A Good Divorce for you
Posted Sunday, July 14th, 2013
No Tags

Published in SatNews Worldwide Magazine, April 2013, Bert Sadtler, Senior Contributor

To assist with career and leadership issues, SatMagazine asked Bert Sadtler of Boxwood Executive Search to provide his insight. Boxwood is a management, consulting recruiting firm with offices just outside of Washington DC and in Bradenton, Florida. Boxwood’s services involve job growth, maximizing the performance of critical, senior level talent and addressing the shift in the recruitment and compensation paradigm for employers.

No, you did not mistakenly pick up a legal journal with an article written for attorneys about the splitting of married couples. However, we will discuss some similarities between marriage and employment within the context of leadership and best practices recruiting.

 Nothing is static. Things are in constant motion. Employees change and companies change … sometimes destroying the employee-employer relationship.

  • When it is determined that critical talent is holding the company back, a change must be made.
  • When changing critical talent out, does it always have to be an uncomfortable event resulting in a broken relationship?
  • This event is inevitable. What are you doing about it?

 Professionals have goals, ambitions and a personal life to juggle. The challenges and rewards, which attracted the professional to originally join your company, may no longer apply as the employee’s career has developed. Companies have goals, objectives and the responsibility to deliver value to their stakeholders.

 When the employer hired the professional, enough of the employee’s goals and the employer’s goals intersected to make for the foundation of a good employer/employee relationship.

 As time has gone on, the employee has developed more experience and has redefined career objectives. The company’s objective is growth that may be through existing market penetration, the penetration of new markets, acquisitions or something else.

 Are the goals of employee and employer still intersecting?

 Has the employer reached a point where the company must keep growing in order to remain relevant and remain in business? What direction will deliver needed growth? Once the employer has determined a direction for growth, what changes are needed?

 What got the company to this point may not be what the company needs to get to the next level. From the perspective of critical talent, what got the company to this point may have included the efforts of some very dedicated employees who have earned the employer’s loyalty. While the loyalty is well deserved, it can cause the employer to evaluate the employee’s future abilities and contributions through “clouded lenses”. The evaluation should be based upon the critical employee’s potential and not based on the critical employee’s list of past accomplishments. Can this person get you where you need to go?

 Intellectually, employers find the answer to be easy. They know when a critical employee has maximized their ability to contribute. Sometimes, it is a matter of additional training or an adjustment in responsibilities. In other cases, no amount of training or different responsibilities will resolve the issue. Clearly, the employee no longer fits the company. With that revelation comes the difficulty of an emotional conclusion: “How can we possibly move them out after all of the loyalty they have given us”.  

 It is a challenging dilemma.

 What is the likely result of a critical employee remaining under a “mis-fitting” scenario?

·       Unhappy critical employee

·       Critical talent who is not challenged and unable to pursue career development

·       An employer who is less competitive and less productive

·       An employer with a critical employee viewed by peers as under-performing

 Many employers find their growth to be stunted at this point. It can become a very difficult barrier for companies to overcome. Employers who have successfully faced this have decisively made a change. Whether the change takes the form of a brutal termination or some type of amicable separation, they all fall under the general classification of “employment divorce”.

 Webster’s Dictionary defines divorce as “to end a marriage” and “to make separate”. This definition does not include or suggest that a failure has occurred. It does not point blame. It does not involve alimony. There is no mention of children or mothers-in-law. Nothing needs to be split-up.

 If we agree that businesses and people must both continually develop, then we must also agree that both wont necessarily develop in the same direction. Bad employment divorces leave deep emotional scars with no one as the winner.

 What is the likely result of a “good employment” divorce?

  • New opportunity for the talent to take on new challenges and career development
  • Lasting appreciation by the talent toward the previous employer for professional treatment and care during the employment divorce
  • Opportunity for the employer to solely focus on acquiring new critical talent without needing to address any “untidy departing employee issues”
  • Likelihood that the departing talent could become an ally working within the industry
  • Possibility that the departing employee could some day return to the employer in a more advanced role and delivering renewed value

 On a personal note, I have observed “good employment divorces” only a few times and wish it were more common. It is impressive when both parties openly speak well of the other with genuine respect. Both parties have moved forward and find they are in a better place through growth and related changes in the marketplace. As was mentioned at the top of this discussion, “nothing is static”. With the embracing of change comes the anticipation that talent will change as well. Accepting that a transition is a part of growth, there comes a time when the employer must acquire talent that better fits the next step and the employee is better suited to take on a new role for a new employer. With communication and professionalism, the event can be a win-win. It makes you ask, “Why doesn’t this happen more often?”

 You can get there from here. “Good divorces” can be a very productive solution to an employment relationship that is no longer delivering the value.