Sunday, May 30, 2010

Job Hunting Tip #6 – A Graceful Exit

I predict many executives will change jobs this year, hoping for a better situation at a different company. Base on 25 years experience, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly of how people conduct their personal exit from a company. Ideally, when you leave a company, it is a graceful exit, without burning bridges. Here are my top tips on how to do this the right way:
  • If you are leaving voluntarily, be sure of the decision. Counter offers rarely work to your advantage. Never leverage a new job offer to get a better deal at your company. If you have legitimate reasons to leave, stick with the decision.
  • Keep your own counsel: Thinking about a job change is a private matter. Don't share with others - the gossip mill will start talking as soon as you do.
  • Plan to give notice, but be prepared to leave immediately. Some companies want people to work two weeks to make a smooth transition, and some ask for even more time. But, some employers walk people to the door, especially if they will be going to a competitor. Be prepared for all scenarios.
  • The resignation discussion: Make an appointment with your boss. Don't just drop in. Rehearse your speech, and keep it simple, concise and to the point. We advocate:
  • "I have decided to accept another position and I will be leaving as of [date]. Being with this company has been a valuable experience to me, and it is important to me to leave on excellent terms with you, and remain a valued contact down the road. [If your company has a history of making counter offers, preempt that with:] I have thought this through carefully, my decision is made, and this isn't about getting a counter offer, so I hope we can quickly dispense with that. I will be happy to work diligently through the next 2 weeks(or as negotiate) to make a smooth transition."
  • Keep it simple. Be concise in responding to questions. Do not reveal too much.
  • Hand over a written resignation letter, essentially stating what you say verbally.
  • Thank your boss. Be positive. Be graceful. Don't do anything to burn a bridge. If your boss is angry, validate their feelings, don't argue. Take the approach that you may work for this person again, or may need a reference from him/her.
  • NEVER say anything negative about your boss or company to co-workers, people outside the company, or his/her peers. Every complaint can be spun around and reframed to the positive, usually by thinking about what you want instead, or what you want in the future. Example: "My boss is a micromanager who second guesses me all the time" becomes "The new position will offer me more freedom, responsibility and autonomy."
  • If you are being let go, ask about a severance arrangement, and evaluate the offer before responding. Don't agree or sign anything immediately. Think about consulting an attorney for advice if appropriate.
  • Ask for letters of reference at the time of your departure - make the request in writing, and "suggest" things that you were proud of, that the writer may want to include. They will usually write what you suggest!
In summary, use common sense and imagine you were reporting on the exit scenario to your next boss. Make sure you would be proud of the story you would be telling.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Executives To Watch

Lots of publications, news organizations and bloggers write annual "Executives to Watch" columns. They usually chose very visible CEOs and others whose names are in the news all the time.

As a recent buyer of a Droid phone, three executives that I want to watch are Vic Gundotra, Vice President, Engineering, Sundar Pichai, Vice President, Product Management, and Mario Queiroz, Vice President, Product Management – all with Google, which is responsible for the Android operating system.

Google recently held its Google I/O event in San Francisco, hosting 5000 developers who attended 80 sessions, 100 demonstrations, with deep technical content featuring Android, Google Chrome, Google APIs, GWT, App Engine, open web technologies.

Vic Gundrota in particular made strident points about how Android 2.2 is so much better than Apple's I-Phone. He particularly bashed Apple for pushing a closed rigid system, and said Android was so much more open, and added to the debate started by Steve Jobs about whether users are focused on applications or search on mobile devices.

Google, partnering with many phone makers including most notably Motorola, have been hyping Android based phones, and the Motorola Droid as "I-Phone Killers". If you check the forums and user boards for both phones, you will find complaints galore on both sides.

I think the Google execs are at a crossroads on this issue. What Vic, Sundar and Mario do over the next year will be key to whether Google really can "take over" this market space from Apple. Sure lots of people are buying Android based phones (100,000 a day), but will they really make the functionality superior? We'll watch and see….

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Disasters – Can your EMPLOYEES Recover?

Try to imagine this scenario: You are a BP Oil or Halliburton employee anywhere along the Gulf Coast, attending a friend's backyard barbecue on a recent Sunday, and in between sips of beer and nibbles of chips and dip, you hear, over and over, "Oh my god, you work for BP!? You must feel awful – what that company has done to this region!" You might answer, "I'm sorry." You might protest, "No, I have nothing to do with the drilling, I'm in Data Processing." But let's face it, you don't want to be having that conversation. When Saturday Night Live devotes its opening sketch to this issue, you know it is really bad.

Or how about working for Toyota the week another recall or another Federal investigation is announced? Or how about a Goldman Sachs employee in New York anytime the last few weeks?

We know what these companies are doing on the external PR side, because we hear or see it in the news each day. I wonder what they are doing internally. I tried to find info on the web under the company names and "employee relations" and "internal public relations" and found very little.

I suspect that morale is awful, people are gossiping, keeping their heads down and trying to duck for cover. Besides the financial losses and the visible external PR nightmare, think of the productivity and employee loyalty losses these companies suffer in this kind of situation.

I think as much effort must be made on the inside as on the outside, because if we don't repair damage to relations with our own employees, how would we expect strangers to react any better? Companies need to be clear about what they are doing, and provide employees with specifics on what they can say when asked about the problem. Companies might even provide counseling to employees who are suffering stress over the incident.

With regard to the companies who are subjects of the recent corporate performance issues, if you know specifically what these companies are doing, I'd appreciate hearing from you (, and we will all learn more! I'll publish an update with comments.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Google Info in Interviews

Today, many people Google each other before they meet. In the workplace, this often happens before a job interview, and it happens both ways: The interviewer Googles the candidate, and the candidate Googles the interviewer. So what can you discuss from what you have found?

If you are the interviewer, you are in the power position, so most of what you find is fair game. Discretion, manners and legal parameters would define what might be inappropriate to discuss. For example, even if you saw a photo of the candidate with her kids, it still isn't right to ask about how she balances work and family. If you saw that same picture, and the candidate had a same-sex partner and kids, even more inappropriate to discuss your findings. Anything that could be construed as discriminatory, rude or intrusive should be off-limits.

If you are the candidate, it is a bit trickier. You are not in the power (decision-making) position, so you need to be even more careful. Suppose you saw that the interviewer ran in a 5K the past weekend for a cancer charity? Suppose you are a runner too, or you also work for cancer charities. You might say to yourself that this is great, it will be a way to bond, to establish common ground. However, the interviewer might feel that your mentioning this info is intrusive, that it crosses boundaries.

On the other hand, if you saw that the interviewer had won an award at a local business association meeting, that might be worth commenting on. It shows that you do your homework, that you know how to influence with subtlety (flattery), and that you know what is appropriate. If the interviewer were to inquire, "Wow, I'm surprised you saw that. What else do you know about me?" I would recommend that you clam up, and not go any further.

In general, I think the rule of thumb for candidates is to ask yourself: what would you be comfortable with a stranger knowing about you? Most of the time, that answer will guide you in selecting what you could discuss with an interviewer from what you have found on Google, without seeming like a stalker!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is here, and it is on my mind today as a celebration of overwhelmed people achieving a victory over more powerful and better equipped people. In the US (especially here in CA), it is a heavily and heartily celebrated holiday, but perhaps marginally understood. Many think it is Mexican Independence Day, but that is September 16th. In Mexico, May 5th is not that big a deal. Cinco de Mayo is not even a national legal holiday, it is celebrated lightly, and mostly in the area of Puebla, where the battle took place in 1862. In that battle, which was over money owed (interest on debt), 4000 under-equipped Mexicans defeated 8000 well-equipped French soldiers. The French had not lost a battle in a similar situation in 50 years. Historians have tied this setback for Napoleon somewhat to helping end the US civil war, because the French were moving to alignment with the Confederacy.

I really do want everyone to enjoy their Margaritas and Dos Equis today. The commercialization by corporate America and Tequila and beer importers will be good for the US economy, and it is an opportunity to celebrate the richness and importance of Mexican culture in the US. And chips and guac are darn tasty!

One parallel I will keep in mind is how the overwhelmed immigrants (legal and not legal, and of all nationalities, but mostly of Latino descent) in Arizona now have even more difficult odds and more powerful foes, with the stiff new immigration laws that will promote unfair racial profiling and deepen discrimination. This is a national issue, and I hope the US comes up with a sensible response soon.

All of my ancestors were immigrants. Yes, they entered the country legally, but at a time when it was much easier to do so. Today, many Americans descended from immigrants take a NIMBY approach – "not in my back yard" – "I'm in; lock the door behind me." I try to remember my roots, the good fortune of my grandparents, and hope that others will still find America to be the land of opportunity it was 100 years ago.

So if you're with me on this, raise one salted rim to freedom, winning battles against heavy odds, fairness, democracy, and good will.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Ever had an awful boss? I'll bet he or she had some or maybe most of these bad traits:

Control Junkie: Has a tough time truly delegating or letting go. Has an opinion about everything.

Being Right: Even if your boss is usually right, it feels bad to think that you are generally wrong.

Rude: Bosses too often fail to say please and thank you, and they don't take the time for basic politeness.

Gives Blame / Takes Credit: Bad bosses take the credit for what goes right, and blame others for what goes wrong.

Bad Listener: Already formulating a response before you are done talking, because what you have to say doesn't matter. Even worse, doesn't even make a pretense of listening.

Withholding: Boss expects you to know and share everything he/she needs to know, but doesn't tell you enough and keeps secrets.

Anger: Why are bad bosses so mad? Perhaps they don't like themselves too much and see their own bad traits in others. In any case, bad bosses feel free to fling anger at you whenever they need to vent.

Kills Messengers: Tells you he wants to know things, but if it is bad news, or even not what he wanted to hear, jumps down your throat.

Win/Lose: Never read The 7 Habits (Covey) and doesn't understand Win/Win and the art of compromise.

Negativity: Glass is half empty, and always has a reason that your ideas won't work.

So to end on a positive note, I hope you have a boss who: Delegates well, appreciates input, is gracious, recognizes contributions, listens and hears you, communicates clearly and transparently, is even tempered, accepts bad news well, wants you to win too, and can always see the bright side.
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