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Resigning On Air–Your Employees Want to be Heard

Everyday, people all over the world leave organizations. Most of the time no one outside a certain circle of people (colleagues, associates, friends, and family members) hear about it. So when a departure generates news it can be viewed as a big deal.

I ran across this article via Twitter on Sunday:

“Maine TV News Anchors Cindy Michaels and Tony Consiglio Quit On Air”

Apparently their announcement was unscripted by the network. Check out the video below (mobile users may need to click here):

At last count the above video was viewed close to five million times in less than a week of being posted on Youtube.

My first impression was that the “Quit On Air” headline is misleading. When I see the word “quit” I imagine a more aggressive or negative connotation. In watching how the two conducted themselves, it appears that they were gracious and thankful, particularly toward the viewers. How this will help them in terms of future employment remains to be seen.

My second impression is that their workplace must be something else (and by “something else” I mean toxic) if two public figures felt compelled to do this. Michaels and Consiglio cite “a longstanding battle with upper management over journalistic practices” as part of the reason for resigning. They also believed, justly or not, that they wouldn’t be allowed to say good-bye to the viewers if management had known of their plans.

We figured if we had tendered our resignations off the air, we would not have been allowed to say goodbye to the community on the air and that was really important for us to do that,”~Cindy Michaels

As a business leader, I’m mindful of how people choose to exit an organization. We may not always want to know but how and why employees choose to leave can communicate a lot about the state of the business. It’s good to know if departures are the result of, for example, a better opportunity, policy violation, or conflict. The data can serve to highlight where organizations can and should direct resources to correct issues. And the stories behind the departure can serve as a organizational “gut check,” helping to expose issues to the light of day (and in extreme cases, out of the courtroom). In the proper context employee exits can serve to strengthen, rather than tear apart.

I’m also an advocate of social media. In this role I’m cognizant of the ways in which people, when they choose to express their thoughts and opinions online, can impact the perception observers may have about an organization. And while the anchors didn’t use social media to make their case, this story can serve to illustrate why it’s important to give people opportunities to express themselves while still with the organization.

As I mentioned before, the video has close to five million views (and over 1,000 comments) and counting. That’s millions of impressions that the TV station can’t control. At best, they can try to present their case and hope to persuade people to their point of view. At worst, well, they can make it worse–by disparaging the anchors, for example, or by doing nothing and risk having their message high-jacked by other parties. Regardless, what should have been a straightforward event is now anything but.

“The end is important in all things.”~Yamamoto Tsunetomo

How leaders choose (or not choose) to help employees leave an organization speaks clearly to how said people are valued. If you want to

  • preserve the brand’s market position and integrity, 
  • prevent unnecessary distractions, and
  • have positive employee relations, 

make sure that the company’s employee exit strategy allows departing employees a better choice than going viral on Youtube. Employees want to be heard, whether you like it or not.

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