

As for you, you also need to let go of control. Your ability to directly influence events is rapidly diminishing as your exit looms. The best you can do is advise your team on the importance of setting healthy ethical, emotional and professional boundaries at work and in their careers, and hope that they’ll learn to fly rather than crash. 

Avary Chong

Avary Chong as founder of code-R, a NGO promoting Purposeful Living.

Leadership disclosure departure policy external hire

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