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It’s Time To Change How Employees Leave Our Companies

Every workplace should be familiar with "mindful transitions."

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Consider this. You’re in a long-term relationship and your partner suddenly comes to you and tells you they’re moving to a new city. With a new partner. In two weeks. How would you react?

Most would be upset (to say the least) and want to know why their partner is making this decision. Not to mention, why they hadn’t communicated that they were unhappy in the relationship.

Here’s the funny thing though … while we are clear that this is not an ideal way to end a personal relationship, it’s become the default way that we end professional relationships.

As you read this right now, an employee is walking into their boss’ office and asking, “Do you have a minute?” Most managers who’ve been through this barely hear what comes next. Their mind starts racing to figure out what went wrong and how they’re going to replace this person and everything that they do. What’s more is that they likely have only two weeks to do it, especially here in the US.

Back when I was an employee, I hated having to sneak around and look for a new job when it was time to move on. It felt disingenuous, but it was the way the game was played; playing any differently could result in being walked to the door or an awkward conversation.

Seeing the two weeks’ notice paradigm play out as we grew our company, Acceleration Partners (AP), we realized it was an expectation that didn’t align with our values and company culture. Instead, it felt like a relic from an outdated playbook. So, we started to think about a better way.

What if we flipped this whole “two weeks’ notice” thing on its head?

What if we removed the taboo and made it OK for an employee to leave Acceleration Partners?

What if we encouraged discussing problems openly, even if that means talking about transitioning to a role at another company?

As we asked these questions, I came across one of the most important articles I’ve ever read on this topic. The article, written by former chief talent officer at Netflix, Patty McCord, addressed the shortcomings of performance improvement plans (PIPs).

Instead of PIPs, she suggested that managers think about offering real feedback, a reference and maybe some paid time off to find a new job. It was better in her mind to “be generous, but be honest.”

She wrote: “Instead, I could have told the employee, ‘here’s what I’m going to need six months from now, and here’s the talent and skills I’ll need.’ Then you tell her, ‘It’s not you. I don’t want you to fail. I don’t want to publicly humiliate you.'”

McCord’s perspective sparked the concept for the open transition program that we call Mindful Transition here at AP. It’s our moonshot to eliminate the two weeks’ notice paradigm through honest and transparent conversations.

What we at AP have found is that having an open transition program actually improves engagement, retention and the company culture overall. If someone is no longer a fit for a role, we have an honest discussion, give them time to interview at other companies and even help them with job introductions.

Similarly, employees can come to us and share that they would like to do something different. When they do, we support them, which also helps us avoid what would eventually become a surprise two weeks’ notice. This process also leads to a community of supportive AP alumni.

It’s taken a few years to get our Mindful Transitions program established – and it’s far from perfect. However, I am 100% convinced that it is a better path for both the employee and the employer than continuing with the status quo.

It’s been exciting to see the growing momentum behind these principles, including a recent article in Harvard Business Review and my recent TEDx Talk titled “It’s Time to End Two Weeks’ Notice

The two weeks’ notice paradigm is a relic from a previous era, but it will take a lot of change in behavior from employees and leadership to push it to extinction. I hope you will watch the talk and be inspired to join the movement.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.com

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