Departing Employees, Competitors And The Trust Factor

One of the misgivings I have about some companies’ corporate cultures is the notion that if an employee tenders their resignation and informs their manager that they have accepted a job at a competitor, that they automatically need to be pushed out of the company.

The main idea being to limit the possibility of the employee accessing any more information or any future plans and strategies that they might then go ahead and share with their new competing employer.

While the main premise of this may be valid in some cases, it should be very far from being the default automatic rule.

Not all companies deal with information or plans that are sensitive to such a high degree, not all employees have access to top secret data, and some employees already know all there is to know about the space they operated in. Long story short, there isn’t always something to hide or protect.

In the end of the day, every case is unique, and although the context of the company and the sensitivity of the information it deals with are big factors to consider, the biggest and most important factor in all this is the employee in question.

Are they trustworthy or not? Do they have strong work ethics or not?

Telling an employee that, just because you’ve told us you’re going to a competitor, you need to go right now, simply amounts to telling that person that you don’t trust them.

Regardless of how much time they’ve worked at the company, what kind of effort they’ve devoted to doing their job, the level of loyalty and trustworthiness they’ve displayed during their tenure at the company, and ignoring the fact that they were willingly transparent and honest regarding their next employer, you’re just dismissing it all, and saying that you don’t trust them, that you don’t believe they’ve got the integrity, ethics or morals to do what’s right and what’s professional!

That is a huge blow!

Putting myself in such a person’s shoes, I would find that insinuation highly offensive. I’d most definitely prefer to be fired for a valid reason or laid off, than for someone to shed any shadow of doubt on my trustworthiness, integrity or ethics, which are all values I live by and pride myself on.

If you have reason to believe that the person is untrustworthy and would leak company information, then they probably already have, and you probably should have done something about it sooner.

Otherwise, depending on how well you know the person, your level of trust in them, how loyal they’ve shown they are, how much they already know, and how involved they’ve been with decision-making or strategy-building, you can draw a line that defines how involved you want them to be during their last days at the company, and what you need their focus to be on; even if all that amounts to is knowledge transfer and tying up a few loose ends.

Trust your good people, and show them that you do, and they’ll live up to your expectations and very rarely, if ever, let you down. Don’t offend and alienate them, running the risk of losing their trust, and pushing them towards the scenario you’re trying to avoid.

Trust and respect are key in all our human relationships; and as hectic as things get at work, as much as we get carried away with the nitty-gritty details of it all, and as important as we think all those big projects and associated strategies and deadlines are; we need to always remember, that at the end of the day, we work with other human beings, that we build and foster human relationships with them, and that we need to do that with trust and respect.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

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Mohamed Marwen Meddah is a web development director, amateur photographer and web enthusiast from Tunisia, currently living in Canada.

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