Are You A “Thank You” Organization? shared by David Chavez

Thank You with PenI am very fortunate to coach so many wonderful executive teams. Some of those team members move on because the company isn’t right or they’re in the wrong role. Usually these departures are because the company outgrew the team member or the team member outgrew the company. It doesn’t really matter what reason they leave, every leader of a team determines how we send off someone who helped the company. I received this article from someone I have been fortunate enough to coach and it’s a message that needs to be shared.

Thank You. Two small simple words. Words you learn at age two by your parents as the foundation of communication in polite society. I’ve used these words my whole life and never given them much thought, especially in the realm of my professional life. That is until now…

I recently had the opportunity to observe how two companies said “thank you”. This was in the form of the departure of a “valued” employee leaving the company. Both employees had a visible and prominent role in the company and were leaving having been told they were valued. Yet based on the company culture, both departures were handled on opposite ends of the spectrum and left the employee with very different experiences and interpretations of that stated “value”.

Let’s look at Company A: An email is sent out by the CEO announcing the employee’s departure, end date, and a 2 paragraph thank you for their contributions. The Executive Assistant is asked to organize cards to be signed at her desk and a good-bye party is planned. A gift is purchased for the employee on behalf of the company. A cake is ordered and the party invitation is sent out to all employees. Several smaller work groups organize private pot-luck parties as the final days approach. On the last day hugs are shared, good-bye sentiments conveyed, and the company is credited with showing the employee a meaningful “Thank You” for their service. They leave feeling valued.

Contrast this with Company B: The CEO does not send an email announcement to the company, instead letting rumors and gossip do the communicating. The Executive Assistant is not instructed to purchase good-bye cards to be signed by staff at her desk. No party is planned for the employee; no good-bye gift is ordered; no tasty treat ordered to honor the day. In the last executive meeting it’s left up to the employee to notify the team this is their last meeting with the group. Leadership conveys no comment of thanks towards the employee within the last team meeting. The employee rides off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again. So much for being a “valued” employee.

Why does it matter you might ask. An employee is here one day, gone the next. As executives we have an endless revolving door of staff coming and going from our companies. Business moves on, not skipping a beat, right? Why does one employee really matter anyway?

Well it does matter because every employee left in the company has observed how you have handled this transition, how you have said “thank you”. They either received a message that the culture values employees or they haven’t. They either have a sense that when they leave the organization they will be honored, or they won’t. Your employee culture is the real beneficiary of the time and effort it takes to say these two small words. The way you facilitate staff transitions on your team conveys volumes about your organization’s culture and your leadership.

The author of this blog asked me to keep their name private so I am honoring their request. My closing thoughts… Are you a “Thank You” organization? If not, can you afford not to be one? We all have to remember past employees become the voice of your organization after their gone.

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