Your Career: Nix the Polite Departure Lie in Favor of Courage?

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...
Dorothy and Toto Meet the Cowardly Lion

When you’re whacking somebody, stepping down to get out, or getting fired yourself, what passes for organizational “truth” makes most “goodbyes” meaningless.

Isn’t time for more transparency, and more courage?

Left the firm to pursue personal interests” is the “doing nothing” act in departures. It’s hardly ever true, and frankly everyone knows it. It may please HR departments and employment attorneys.

It’s also gutless.

Being candid and appropriately open takes courage. “Lack of courage,” notes Rosabeth Kanter, “stymies positive change at all levels.” She notes “Courage makes change possible.”

There is courage – a good thing – and being dumb, generally a bad thing. While being as transparent as possible promotes organizational candor (good), provides context for the change (good), there is no need to bludgeon someone or something (generally not-so-good) as someone walks out the door.

It’s helpful in building the capacity for courage and candor to point out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes; not so helpful to remark on the small size of his Johnson.

Fortune Magazine has five thoughts regarding “How to Keep Your Brand from Going Sour” and two of them are spot-on regarding how to say goodbye; “honor honesty” and “nix negativity.”

So rather than saying “I’m leaving because my boss was a lying SOB” perhaps try “my boss and I had different points of view regarding business practices.

George Bernard Shaw wrote  “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

And in creating yourself, it helps to remember Ruth Gordon’s thought: “Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.”

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 above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.


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