“I’ve given my notice,” my colleague announced.
“Great,” I replied. I’d seen this coming. “Where you going?”
“Nowhere.” No, I hadn’t seen this coming.
“You’re leaving, but not for another job?”
“Correct.” I knew she had been looking for a while, even done a few interviews. So I expected her to go, but I expected her to go…somewhere! After all, she was an excellent PMO, highly regarded, and a great colleague. I knew she was unhappy, didn’t think her career was advancing, and didn’t especially like the boss. But she had waited this long, so why not wait a little longer? So I asked her about it.
“I’ll ruin things if I stay. It’s just best that I go.”
A few weeks later her notice was served and she left. She received offers to stay in the meantime, improved money, extra training, etc and when she left she was missed. She went on good terms, got good references and landed a new role with weeks. I’ve found myself recommending her to various employers and people in my network since.
A few months later, a similar conversation took place with another colleague.
“I’m gonna give my notice,” he insisted.
“Well, if you’re that unhappy, you probably should.” He had reason to be unhappy. His role had involved lots of stakeholder engagement and training, but as stakeholders got familiar with the standards and processes there wasn’t so much need for training. Now his role had become an admin function. I’d reminded him that a) he wasn’t getting paid less and b) he could still make his mark in the role; but his unhappiness grew. In his meeting with the boss he tended to complain, first to the boss about the role – then to me about the boss. Leaving was always on his mind, but he never took the leap.
I heard about a few interviews from him early on, but eventually they stopped. Whether the opportunities had dried up, or he wasn’t taking advantage of them – I wasn’t sure. What I could see is he felt trapped by his circumstances. He needed the salary he was getting, but resented being at work. He started to speak unkindly – and sometimes unfairly – about the bosses to anyone that would listen; firstly in private but eventually in open plan offices. He went from being discontent to malcontent. He started taking sick days more frequently, often on Mondays. As his unhappiness grew, his productivity shrank.
It was inevitable that eventually he’d get noticed by the bosses and he got placed on a performance improvement programme – with a clear understanding this was a formality with the end goal for him to leave. A few weeks later he received an offer from the bosses to pay his notice and for him to leave immediately. He took the offer and was gone.
One of my former colleagues has prospered, the other has not. Whenever I’ve felt unhappy about my roles, I’ve tried to understand whether it’s a temporary blip and can be resolved with a constructive talk with my boss – and I’ve found this usually solves the issue. If not and there’s something wrong with the role – or it’s just a bad fit – I find myself thinking about my former colleagues and the paths they took.
Getting out with your reputation intact may not pay the bills, but it may help you to prosper in the long term.