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“Only when you leave, I’ll need to love you” Gary Kemp – Spandau Ballet 1984

Are notice periods, the equivalent of a professional divorce?

Why then do some employers treat their colleagues who are leaving so poorly?

Let’s start with understanding why someone is leaving, there is a much-shared quote declaring that “people only work for people” not companies. Therefore, the opposite must surely apply “people only leave people?” not the company that employed them. Does this require the boss that receives the resignation to take a hard look in the mirror and ask whether they could have done better for that employee, for any employee?

It may be the case that the employee has decided that their energies & talents may be better served elsewhere in the world and in some cases that might also be good for the business, an opportunity to bring in much needed new ideas and energies.

However, far too many employees who join their new companies take horror stories with them regarding how they were treated during their notice period. It’s as though the culture and behaviours that led to their frustrations are amplified during those last few weeks and months. Perhaps the boss took their resignation personally and didn’t react well?

It is clear in some companies that an attitude of almost punishing people for having the audacity to want to leave exists. An unacceptable workload is placed upon that employee or wholly unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved in those final few weeks and months surfaces.

Let’s take the time to think about the employee who has resigned. They are already facing their future with a mixture of excitement but also a degree of anxiety. Surely, the best thing a company can do is to help them finish their final shifts or tasks and goals with support and clarity to ensure that they can start their new future energised and excited.

All leaders in our industry have a part to play in continuing to drive up standards that relate to the employee experience. The reputational damage for your employer brand that can be done last longer than that individuals notice period

“Your brand is what people say about you behind your back” Jeff Bezos.  

After the exit interview has been completed, often lacking any real candour, how will people describe your organisation? that’s where the truth lies. Most exit interviews contain the all-important final question for internal reference “would you re-employ? But how well would you score with – “would they return to work for this company?”

It is a two-way street. Gwyneth Paltrow & Chris Martin famously described their divorce as a “conscious uncoupling” perhaps that’s the way to view a notice period? Conscious decisions have been taken to separate as an employee and an employer and both sides have a responsibility to make the process as painless as possible.

The “nasty notice period” approach solves nothing and fails to improve the reputation of our industry. This will be especially relevant for colleagues leaving hospitality to work in other industries. The bigger question then becomes, “would you recommend working in hotels/ restaurants/bars/coffee shops” insert as applicable, perhaps all too often the answer is no.

The hospitality industry, like many other industries, is wrestling with the increase in mental health concerns, and this has accelerated since the pandemic. Whether you are an employer or an employee dealing with our own professional conscious uncoupling, treat each other with empathy, understanding and kindness. Change can be difficult but once worked through a new dawn will always emerge.  That karma will flow both ways and like any old relationship, you never know when your paths may cross again.

Chris Wayne-Wills FIH

Chief Executive Officer
Crerar Hotels Group

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