Argentine ace footballer Lionel Messi’s decision to walk away from FA Barcelona late last month sent shockwaves. He had spent his entire sporting career with the same club, which had handpicked him as a 13-year-old to play for their youth academy, and even paid for his medical bills. Messi’s middle-class family had crossed the Atlantic and settled in Spain for the sake of their son’s career. Ever since, his rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Messi proved to be the club’s proverbial talisman, breaking multiple records. Late last week, Messi after all, decided to extend his stay for another year to respect his contract and avoid legal repercussions. His move to walk away, and the U-turn created tension within the club.
Beyond the realm of sports, the decision to bid adieu to an organisation after long service can be complicated, especially when you are recognised as a star performer and have grown to a senior role. But if you find yourself at career crossroads, where a job change seems inevitable if not optimal, how can you navigate this without burning bridges?
“Many employees mistakenly believe that organisations are only interested in listening to their success stories. However, it is also important to share your personal goals, in terms of growth or profile, with the management from time to time. Most organisations hold quarterly review meetings with employees, where you can discuss your needs and goals. In fact, a friend who was working at a global position at a multinational financial firm was offered the option of growing laterally and heading a foundation managed by the organisation, upon sharing his aspirations. Do not assume that the organisation will predict what you want. You must be willing to assert yourself, within reason,” says Sonalee Panda, business mentor who has worked in senior roles in corporate banking for 20 years.
Know what you want
Gauge whether you are leaving your job or are joining a new one, says Rishi Piparaiya, former C-suite executive and author of Job Be Damned. “Employees leave jobs when they are upset or uncomfortable about individuals or change — be it a new boss, management or location. In such cases, it is the responsibility of both the employee and the organisation to address this discomfort,” he explains. On the other hand, employees join other organisations when they no longer enjoy what they are doing or find an opportunity that is more attractive. Piparaiya, who spent more than seven years each at two jobs — an international bank and a global insurer — says that in both cases, he was pulled into something that he enjoyed more and that the existing organisation could not match. He continues to have a good bond with both organisations.
Sushma IR, Narendra Goidani and Sonalee Panda
Ethics and priorities
Both Panda and Piparaiya emphasise the importance of giving your organisation time to ponder over your decision and to manage change, should you decide to leave. Panda recommends initiating these conversations at least a year before you make the decision. “Don’t be unfair by taking up new projects and then announcing your decision to quit. Give the company enough time and lend your hand in coaching a successor,” she says.
Piparaiya adds, “In one of the organisations I worked with, we received our bonuses in April. However, I informed my superior of my decision to resign in January because I preferred that they invest in employees who are staying with them. Similarly, be honest with your team — at the right time, explain why you are leaving and don’t fabricate or exaggerate the situation.” The new organisation must be willing to wait until you have essayed your responsibilities at your existing organisation. In Piparaiya’s case, he stayed for almost six months from the time he discussed his decision to when he eventually left the organisation.
Disclose with care
The process of quitting must never be emotional, advises Panda. “Although it may be satisfying to say, ‘I quit’ and storm out, this decision could easily backfire. In India, we tend to get emotional in the workplace. While you’re in talks with the management about possible changes (within or beyond the organisation) do n’t disclose the same to your colleagues or teammates until you are certain about your decision. In case you do decide to stay back with your organisation [as was the case with Messi], you could cause damage to your reputation with the management,” she adds.
Stand your ground
In case your organisation and you do not see eye-to-eye about what you believe is right for you, don’t get pressured or emotionally blackmailed. “More often than not, such communication comes from immediate supervisors who the employee has a close association with, rather than the management. Understand that the rewards you have received have been for the work you have put in, and that any investment the organisation has made in you is also in their interest. In case of an impasse, refer to your employment contract and essay those terms with sincerity,” Panda recommends.
Read the fine print
Before disclosing your decision to quit, Sushma IR, a success coach advises checking your contract if you’ve signed a bond. “Usually, if the organisation has invested in your growth, there might be a clause or a spoken understanding that might bind you to serve for a stipulated period, or pay the company a fee,” she says. Life coach Narendra Goidani suggests, “If you’re working in a toxic environment and are leaving for your mental well-being, be prepared to pay penalties or bide time until an opportune moment emerges. Choosing to stay back because of a contractual clause can reflect poorly and your extended stay may not be pleasant. Don’t expect exemptions, no matter how successful or popular you may be. The organisation is always larger than an individual.”
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