SAYING GOOD-BYE TO GOOD EMPLOYEES
by J. Vazquez
August 15th, 2018
As is the case for most of us, we don’t stay at one job for our entire lives, and I’ve felt my fair share of guilt when informing my bosses that I’d be leaving their employment to pursue other goals. Doing so is particularly difficult when you appreciate and value your boss and your coworkers. A few weeks ago, I experienced this from the other side – the day Marcus informed us that he’d be leaving 3DENT.
Marcus has been an ideal employee – highly competent, inquisitive, independent, thoughtful, dedicated, and as indicated in the article he wrote for the Spring 2018 newsletter, committed to servant leadership. Below, I share two pictures. The first one is from 3DENT’s 1st anniversary. The second one is from last year’s company outing to an ASTROS playoff game… Marcus is the 2nd from the left.
It was our privilege to have Marcus take a chance on 3DENT in September 2013, foregoing higher pay from a much bigger and well-established company where he had just completed a summer internship. I’d like to believe that his decision was highly pre-determined by his experience during an earlier 2- week time period well before we had an office space when he worked with Bart and me (sitting on a backless bench in my home office as all 3 of us shared a large table for a desk) to carry out the very first Going on Location Analysis performed by 3DENT. I’d like to believe that he saw that he could be a part of a learning company - one where he’d benefit from the experience of the partners and their willingness to teach while at the same time allowing and encouraging him to make contributions from day 1.
For the last (almost) five years, we saw Marcus grow and develop into an effective engineer and leader. We will miss him and at the same time wish him the absolute best, sending him off with an open invitation to consider working with us again if/when he is ready. One consolation is that Marcus is not leaving 3DENT to join a competitor. Instead, he is actually switching gears completely and going back to school to pursue a degree in ministry.
I have two very vivid experiences of having to tell my boss I was planning to leave my job. Both of them were in academia. In late 1994, while teaching at Lamar University on a 1-year contract as a lecturer, a tenure-track position became available at Texas A&M – Galveston. The position was perfectly made for me, as it was in a rather unusual department called MASE (Maritime Systems Engineering) which combined civil engineering with hydrodynamics AND while the position did have some expectations for research funding, there was no graduate program and therefore the pressure to write grant proposals was not as great as it would be if I had graduate students. With my former advisor’s encouragement, I turned in an application and got an interview. This was followed by an offer to start immediately. I went back-and-forth trying to convince myself that I’d get similar opportunities later and that I simply could not bring myself to consider breaking the 1-year contract I had at Lamar. I sought counsel from a few people I trusted and they all told me I could not pass up that opportunity. When I talked to the department head at Lamar, his response was the best I could have imagined. He said that my leaving in the middle of the school year would put him and the department in a bit of a difficult situation, but that indeed the opportunity I had been given was one I should not pass up and that they’d miss me but they’d manage.
Almost five years later, I had to tell the department head of the MASE department that I’d be leaving for New Orleans, as my wife had accepted a teaching job in the college of Architecture at Tulane University. His response was almost the same – “We’ll miss you but we understand.” Because we left in very good terms, I actually came back to teach a couple of classes for him during the Fall of 1999, shortly after I was offered a full-time job in New Orleans.
In 2003, I experienced the departure of a good employee for the first time. It caught us by surprise! From that experience, we decided that we’d make a point to tell our good employees how much we appreciated them and to do all we could to ensure that they would want to stay. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina we lost another one of our best employees – to a direct competitor no less. While it was very disappointing to lose such a good employee, I could easily see why he chose to make a move. As he was leaving, we had some discussions about the company’s intellectual property that left a bad taste in both of us, but eventually the fact that I had treated him with respect and shown him appreciation for his contributions won over. We remained good friends and stayed in contact. Then, four years ago, I told him about an opportunity at a client’s engineering group, and he got the job.
Also shortly after Katrina, I had what I’d think is a unique experience. We hired an engineer and I made the drive from New Orleans to Houston to be in the office for his first day. When I met with him that morning, he informed me that he couldn’t take the job after all. As it turned out, he felt bad for leaving his previous employer during what he considered to be a particular time of need. I told him that I was disappointed but understood and appreciated his loyalty. I also told him that that if we still had an opening when he felt ready, we’d welcome him then. A few months later, he joined us and quickly became one of the best employees.
One last related story is that I have also had at least two good employees resign and come back to work with me/us. In those situations, I feel that I/we did something right, allowing them to explore other opportunities but having provided a positive work environment they were willing to come back. These particular experiences give me hope that when I lose a good employee, they’d be looking for opportunities to come back to work with me/us – partly because we have shown them appreciation and partly because we provide an environment where they can learn and see their responsibility grow with their contributions. Hopefully, this is not just my ego making me think that I’ve been one of those good bosses people actually like to work for.
In closing, what I want to say is simply this: Marcus - we’ll miss you and wish you the best in your new endeavors… And, if/when the time comes, we would welcome the opportunity to work together again!