On people changing companies

Over the past few weeks, several people I’ve had the pleasure of working with have left the company. I used to feel confused and a little disturbed by people’s departures, particularly if they’d tried to find other internal opportunities and the timing didn’t work out. Quite a few of my mentors left IBM, and one of my colleagues even lightheartedly teased me about it.

I feel much less worried about people leaving now. I wish them luck on their next adventure, connect with them through social networks so that we can keep in touch, subscribe to their blogs or follow them on Twitter, set myself a reminder to follow up with them, and perhaps write them a recommendation on LinkedIn.

Here’s what I understand now that I didn’t understand in the beginning: It’s okay.

When people leave for other companies, they colonize those companies with the things they’ve learned in ours. They spread skills and ideas they’ve honed here, while learning even more from new cultures and new situations. New things become possible.

The network grows. Now I might be able to easily reach out to one more company, one more industry. Now I might hear about interesting ideas and trends outside my usual areas of focus. Now I might connect even more diverse worlds.

It’s not all an easy win, of course. People leave behind these gaps, these unfulfilled possibilities. They also leave new opportunities. What will their successors create? How will the organization adapt around them? How will everyone grow?

I still work on helping IBM improve, in my own little way. But now I can properly wish people good luck on their new adventures, and be confident that things will generally work out.

2011-04-08 Fri 20:23

  • terry

    Saying good bye has always been difficult for me. Not that I am a sentimental person. It is just the act of bringing relationships to closure is not my strong suit.

    Yes, with social networking, the relationships could continue in theory. But in reality, something has ended. So, what to say? how to say it and really meant it? I don’t do it well and admire those who do.

  • @sachac Watching colleagues leave the company can often trigger self-reflection on whether we individually should be following that example, or whether our situations are sufficiently different so that we stay. Sometimes people leave to go to exploit an immediate opportunity, and sometimes they leave to run away from a trap.

    From a bigger perspective, the biggest change for an employee move from one company to another is the change in culture. As human beings, we sometimes focus too much on immediate, and don’t give sufficient appreciation to the basics. Reasons that I’ve heard of people leaving the company and returning include (i) the network of skills and intelligence in the organization, (ii) having expenses reimbursed promptly rather than having to carry the company on personal credit, and (iii) having someone else having to worry about collecting accounts payable, as the single shingle consultant does good work but still has to pay his or her own bills.

  • I’ve looked into it myself. To be honest I have my own reasons for staying where I am, but it is mostly *inertia* and I have come to accept that. Where I work it isn’t really the best in terms of pay and work, and I was just fortunate that management for the most part that I had to deal with were good to me.

    Personally, unless the work is ridiculously uninteresting or beyond any hope of salvation (IE6 development or something with insane hours of unpaid OT because of poor PM or working in a Fixed Price contract project) then usually I am fine and can twist my work to make things interesting just have to use your imagination.

    I do see people leaving the company, but I don’t treat it as goodbyes anyway, where you work does not define you. More importantly, where you work does not mean we still can’t eat out (unless there are ethical reasons such as you working for a terrorist organization, drug trade or cigarette company ^_^.

    LinkedIn provides a lot of those links so we can go meet and remember and update people that join other companies. That is the power of social networks which I am pretty sure you are aware of.

    Personally, I don’t think I would work in a small business, I am used to corporate life with a lot of the admin stuff taken care of. Though I wish more admin stuff was taken care of in my company, but at least a good chunk is already dealt with.