Someone sent me today this article by Sital Ruparelia, a ‘recruitment and retention specialist’, on handling resignations. (Wow, looks like you have consultants for everything today – no longer just recruitment, retention as well!). Its a snippy little piece with some good stuff in it, but one of the things he says there, “Don’t take it personally. They are just changing jobs, they are not rejecting you” is interesting, for how obvious it is, and yet so often flouted in reality. So I thought I’d write about just this bit – why managers often seem to take resignations so personally, when its ultimately a job that the employee is changing. The anger often seems disproportionate, as though the employee were divorcing him/her instead.
Most of the reasons why (some) managers seem to react this way could ultimately boil down to ego, or a sense of personally having been let down. In some cases, maybe the employee was someone the manager invested a lot of time and effort in. Rather than seeing this as a requirement of his job as manager, the latter starts viewing it as a personal interest that he took, which is then sort of invalidated, by the employee’s leaving. One can almost hear the unsaid dialogue here, Maine tumhe paala, posa, itna bada kiya 🙂 In this case, a good dose of TLC and assuring them that their mentoring has been of utmost importance to you, could help.
Again, there could be fear involved. If there are a few too many people leaving in quick succession, the manager/business head starts worrying that its a reflection on his management style. (And maybe in some cases it is !) With companies now getting into practices like exit interviews, god knows what those employees have been saying about him/her ! Rather than really getting into the underlying causes, the manager may start trying to figure out how to deflect blame, and try to show up the employee in a bad light during the notice period. This is a simple case of Meri kursi ka kya hoga ! You may want to reassure them subtly that their behaviour is not the cause of your leaving, you simply have found other things to do. If thats not the case, and the manager’s behavior is a key cause of moving, then there is nothing to lose anyways. If the manager is of those obnoxious, overbearing, micromanaging types who make life a misery, this is your chance to let them know how they are affecting the team. (politely and professionally, ofcourse)
There could also be cases where the resignation simply comes at a bad time. Perhaps the project is at a critical stage and the employee was fairly critical to its successful completion. Perhaps there are just too many projects in the pipeline. The smart manager would ofcourse realise that none of this is really the employee’s fault, or lookout for that matter. Dealing with all this is the manager’s, or if it is beyond him, the business head/director’s hassle. The employee can only be responsible for completing as much as possible within his notice period. This logic is sometimes thrown aside, and the manager reacts as though the mountain of work has been especially created and left behind by this employee, with the sole purpose of making his life miserable. This frustration of, Ab mujhse kuch nahin hone wala hai !! may lead the manager to make inappropriate remarks etc. Here, you can only reassure them that you would do your best to lighten up things, until your time is over. Its important to avoid getting caught in the manager’s emotional state of mind, and getting blackmailed into staying longer or feeling responsible for the workload.
Lastly ofcourse are the separate species of managers who act as though their lives are bound up with this company and this job. This could especially be at senior levels, where the person has spent a good deal of his career with this company, maybe even built it from scratch. In this case, his life is bound up with the company, he loves it almost as much as his family (maybe more!) and he cannot conceive how someone else can leave this splendid company ! This species refuses to believe that people could have goals that lead elsewhere, or maybe, just maybe, that other companies may have something to offer this person at this time, which this one cannot. This species is not examined here in a logical manner, since their involvement with the company goes beyond logic and it may be impossible to convince them of the ‘rightness’ of your decision to leave. If you face such a character, just hand in the papers, try and fade into the woodwork during your notice period, and then…..run !