Monday, May 30, 2016
The wonderful and scary period called Notice Period when you leave your job
I met up with a very unusually relaxed CXO friend who appeared to have all the time in the world for the mid-week lunch meeting. We indulged in leisurely talk while I had time to kill in between meetings and him with the knowledge that no one would be missing him at his workplace. Savoring the dishes in front of us, he pronounced the fact that he was on his notice period for the next two months and guess what ? It was better than the honeymoon period he enjoyed when he had joined the company.
The luncheon meeting had me thinking about the terms of employment where notice periods vary from 30 days for junior staff increasing with rank up to 3 months (have not come across longer notice periods and would be happy to learn about them). Through my corporate career spanning three decades I had to serve notice period ten times and by the time I had crossed the fourth, the term had stretched to three months, not counting the period of negotiations before the resignation is accepted.
Notice period norms started with the view that the outgoing person needs to transfer his/her tacit knowledge on to the team and/or replacement identified for the role such that the enterprise can minimize disruption risk and adverse impact. Fair point in a scenario where the person has specialist skills that requires deep understanding of the role and responsibilities or the industry vertical, or for that matter has created valuable intellectual property which needs careful handling before the person exits.
I am sure that there would be other reasons someone can think of to demonstrate that there are indeed reasons to hold back people after they have announced their intent to depart for greener pastures; e.g. handing over key accounts to others, completing projects that may get delayed with change of personnel, providing continuity to a strategic initiative, I believe that the list can fill up many pages. The average time taken to obviate the risk should ideally determine the notice period a person would serve.
Organizations define such timelines with analysis of time, cost, effort, and impact to determine how long before a person is freed to pursue his/her interests outside. Anyone making such a statement would find it difficult to place a hand on the heart and repeat it. It has become the norm that junior resources shall have 30 day notice period while mid and senior management shall have 3 months. Ask any Human Resource Head or CEO, they would struggle to provide credible rationale for their policies.
Joining competition ? Surprise ! You will be relieved faster than you can imagine making you wonder about your reason for existence in the enterprise. Guess what ! You are no longer trustworthy ! Controlling damage and ensuring that you do not take away every little secret that competition would love to exploit. Handover or knowledge transfer ? The risk is deemed higher than the benefit; thus companies err on the side of caution in the belief that naive and innocent employees would take trade secrets after they resign.
As the CIO, he was busy stretching 60-70 hours in a week balancing meetings across the spectrum of activities; he traveled frequently to stay connected to the business which had given him the platform on which he had risen to fame in the industry. Sought for his deep insights and crisp analysis of situations, he always provided alternative solutions. He was a prominent member of the leadership team. And then things changed as if he was an outcast, brain dead, a leper to be avoided leaving him disenchanted and disillusioned.
My friend’s life changed after he announced his exit; he was eased off critical meetings and management reviews; he was not invited to new business discussions since he wouldn’t be around to execute. He wandered the corridors meeting people, chatting up uneasy senior managers who engaged in small talk. Everyday morning he arrived like clockwork, had his morning coffee, read emails he received, responded to some, had lunch and then spent time over an evening tea before calling it a day.
Why do enterprises continue to insist on long notice periods when no productive work gets done by the individual in that golden notice period ? A sheer waste of time for the incumbent and the rest of the team knowing fully well that s/he is not empowered anymore to take critical decisions. Can the person not be exited logically within time taken to relieve him/her of corporate belongings, wind up receivables, and pack personal stuff. Why make him/her feel redundant, worthless and useless in the last days ?