People remember how you make them feel

Building up the courage, I did it. I made the call. I was nervous. I was terrified. But I did it. It was the best thing I ever did. Did I feel it at the time? Not so much. In fact, the reaction I got from the other end still shocks me to this day. Where did their reaction come from? Why did they say what they did? Were they right to say that? What were they hoping I would say in response?! Did they even care?

An article I read recently reminded me of this phone call. The article was about what leaders should say to good staff that are leaving their organisation. In order to maintain a good relationship and connection with these high performers, and encourage them to return should they decide to later in life, the article suggested being supportive, open to feedback, encouraging them to succeed and to stay in touch.

Sounds great, right? I agree! This is how I’ve tried to be with my own staff when they left the organisation under my leadership. Mostly due to the fact that I’ve had the opposite experience and it has stuck with me to this day. I will never return to that organisation as a result. It has tainted my view and experience with that company. In fact, I even avoid being a consumer of their products because it just doesn’t feel great having anything to do with that company anymore.

I won’t mention the company because it has nothing to do with the company itself. It has everything to do with that phone call and the leader I had at the time, who I believe no longer works there themselves. Let me explain:

I had spent weeks interviewing elsewhere because I had finally had enough of working there, feeling underappreciated and taken advantage of. I was stressed beyond belief. I’d gotten to the point where mouth ulcers due to stress were a regular part of my life and that wasn’t healthy. After weeks of interviewing, I was 80% sure I was going to get this job with another company. I didn’t have an offer but I had decided enough was enough. Job or no job, I couldn’t work there anymore. I’d quit and hope for the best or figure something out. I relied on the fact that “things always work out in the end”.

This is where the phone call comes in. I had made the decision to quit and read my contract to understand what I had agreed to. I knew that I had to give 4 weeks’ notice but I was going to give two. As a result, the contract said I would have to forfeit some of my leave due to breach of contract. I decided it was worth it. I spent the morning building up my courage and then, with the encouragement of a staff member who stood there as my support, I took a deep breath and phoned my manager.

As I explained to them my prepared speech, I thanked them for my time, experience and explained that I understood the implications and penalties of my decision but that I had an opportunity with another company that I needed to take (a ‘white lie’). After finishing my, what I thought was a really nice and well worded, speech, they responded with what knocked me back a mile. I’ll never forget their words. They said, “after everything I’ve done for you?!”

Everything YOU’VE done FOR ME!?!?!… I couldn’t quite comprehend at the time what they meant. I was thinking, what about a ‘thank you for your hard work you’ve done for the company!?’ but, nope. At that point, I let them know I would send something through in writing that day to formalise what had been discussed and quickly ended the call. The second I was off the phone, I sat and cried for a good while. I was in shock. I didn’t expect them to be happy but at that moment, I felt like all the hard work I had put in, all the stress I’d been through for this company for the past few years was completely wasted and pointless.

It was also confirmation that I had made the right decision to go. It’s something that’s sat with me for the rest of my life as a reminder that great leaders make their people feel appreciated, respected and empowered. It’s important that, even when someone is leaving your organisation, that you treat them with respect and thank them for their time. Don’t get caught up in your own hurt feelings, support them in their endeavours. Help them succeed and be great people.

Later in life, they will remember your input. They will remember how you treated them. How you made them feel. If you want them to come back, or potentially you might work with them in future, then don’t leave things on a sour note. People remember how you made them feel.


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