A question for ya: How can you go out with a (positive) bang

QuestionMike Hoffman is in an interesting situation:

I’m currently in one of the worst jobs of my life. The majority of my co-workers reply with a negative response when asked if they honestly enjoy coming into work. Management seems miserable (overworked, stressed, and never caught smiling). You already know what kind of environment this creates.

I already have a contract for another job within the next 90 days. I think my co-workers are good people and I feel that I have an obligation to leave a legacy, whether this means dropping off a case of your books on the way out or writing an honest letter to management about the work environment as a whole, to make their jobs (or their mindset to find another one) that much better. I want to be direct but not insulting.

Do you have any suggestions on the best ways to leave a job while leaving a positive impact in its wake?

What a great idea! When you know you’re leaving, you’re free to say and do some things you might not normally be able to. The question is, what can you do that is positive and inspiring, as opposed to bitterly slamming the door on your way out.

What could you do in this situation? I would very much like to hear your ideas!

5 thoughts on “A question for ya: How can you go out with a (positive) bang”

  1. When I left my last company, I prepared for the exit interview in the same was as I would prepare for any interview – I made sure that I had all the information together, complete with dates and examples.

    I put a number of points in writing, and made sure that it was facutal, rather than my opinion, and as balanced as possible. I then calmly expanded on these points in the interview and tried to make positive suggestions about how things could have been handled differently.

    The feedback was taken on board, and many things have changed, including one useless manager being warned about his behaviour, and the MD deciding to move on as the changes do not suit him…

    Me? I am happier in my new role than I ever was in that company.

  2. To leave a legacy Mike will probably need to address selectively only those who are willing to listen with an open mind.
    I suggest two things:

    One: Gatecrash the most senior manager you can have access to.
    Two: Stay in touch with some of your colleagues for a while and report back how your new job relates to the old one.

    There are exit interviews in many companies, used with more or less success – as written about by Alexander elsewhere. And there are many ways to leave a message.
    All of these will probably quite inevitably be seen with the eyes of the self-righteous: You left, so you must be wrong.

    Avoiding this takes addressing those who will listen.
    CEOs are often quite open people (am I being naive here?). Be courageuos and kick in the door, so to speak, with a short and crisp message that focuses on what he/she can do to avoid losing people like you.

    Bureaucracy will kill your message.

    Keeping contact with a few colleagues and telling them about their own company through you new company will also make people see their own mess with new eyes.

  3. One of the things I’ve taken to doing is keeping a list and jotting down things that are wrong as I see them, then bring them up at either an opportune moment, or in a yearly discussion with my immediate boss. I would say that the best thing to do, regardless of if you’re leaving or not, is to be honest and open about what’s wrong. If you like the people you work with, especially if you like someone in management, then you owe them that honesty.

    When the time comes, you can give them your message of what’s wrong, as well as the effects that you’ve seen and what can be done to fix it. Then do your part to actually fix it. If you can’t think of anything that can be done, say so, but know that there’s less of a chance of something being done about it.

    If I was on the way out, I’d want to do much the same thing, except to maybe try to get more people involved, so that hopefully someone else takes up the mantle afterwards. Maybe a “Here’s the things I see wrong and some things that could be done to fix them” meeting with peers and the most approachable management involved, where you can brainstorm problems and solutions.

    I don’t know if that meeting would work as I haven’t tried it out, but obviously it would require an open-minded management, and a few brave peers for it to happen.

  4. Mike: I agree with all of these suggestions. The exit interview is definitely a good time to be honest and not hold back. Even if your mind is on the next job, you can do your old co-workers a huge favor by letting the company know what it does well and what it can do better.

    But in this case, to really shake things up and wake people up, I think something more is needed.

    Here are some ideas that may or may not appeal to you:
    1) Write an open letter and send it to everyone you work with at the company. This needs to be VERY constructive and honest or it may be seen as simply bitching. The letter could include:
    * What you liked about working there.
    * What you appreciate about the people there.
    * Your experience at the company including the problems that affected you.
    * What made you choose to leave.
    * What could have made you stay.
    * What you fear will happen to the company if it doesn’t mend its ways.
    * Your sincere best wishes for them.

    Make it very clear in the letter that you wish the best for them and that even though it would be easier for you to just leave quietly, you’re taking this opportunity to honestly assess your experience at the company.

    2) A farewell speech. Also known as the Jerry MacGuire option. Arrange a parting reception/meeting and give a speech. It could contain essentially the same points as above.

    3) Giving them a case of my books sounds like a GREAT idea :o)

    4) Let’s get creative here. What if you bought them a gift – some object to remind them daily of the happiness they’re missing out on by being in such a negavtive work environment. Say – a clock that shows how many hours they spend at work being unhappy or something. Maybe you can find some object that has significance for the people at that particular company.

    5) What if you gave them regular updates from your life in your next job – not to rub their faces in it, but to remind them that there are always options to staying at an unhappy company.

    Does any of that sound useful?

    I remember leaving one job at a badly-led company, and the one thing that really got management to wake up, was the fact that I’d quit without having a new job lined up. I just needed to get outta there.

    Finally, let me say that I admire you for your willingness to help people at your old job, Mike. Kudos!

  5. I guess this is more of a “me too!” kinda comment – in my last job, when I left, the exit interview was the opportunity for me to let it all out.

    The difference between it being viewed as sour grapes vs. useful feedback is, well, in how you place it. Be constructive.

    The hardest part to be constructive about was explaining how being micromanaged by the CEO (in a 1000+ person company), and the ultra-conservative atmosphere was not condusive to my happiness overall. But I did it, I think.

    Funny thing is, is that there was a rash of people leaving about the same time I did – and everyone made a comment about the CEO being micromanaging. I just found out she stepped aside (she’s an owner, and it’s a private company) and put it in someone else’s hands – so exit interviews can really made that much of a difference.

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