As the New Year quickly approaches and you frantically search the sales bins and do an hourly check-in on the Amazon lightning deals, you may stop for a second to think about the coming New Year and what it may bring. Perhaps you may even reflect on what you will do to change your life this coming year. Part of that consideration may involve a thought or three about moving on; specifically, moving on to a new job position. New Year’s resolutions are all about finding and bettering oneself. Oftentimes that betterment is through a new job or even new career. If that is in the cards for you, I urge you to stop and think for a second as to how you will exit your current job. How you leave a job not only says a lot about you but also about your future prospects.
Leaving a job is not necessarily an easy decision or an easy undertaking. There is planning involved, secrets shared amongst office colleagues and a little bit of sneakiness. If you need a letter of recommendation or reference for a new position you will have to consider whether to come clean to your current boss or ask colleagues or former employees to act as your reference. If you are leaving while barely holding onto your sanity or holding on for dear life to the end of your rope, you are definitely going to ask former colleagues for help. If there is a mutual understanding between you and your boss that the time has come to move on, what a great situation to be in. I, for one, have tried to always make it clear I do not hold “grudges” about people moving on. When people are burnt out or great opportunities for further growth emerge I will always lend support. I would never want someone to stay on past their “expiration” date- meaning, the time at which they are unhappy, unproductive or to the point of bringing toxicity into the workplace. However, even when I recognize that point has come for some people to move on, they too have to recognize that they have reached that workplace-saturation point. Otherwise, it becomes an ugly situation.
I have thus been thinking of how people quit and exit the workplace. In media and pop culture we have plenty of those examples and in particular within the broadcast journalism/ entertainment field. Newscasters, according to The Newsroom’s fictional anchorman Will McAvoy, are at the root of the moral consciousness of a society at large. way back when we trusted them and felt safe in their knowledge. Newscasters, as of late, have been getting a bit of a tarnished record to the point where many wonder what is their role anymore in society. Newscasters, as of late, have also made some fierce (both good and bad) exits that should give us some pause. There are those that leave with grace. There are those that leave in a bit of a burnout haze and then there are those that flame out and almost bring the proverbial house down with them. In combing through headlines and news articles, I have come across seven types of workplace exits and personas. Below are newscasters (loosely defined) who exemplified each of these personas and some of the lessons we collectively learned from watching them publicly battle their bosses.
1. Keith Olbermann: the self-destructive persona. I do not believe there have been many jobs at which he has not flamed out. He is a very smart, passionate, and opinionated man. He has had several shows that were good at some point in time. He had his own ESPN, MSNBC, and current TV shows. They all started well enough for he brought a certain gravitas and ego to the position. Then he would inevitably crash and crash mightily at that. Any employer would have to think twice about hiring him and in doing so would probably put in a few anti temper-tantrum clauses in the hire contract. From what I have seen, he has often left his job in the midst of an all-out temper tantrum. He is seen as perpetually angry. He just never stops being angry. And while that makes for funny bombastic TV rants, it also makes for uncomfortable workplaces. In the office workplace, I have seen people literally throw a temper tantrum where they ended up having to be escorted out of the building. I have also seen the angry employee send a “tell-all” email to the whole office. Even if there are valid points therein, those emails tend to be readily dismissed as the rants of a crazed individual. Make your point in some other way and leave a bit more quietly. Most don’t see exit interviews as all that useful but if you feel the need to do so and are sure you will never return, speak openly in the exit interview.
2. Ann Curry: the martyr. By all apparent means, she did not leave the Today show on her own accord. From one day to the other, she said goodbye on national television and was immediately replaced by a perkier female that supposedly had more rapport with co-host Matt Lauer. She cried on air. She barely looked at her co-anchor but she has never really discussed the situation openly. She probably cannot legally. Either way, she left with class while under extreme emotional duress. Sometimes you do not fit in a particular job or workplace. Many note that she got the job after years of putting in her time. It was not necessarily that she was the right fit it was that she had stuck around long enough. This is a common situation in the workplace where many are promoted just because of tenure and not necessarily because of a true match in skills sets. However, months of anonymously sourced blog posts noted that Ann Curry just wasn’t working out. In these situations slowly pulling the Band-Aid and then amputating is not the cool way to go. Either way departing was such sweet sorrow for her. As for the office workplace, pity doesn’t suit anyone well. If the job doesn’t fit, you must acquit yourself of said position as best and quickly as possible.
3. Rosie O’Donnell: the ever-annoying anointed one. Talk about bombastic! In all fairness, she was hired on The View because she was a known television personality. And, personality she did bring! She had been hired to be a moderator of The View’s daily chat. Instead, she went on to be an instigator, finding no fight she would back down from. This type of workplace persona is even more toxic than the self-destructive one because it occurs within a team position. The problem is that she became all personality, all the time. Her strong opinions resulted in many notable on-air disputes and controversies including when she went after Tom Selleck (on her own show) and his stance on guns. She went after him hard and at the end of the segment she said that it wasn’t meant to be a personal attack. Um, too late. We understand having passionate views on very important societal issues. That’s not the problem. Problem is she was an attack dog. She had anointed herself to serve as a moral conscious but in the end she was named “The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2007” by a PARADE reader’s poll. Oprah hired her after The View as an on-air host for her new channel. However, the viewers never tuned in for Rosie. Seems that many have left her contract expire with a sigh of “good riddance.” Don’t be that person in the workplace that fights about everything and then acts surprised when no one sheds a tear when you leave.
4. Elizabeth Hasselback: about time she left. Elisabeth left The View after media outlets reported that she was about to get fired because viewers didn’t like her political views. Look. She had been at The View for 10 years. She had a really good run. She never did fit in politically. She went on to co-host “Fox and Friends” which seemed to be a much better political fit. Note that she has not said a bad word about her former place. She was gracious, although not really sad, on her last day on air. As she left, most probably said “finally and about time.” She left under somewhat suspicious (gossipy) circumstances but she left with her head up high. She’s onto a better place psychologically for her.
5. Greta Van Susteren: the vocal principled persona. She is currently at Fox News where she has been for a rather long time now. Before that, she was at CNN where she had co-hosted two legal shows. Apparently, though, she became a bit unhappy at CNN; disgruntled perhaps. According to news outlets she felt that she and other women were not getting the appropriate amount of attention from the powers that be at CNN. She felt that the station was changing its core principles. In terms of everyday workplace language, she probably felt that CNN was experiencing mission drift. She made a very public exit from CNN to Fox News and has not since bothered to hide her distaste for CNN. While she may have left on principles of fairness she has not been that gracious towards her ex-employers. You never know when you may need to work again with your former agency. Keep the after-exit classy and don’t spill too much of the beans.
6. Jay Leno: the prodigal son not so welcomed anymore. Jay Leno left NBC originally on his own accord. He tried a new experimental show format for NBC. He anointed a successor –Conan O’Brien. Then the new show didn’t work so well and he wanted his old show back. He returned as the prodigal son, kicking his successor to the curb. But no one liked that bitter aftertaste. He had the ego and belief that he was vastly needed. Ah, he’s not even liked so much. Once you leave don’t go back; especially for your same old position that someone is doing a great job at
7. Meredith Veira: classy all around! She was on The View as well. She was well-liked and left in very good terms and on her own timetable. She went on to co-host The Today show. She was warm, personable and somehow jelled with her co-host. She then again left on good terms to take care of her family. Who can argue with that? Arrive classily, leave classily. No one will be afraid to hire for her next gig.
Your new year’s resolution may be to quit your job, but don’t do so in a tantrum. Leave a mark at your workplace. It’s good for them to miss you and your hard work. But don’t leave an ugly emotional tantrum-driven watermark that they will always remember you by. As for newscasters, keep to the business at hand. Once you become the story, the question becomes how fit are you to tell any story? Keep your persona simple, wise and approachable, with a touch of a sense of humor.