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June 2012
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Employee transition can be awkward time


There's an awkward time period in every employee's career. It's not talked about very much. Yet, it can be a stressful few days, weeks or even months.

I'm talking about the time period that begins when employees decide to leave their current employers and ends on their actual last day.

Problems or frustrations have probably been building for awhile. Usually, some small event tips the scale to make the employee decide it's time to put together a resume. There may have been some soul-searching conversations with a spouse or non-business friend. Often, the employee makes the decision but doesn't act on it until another event tips the scale once again.

So, a resume is written and the employee goes quiet at work, fearing that it will somehow slip out to co-workers or the boss that a job search is underway.

My experience is that sometime in this process, the employee feels a bit guilty about the secret. But additional discussions at home buoy up the possibly wavering employee.

Eventually, some time off is needed to interview, perhaps a couple of times. In all but rare occasions, the employee tells a little white lie about being sick or having some other excuse for the time off.

Later in the process, by definition, your employee accepts another's offer. Here's where mixed-emotions come to the forefront. On the one hand, they are excited about the new job, its challenge, the changes that will come to them, and of course, the possible economic uptick.

On the other hand, they are nervous whether they are making the right decision and about how to tell you and their co-workers. They probably lose some sleep fretting over the conversations they know they must have ASAP.

By the way, don't assume this is a young person changing jobs early in their career. It could be your long-service senior employee who is planning on retiring. Many of the same emotions are in play.

If you are the one going through this awkward time, I have three pieces of advice. Stay professional, put your eventual resignation in writing, and focus on leaving your current job in the best possible status.

You want your supervisor to be disappointed when you eventually tell him/her that you're leaving.

And when you do give your notice, offer your supervisor your complete dedication to talk about the details of your job so that he/she can be thinking about how the work will need to be covered. Offer to cross-train a fellow employee on any facet of your job that has strict external deadlines.

This is not the time to re-hash old grievances. This is not the time to get back at that pain-in-the-neck fellow employee. And, despite your natural excitement, this is not the time to talk about your wonderful new job and wonderful new employer. Stay focused on your task at hand. Make them wish you had not quit.

Next month, I will write about the employer's side of this awkward time.

Randy Fox, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is founder and senior partner of Capstone HR Services, Inc.

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