Exiting a Difficult Job Situation Gracefully

Exiting a Difficult Job Situation Gracefully

By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN

Leaving a JobHow do you leave a difficult job situation without conveying anger?  This was a question asked of me by a Chief Nursing Officer who was leaving a hospital that she dearly loved after ten years in the role. Her new CEO had made it clear that their relationship was not working for him.  He had little interest in trying to rebuild it.  She was offered a very fair severance package and made a decision to take it.  Her nursing leadership team was upset about her departure. She had long been a believer of never burning your bridges.  She was looking for ways to make her transition a graceful one in an organization where the truth about her resignation was widely known.


The following tips provide important guidance about how to manage a situation where you have been asked to leave a job:

1.  Don’t stay too long because your position power will decline immediately.

Although your inclination may be to stay for 30 days to help get things in order for a transition, this may not be the best plan in this situation.  Stay long enough to tie up loose ends but recognize that you are no longer viewed as part of the organization.  You may not be included in decision making by other members of the executive team.

2.  Don’t keep rehashing the situation in your own mind.

There are many reasons why a working relationship between a CEO and CNO does not work out often having little to do with job performance. There may factors totally outside your control such as his desire to bring in a candidate that he has worked with in the past.

3Remain positive with your leadership team.

You are leaving your position but your team will be the ones that continue in your absence.  They need time to grieve your loss as leader and will look to you for guidance.  Don’t play the role of victim and stay upbeat.  Minimize any negative remarks that you make about the CEO.  Let your team know that these key executive relationships don’t always work out.

4.  Demonstrate class in all of your actions but seek an assurance that you will be given a positive recommendation.

It is important to set yourself up for a good recommendation especially when you have been with an employer for ten years.  You want to be sure the trail you leave is a positive one.

5.  Be transparent about what has happened without whining or criticizing the organization.

Relationships sometimes don’t work out and everyone can understand this.  You can simply say that you have had a great 10 years with the organization but that it is time to do something else.  Even if it is the policy of your organization, it is usually best for senior leaders to completely avoid an exit interview especially in this scenario.

6.  Give yourself time to think about your next professional move.

Although it may be tempting to jump right back into a job search, it is important to seriously consider your next career step.  In some ways, losing a job can be very liberating because it opens a wide range of possibilities in terms of what you would like to do next.

7.  Reconnect with your network.

If you have been with one employer for ten years, there is a strong chance that your current professional network outside your work environment might be weak.  This is a time to reconnect with colleagues and to join LinkedIn if you are not in that social network.  Most great jobs come from colleague referrals so let everyone know that you are looking.

I am a firm believer that when one door closes, another one opens.  It may take time but it does happen.  Keep in mind that ultimately, you are the architect of your transition so make sure that you can feel proud about your own behavior during this difficult time.

© emergingrnleader.com 2013