Fitting Send-off

Tomes are written about how employees should behave,but not enough is said about how employers should behave

Written by Nonita Kalra | Published:January 5, 2014 5:10 am

The most basic rule of etiquette is a rather straightforward one. Simple enough to remember,really: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” It is the basis of most ethical systems and its meaning is rather self-explanatory. And yet,when it comes to the corporate world,I suspect their HR departments lost this memo. Or threw it in the bin when it landed on their tables eons ago. The end of the year always comes with its share of blues. You tend to review the year that was. You take a good hard look at your life,your career,your goals…. And you pretty much decide to make some hard calls. You may not put in your papers in December but the process starts then and it’s only a matter of time before you step out to embrace the next challenge in your life. At a personal level,September seems to be my month of change,indicating that I need a nine-month gestation period — from the first sign of discontent to discontinuation.

Anyway,my phone has been ringing off the hook with people thinking about quitting,but most of them are nervous about how their company will treat them at exit. For me,that’s a sure sign you need to leave and leave fast. If you cannot be sure that your organisation is going to be decent when you resign,then run. As fast as you can. This place is not for you.

The funny thing is tomes are written about how employees should behave. But not enough is said about how employers should behave. Specially when it comes to giving a human face to an exit policy. The worst offenders are small companies with fluid HR — yes,you know what I mean. Rules are bent only to make life harder for the employee. Take the case of clearing dues. Here is the simple rule: pay. Immediately. Unfortunately,accounts departments are taught that they must never part with money. Even when it rightfully belongs to someone else. I am unable to understand why companies choose this particular time to start nitpicking. It would be so much more graceful to look at all the extra hours people put in and accept that commitment must be rewarded. And if one must nitpick,then over a period of time would be a great idea. Say,at the end of every working day? A ridiculous suggestion,do you think? Not as tacky as refusing to pay someone what they have earned.

However,the most obnoxious behaviour is reserved for the notice that needs to be served. I think it is pretty safe to say it is the bête noire of quitting. It is argued,contested and abused. It starts with the company mistakenly thinking that it is their revenge period — when it is fine to let every situation get particularly vicious. One of my friends in an FMCG company told me that unofficially managers are encouraged to ride sales managers,during their notice period,to the extreme. Other companies refuse to adjust your leave against your notice. And some companies just find loopholes to clear your final dues. It fascinates me to see how time is spent on non-productive work. In a perfectly polite world,a simple handshake and a heartfelt thank you would be the best send-off.

I will be honest here,since my own experiences have been wonderfully free of controversy — and there was a time I changed my job every year — I was a really easy boss. If you wanted to quit,you could leave when you wanted. Some people left overnight. Others put in their time. Frankly,how is it prudent to keep a disgruntled employee on your rolls? I can only see the many ways that can spell trouble. I never had a bad experience,largely due to the fact that I always opted to be a consultant. Listening to the horror stories of my friends,I figured I might lose out on some company perks,but I was always paid on time. And walking away with my full cheque was all the advantage I wanted.

The thing I have learned in my working life is how much employers love systems and practices. Each one of these set-in-stone rules must also have a suitable abbreviation. Eventually,this “abbrev” is used over and over again till it enters the holy grail of jargon. At that point,it starts getting used in regular conversations and god help you if you aren’t familiar with it. Well,since I loathe any kind of tricky tacky boxing of human behaviour,I am going to suggest a commonly-used practice that is generally inspired by a desire to be better.

Cutting a long story short,I think every boss would do well to include the word “goodwill” in their business school books. Put it under the header: things they did not teach you in HBS and make it your mantra for keeping your people happy and inspired. You see,the thing is that how people leave a company is the only way they will remember you. They will forget the fancy junket to Bangkok and the swanky office. All they will take away is their full and final settlement. Let the bad eggs also get the same benefits. You won’t get so many,unless you are a terrible judge of character. Then,you should be the one resigning. n

Nonita Kalra is a fashion and lifestyle journalist,

and former editor-in-chief of Elle India

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