Are You a Mensch or Mouse?

Wood mouse in the Netherlands Česky: Myšice kř...

We’ve all been there. You too.

The rumors and gossip are swirling.

The job or organization fit that your colleague/ coworker / friend hoped would work out looks like it won’t.

And now people treat them as they’re leaving under their own power as if they’re radioactive and there’s a do not disturb sign on their forehead.

Do you approach them and offer a hand, a hug or help or do you keep your distance?

If you’re a mouse you stay away.

If you’re a real person – a mensch – you offer help. You walk down the hall or across the campus and say you’re sorry to hear the news. And if you can’t see them you pick up the phone and call them. You tell them you’d hate to see them go, and if they’re already going, you ask them if there’s anyway you can help.

Emails, text or a tweet? Too easy, too cheap and a cop-out from the authentic connection of talking directly to someone.

I remember my former senior colleague Susan Weir calling me when we worked together at McKesson and a VP of Human Resources role I held was going away in a business consolidation. She said she didn’t know what the job would look like but she was going to try to find a way to keep me with the corporation. She did, and became one of my favorite bosses.

I also remember my Willamette U. classmate Jeff Pittman coming across campus in the pouring rain to pay me a visit to encourage me to stick it out with the SAE fraternity – which later became a terrific experience – when he heard I was disenchanted and shopping other options.

Or a venture capitalist I know who makes it a point to lunch and stay connected with his friend Ellen Pao, even when everyone else is walking wide circles treating her as persona non grata after she did the unthinkable and sued her VC firm.

Menches, not mice.

The people who reach out and say hope you stay, how can we make this work before you walk out the door are the real friends. Those who wait until the last-minute when momentum is already made it too late are the let’s have lunch people as in “maybe” if it’s real convenient I’ll follow-up. Mice.

You’re a mensch, not a mouse.

Act like one.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

Wood mouse in the Netherlands Česky: Myšice křovinná (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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