HomeAMH VoicesAMHVoices: Is there a right time to quit a job?

AMHVoices: Is there a right time to quit a job?

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In the past few years, local and global corporate leaders left their jobs on unclear circumstances with some grabbing headlines in the media becoming tabloid fodder.They ignited debates splitting opinions in all walks of life.

The majority were embroiled in corporate scandals that left tongues wagging,only a few of these leaders opted to quit in dignity without burning bridges with the employer.

Some however, chose to wrestle the employer through protracted labor disputes,fighting to the last.

When the gloves are off like this in an employment environment, isn’t quitting an option or simply the quitting culture does not exist amongst us?

In most situations, a CEO or manager has to be sent on forced leave or suspension to give leeway to investigations, of which in gross circumstances he/she will be well aware that the outcome will be destructive to his/her reputation. Instead of resigning we have rather witnessed circumstances whereby a CEO plays victim and waits for the sword of Damocles to descend, never opting to throw in the towel, claim an exit package and save resources.

Sepp Blatter (former FIFA President for 17 years) is one example, after his ban by the Fifa Ethics Committee he claimed that he was still the bona fide President and promised that it was just a temporal ban! Was Sepp suddenly blind to the reality that he was facing or simply it was the inert human fighting spirit or merely some arrogance? Abraham Zaleznik a leading scholar in psycho-dynamics once described this as a risk of losing self-control in pursuance for power. The fighting spirit exists in each and every one of us, but there are times when throwing in the towel is the right thing.

My conviction is that there are times when quitting a job becomes an honourable thing to do rather than enduring all the humiliation that comes with being duly dismissed or defeated in the courts of justice.

In the wake of a federal investigation in 2015, former CEO of the United Airlines Jeff Smisek resigned from his position to pave way for new leadership. Martin Winterkorn former CEO of Volkswagen stepped down following the diesel emission scandal. In a similar instance former CEO for BP, Tony Hayward stepped down after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill stating it was good for the company’s impetus.

The challenge in most leaders is that they cannot stomach the reality of relinquishing their positions. They choose to absorb the pressure, turn a blind eye on their mess buying time in an attempt to bring back sanity and extricate themselves from the scandals. Most importantly to note is that it’s not a matter of disentangling themselves from these scandals but an issue of hiding corrupt tendencies and criminal activities.

In the face of corporate scandals, resigning sometimes provides a clean slate to the company and to the reputation of the individual under scrutiny though the departure of the leader does not ameliorate problems but rather creates avenues for fresh ideas from a new incumbent. It is common knowledge that new brooms sweep clean and we have seen company share prices rising, stakeholder confidence increasing due to appointment of new leaders and restructuring of management. When former Toshiba CEO Hisao Tanaka resigned after the $1.2 billion accounting scandal, Toshiba shares which had plunged down managed to bounce back within a week.

Facing boardroom squabbles and a backlash of resistance from the board/management, then why would some long serving leaders act as stumbling blocks who stall progress in positions they are no longer needed? Most CEO’s packages know no bounds and resigning can never be the end of work life. May be simply put there is never a right time to quit a job.

One thing to note is that quitting itself or resigning from a job is not an easy process. In 2011, the CEO and Chairman of AMR Corp, parent of American Airlines Gerard J. Arpey, commented that ‘it is not good thinking either at the corporate level or at the personal level to believe that you can simply walk away from your circumstances’. It takes a lot of self-introspection that will culminate one into accepting that there is life after losing a job and a possible potential successor who can do it better.

There is no one in this world that is comfortable with losing a job which is a major source of income and some form of social prestige. The psychological and social effects that an individual endures after quitting a job sometimes weigh heavily compared to the benefits that someone derives whilst still holding on to the job. As humans we tend to look at the personal benefits and losses that we incur after losing a job instead of looking at the greater side of it after quitting.

With so many corporate failures that have been witnessed in Zimbabwe, isn’t quitting an option for most corporate leaders who are presiding over drowning companies and whose embattled reputations have sunk in murky waters? Probably there is never a right time to quit.

There are great lessons from corporate leaders who are willing to leave their posts with a clean record and those who quit without wrestling stakeholder concerns creating protracted battles leaving big shoes to fit for their successors.

Their demise becomes the resurgence of their former employers through injection of fresh ideas and implementation of new operational strategies. Above all they protected their integrity because those who know how to lead, it is easy to realize that a company’s growth is more important than personal glory and pride.

One writer once wrote that ‘quitting is not giving up, it’s choosing to focus your attention, it is not losing confidence, it’s learning to be more productive, efficient and effective somewhere else’.

Freemen Pasurai writes in his personal capacity. He is passionate about people management. freemenpasurai01@gmail.com

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