[Through the Glass Door] “Don’t Leave Before You Leave”

Image representing Sheryl Sandberg as depicted...

Sheryl Sandberg via Crunchbase

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg offers some gems of advice on her work/life philosophy in the September 23, 2009 issue of Fortune to people in general and women in specific.

Sandberg writes “But after watching talented woman after talented woman pass up opportunities, I realized that too many women make the mistake of leaving before they leave. Here is what is happens: An ambitious, successful woman starts considering having children. She thinks hard about how busy she is and realizes that finding time for a child means something will have to give. As soon as that thinking process starts, she is already looking for ways to scale back.”

What’s great to see in Sandberg’s piece is that she talks about following up – post-hiring offer – with a candidate to discuss family, career and the Facebook workplace. It’s admirable.

Legions of hiring managers have been harangued by HR and legal staff regarding assiduously avoiding areas that may be regarded as thin ice (gender, family, sexual orientation, race, ages, etc.). While it may mitigate legal risks, it raises the risk of losing great talent who may perceive the lack of discussion by hiring managers as a lack of comfort or support.

While the better approach may be to get to a point where candidates and would-be employers can have those type of frank discussions pre-offer, it’s likely still a long ways off.

My colleague Bob Powers book “Do Ask, Do Tell” illustrates the type of candor helpful to candidates and employers. While Bob’s book deals specifically with topics regarding sexual orientation, the same frankness about the range of employment considerations has tremendous benefits.

The employment game is about hiring the best talent that will perform (and stay for a reasonable time) at your firm. Without the type of authentic approach which Strandberg illustrates candidates get missed by declining offers, or not sticking because their particular situation does not map to the accommodations employers are willing to make.

If Strandberg’s approach is reflective of the company, Facebook is focused on getting the best performing talent they can hire. Other employers may want to follow their lead.

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