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Resigned Acceptance

By March 7, 20133 Comments

Last week Groupon’s co-founder and CEO Andrew Mason was fired by the board who are seeking some fresh input to resurrect a wobbly share price.  The toppled entrepreneur took it with good grace (admittedly easier to do with a hefty severance payment and continued 7.1% shareholding) and publicly posted a quirky and irreverent announcement to his now former employees:

“After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today…”

…and so on.  And fair play to him.  I like his style and it got me thinking about the regularity with which we in the recruitment industry are involved in resignations.  Sure, we counsel and advise our candidates on it on a regular basis, including the good old counter-offer conversation.  But in the fluid and volatile industry of recruitment that we all work within, we find ourselves in the position of resigning more often than most too.

Greg Savage’s recent blog post How to Resign Without Being a Prat makes for entertaining reading, but also provides some useful points that many recruiters can take on board.  As things continue to pick up out there I can assure you that there are many recruiters primed, locked and loaded ready to make a move as soon as the next best thing comes along.  Greg finishes the post off with a line that sums it up nicely:

“Don’t be a dick.  Resign with grace”

Well put, and a lesson for all of us.  But what about you recruitment owners, Directors and Managers that are on the receiving end of the resignation letter?  I have recruited in many industries over the years, but the past five years recruiting for the recruitment industry has provided me with some unrivalled moments of astonishment at the way some recruitment leaders behave when one of their staff members resigns.  You’d think it was their own child dis-owning them or something.

And that’s the thing.  Recruitment is a game where so much emotion is invested that it can become really personal.  Many recruitment leaders work with energy, drive and passion in order to get to the top and remain successful.  They are the most competitive of a competitive industry.  But let me tell you, that gives rise to some of the most embarrassing toys-out-of-pram moments I’ve ever encountered.  Some have such a fearsome reputation for how they behave when facing a resigning employee that I’ve had candidates on the phone to me late at night, craving some moral support for the deed they must face the next day, close to tears and facing a sleepless night of cold sweat and waking terror.

This, of course, will act as a deterrent for others in the business to resign.  And no doubt this is the intention of the recruitment leader.  Rather than create an environment and culture of positive energy, innovation, collaboration and excellence, you create one of fear, distrust, paranoia and monotony.  Nice one.  Talent retained, sure, but which one is likely to foster the longer-term successful performance, do you think?  Seriously, I’ve heard of recent examples of recruiters being subjected to belittling and pointless tasks during their notice period, openly ridiculed in the office, forced to delete LinkedIn accounts, late night calls from their jilted managers, even made to work out their notice (fair enough in many cases) but then not actually paid for the work after leaving (surely not even legal).

That’s why the message given by Greg in his blog applies just as much to the recruitment leaders on the receiving end of the resignation.  Recruiters should resign with grace, but managers also need to accept with grace.  Sure, the counter offer thing may be appropriate sometimes, but rarely actually has a positive long term outcome.  Accept with grace and people will regard you as a real leader.  I’ve had two instances just this week of recruitment managers who have been entirely pragmatic, balanced and mature when facing a resigning recruiter from their team.

That’s real leadership, and will of course ensure that their reputation continues to precede them in our little recruitment community, and no doubt ensure that good talent comes back to work for them some day in the future too.

And for those of you soon to hand in notice, here’s some inspiration from around the world.  I particularly like the guy who wrote his resignation letter on a cake.  Nice way to soften the blow.

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Guest says:

    I resigned recently to a distraught and crying manager. I was then reminded no less that 4 times on my goodbye card of my Restraint of Trade. Such fun. 

  • The better half says:

    I resigned from my role as my work visa had less than six months to run and despite being assured for over twelve months that the Recruitment Agency I worked for at the time would become an accredited employer with NZ Immigration they never did. My new role was with another agency within a completely different recruitment sector however the CEO took my resignation so personally she refused to speak to or acknowledge me for the whole of my one month notice period. Why, I will never know but it was something that stayed with me for a long time and I still feel it was rather bizarre behaviour from someone who at the time was well known and supposedly respected within the NZ recruitment industry.

  • Hassanah Rudd says:

    Many moons ago I resigned to go to a competitor.. The CEO was so annoyed I spent my notice period working in reception, getting coffee & doing the mail. It was just sad & they continued to bleed talent.