When I was in grade eight, I worked one night as a pin boy at Tecumseh Lanes. The old bowling alleys had boys working behind the wall to set the bowling pins back in place after the bowlers knocked them down. We had to keep track of how many balls had been rolled on each turn and reset the ten pins once the turn was over. There was a tray we manually loaded pins into and a track to send the ball back on.
It was well over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit behind the wall with young teen boys smoking, swearing and changing pins. I ended up getting confused in the heat and the noise. I reset the pins early a couple times which infuriated the customers. I did not understand all the instructions I had been given in the first thirty seconds of work and the boys next to me were little help to my confused mind. I think I came home with two dollars of earnings after a four hour shift. I was disappointed, but glad to get out of there. It was reminiscent of some of my grade school gym classes.
A second, undesirable job exit happened in one of the churches where I had been a youth pastor. More than once, the senior pastor had called me to his office to tell me that I should think about some other vocation since I was clearly not cut out for pastoral ministry. Some of the ways I had failed included:
· - having sleepy nods during service while sitting behind him on the platform
· - borrowing the pastor’s station wagon for a youth outing and returning it a less desirable condition
· - dressing unprofessionally for my role
I ended up leaving there before I got fired and disregarded his opinion about my suitability for ministry. I hope he was wrong. I would hate to discover now that I had wasted my life trying to fit into a role that I was not suited for. Again, it was reminiscent of some of my grade school gym classes.
What places of employment ended poorly for you? There are valuable lessons for us about finishing well, especially when your performance or integrity has been questioned. People always remember first impressions and the way you exit.
If you have failed in a job, a responsibility or relationship you need to pay close attention to your exit strategy. On one of my favourite Seinfeld episodes, George Costanza realizes that he has a pattern of making good impressions and doing well, but then things turn sour. He decides that the best strategy in relationships, conversation and work is to leave on a high note. I still chuckle remembering Jason Alexander’s character shouting cheerily, “I’m out of here!”
But what can you do when faced with situations in which you have clearly failed and need to move on?
Executive recruiter Bill Radin says this:
When faced with leaving a job, it’s best to exercise decorum, whether the move is voluntary or forced. To make the best of an awkward situation, here are some tips to remember:[ii]
1. Keep your mouth shut. Leaving a job (like ending a personal relationship) is strictly a private matter; and waving your dirty laundry serves no purpose.
2. Stay cool. Even in the context of a “confidential” exit interview, there’s nothing to gain from scorching the Earth.
3. Keep your distance. Soliciting support (or fomenting dissent) from your co-workers might create the impression of a conspiracy or coup d’état—and unwittingly implicate innocent people.
4. Burn bridges at your own peril. The company you left yesterday may need your services tomorrow. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.
[i] William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 7
[ii] Bill Radin, How To Leave A Job Gracefully, http://www.radinassociates.com/resignation-graceful.htm