An executive of a multinational firm says a previous role included letting go of people for various reasons - poor performance, senior management wanting to cut jobs to lift the company stock, or the business not doing well.
He found it more difficult to deliver the news when the reason was not performance-related. Coaching someone with low performance was trying but also fulfilling “when you see improvements in the person you are coaching,” he explains.
Once, he coached and trained a staff member who had to leave the company when his work did not improve despite the support. The employee thanked him for the coaching, and later on joined their competition.
“Sometimes the job is not for you,” says this executive. “Hopefully the coaching helped him in his new job.”
Because he knew the corporate playbook on how to “manage out” people, he also sensed when the executive team wanted him to exit the business.
“It was internal politics and I can see how doors were closing on me by my senior bosses,” he states. “It was not performance-related because I had my best year with the company when it came to productivity. But somehow I knew. I was able to even predict the day I was going to be let go.”
His last four months at the company were stressful, but he felt prepared for it. Being made redundant was also a blessing as he used the downtime to reflect on future work and what’s important. After a work sabbatical, he joined another company, in a different sector. “This is my best and most fruitful work so far,” he says now.
Discussions around career transition or ‘evolution’ are rife, especially during the past two-and-a-half years, when professionals across all levels had to shift roles, take on new tasks, or simply adapt to an altered work environment.
At the same time, the same group of people may be weighing whether to stay in the role, or venture into another organisation. Some may be fervently hoping things will improve, whether these involve market conditions, or the way their companies are run.
“There is the lure of the familiar and the fear of the unknown,” says another manager on why people stay despite dissatisfaction on the job. This manager saw how some workmates stayed because of the company’s pension scheme, or they have seen the swing in management styles years before. “They were assuming that the pendulum will swing back to the middle,” says this manager, who left the company. “It was early in my career so time was too precious to wait for the swing to settle down.”
This same is true for another business technology professional who was not happy with how her employer responded to the disruptions brought by the pandemic. Observing the operational data at work a few years back, she had discussed with her colleagues how the company needed to step up investments in analytics. She and her colleagues also saw how these insights can be best applied to the way they developed their products and services.
But the company deferred the plan to invest in analytics and related software. When the pandemic came, she can only surmise that early investments in the data arena could have strengthened the business early on and be better prepared to handle the slowdown that massively affected their industry.
The company downsized its operations and reduced staff. By then, this business technology professional has left, realising that the company was not ready, or open, to the changes that she felt could help it survive the battering the business continues to receive. Today, she is ensconced in a new role in a sector she had been eyeing more than two years ago.
Career transitions can be rough as these leaders from vastly different industries can attest. But those in the midst of one can take comfort in these words from a corporate veteran: “There are limits to trying… It is okay to close doors on people (and opportunities) when they start pulling you down. They will move on and so will you.”
Photo by Arthouse Studio.