The Professional Breakup: How to Walk Away Gracefully

I have had so many different jobs and careers that I’ve almost lost count, but one thing I know is you always remember the jobs that you quit or were fired from!  People spend more time at work than doing any other thing (apart from sleeping), so work relationships naturally become a big part of your life. It’s easy to see why leaving a job can feel a bit like going through a relationship breakup and it can become very personal.

But while it can be easy to wave goodbye to a boyfriend and never see them again, your professional industry may be relatively small and you may encounter your professional “exes” again and again. That’s why it’s important to always be 100 percent professional in the event of a split.

Here are the five most important things I’ve learned about breaking up in the workplace:

1. Don’t burn your bridges.

When you’re thinking about quitting a job, the reality is you’re never sure you are making the right decision. This means you spend the whole time justifying why this is the right decision, and you focus on all the things that you hated about the job instead of the reason you loved going to work every day. This makes it hard not to lose focus and move on with your mind even though you are still there in body. Always try to avoid leaving your business in a worse position. Make sure you give enough notice and that you give 100 percent right to the end so you leave with your professional respect (and reputation) intact.

2. Don’t look back.

If you have decided to resign – or as a business owner, you’ve decided to fire someone – then just like an old boyfriend, taking the job or person back is often a recipe for disaster. There were good reasons that relationship was not working and often these do not change, so you end up back in the same position you were in when you made the original decision.

The only exception to this rule is if you listen to someone on the day they resign and hear their concerns, you may find a simple fix that can make them happy and want to stay. Exit interviews are an ideal way of finding out really how happy your staff are, as they have nothing to lose.

3. Be honest.

When I first became a business owner, I hated firing people. In the early days of my business, I would spend the whole time telling them how great they were and that they shouldn’t take it personally that they weren’t that great at their job. I truly think that by the time I’d finished they didn’t know whether they’d been fired or given a promotion!

Honesty is always the best way forward. If someone is fired or leaves and the manager sends out a farewell email that is full of praise when everyone knows that the person was terrible at their job, the manager loses credibility. You get no respect from your existing employees by pretending something when it was simply not true.

4. Know when to let go.

People leave people, not businesses, so as an employer, your ability to keep staff will come down to how you treat them and reward them for their effort. If your staff want to leave, you shouldn’t try to convince them to stay — for whatever reason, you’ve already lost them. For the same reason, I do not have an issue with ex-employees poaching staff. People spend more time at work than they do with their family, friends and spouses, so it is normal to develop strong friendships. It is also normal when people find another job that they want to keep working with their favourite people from their previous employment. If those bonds are stronger than their bond with you, don’t fight it.

5. Water your lawn.

We are in a different era now from when I started work in 1982. Back then, people were in their jobs for decades and if you were pissed off, you had to wait for the Saturday paper to come out to see what other jobs were available.

These days, if you have a bad day, you simply go online and there is a feast of jobs that could be better than the job that you currently have. However, we all have to remember that grass is not always as green as we think in another job.

As the old saying goes, sometimes when the grass is greener on the other side, you might just need to water your own lawn!

Janine Allis
About the author: 

Janine Allis is the Founder of Boost Juice Bars, which has more outlets in more countries than any other juice bar in the world. Her 2 billion dollar, 7000-employee holding company, Retail Zoo, owns Boost, CIBO Espresso and Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill – the latter two with more than 50 locations across Australia respectively.  In addition to being a “Shark” on Shark Tank Australia, Janine was named by business magazine BRW as one of fifteen people that changed the way Australia does business in the last 35 years.  Follow her on Twitter.