A member of our team recently shared an article that appeared in the online version of The Age – “ I Quit! A guide to going out in style”. While the stories shared in the article were amusing to imagine both how the person must have felt, and how their boss might have reacted, soon our conversation turned to the down side; the risks and pitfalls of taking the approach applauded by the article. Each of us shared our examples of the people we know who have left their job with a big ‘up yours’ statement and have gone on to regret it.
While it can be tempting to vent your spleen or even just have a wise crack at your boss as you walk out the door, stop and consider carefully the potential consequences. Before doing anything drastic or dramatic (regardless of how funny or satisfying it may feel to imagine) consider what outcome you want to achieve.
Think about the objectives you are trying to achieve and consider what value (if any) your actions are likely to add; start by reflecting on what is really motivating your actions. Are you looking to inflict revenge or force Karmas hand? Or are you driven by the desire to make a positive difference?
If what you are aiming to do is harm the reputation, success or standing of either your boss or the company, think about how your actions may come back to haunt you and the undesirable consequences you ultimately may need to face. You may successfully let off steam but you are also likely to make a few enemies. We never know when whe may next cross paths with a boss or colleague of our past. Not only may we find ourselves back working with someone, there are other settings in life we may reconnect with people. Equally keep in mind that you may need or want a reference someday.
Be aware that attempts to publicly disgrace an employer may not be viewed either positively or empathetically by others; both inside the organisation and those sitting on the outside. Reading the comments of online news sites reveals the extent to which opinions on issues can vary drastically. There is no guarantee that people will either have empathy or perceive you to be reasonable and just in your actions.
‘Loosing it’ emotionally can damage your own credibility and reduce the likelihood of people taking you seriously. Equally, even when someone is a rogue, people sometimes feel the need to defend those they perceive to be under unreasonable attack. Don’t underestimate the potential for people to feel sorry for your boss if they percieve them as having to endure working with an unreasonable and emotionally challenged ‘poor me’ person in their team.
It may be that you are sincere in your desire to influence positive change – to protect your colleagues and future employees from the mistreatment you have experienced. While it’s undoubtedly true that in serious cases public exposure of the issue may result in more appropriate focus and action, there is often a down side for the person making the complaint or taking a stance. Whether or not we decide to take on that risk needs to be made with careful consideration. That is not to suggest we should never take that risk, sometimes we may feel that we are morally obligated to take action. Regardless of the circumstances it is unwise to go down a risky path without first reflecting and making a considered decision.
Unfortunately the harsh reality is that it is almost entirely unlikely that when confronted with a public display of accusation and hostility that your employer is going to have a sudden moment of clarity and either see or acknowledge the error of their ways.
Maintaining a professional standard of conduct that is characterised by a calm and considered approach will protect rather than undermine your credibility. Behaving gracefully will enable you to earn greater respect and support from people who become or are already aware of the injustices or hardships you have endured. At the end of the day, the support we receive is most heavily impacted by our ability to assure people of our reasonableness and the merit of our request for their backing. A professionally written letter or delivered conversation that is honest yet constructive, critical and yet fair, confronting yet respectful, is far more likely to be given serious consideration.