HR Leaders: Are Your Treating Your Good People Like Criminals? If So, Watch Out.

by Alan Collins

A friend just quit his job as Director – HR Operations.

And was treated “like a criminal.”

When he handed his boss his two-week notice, this occurred one hour later:

His boss visited him at his desk along with security and two other managers.

While they watched, he was told to pack up immediately. They didn’t want him taking confidential information and files.

He was provided a box, told his passwords were deactivated and that he’d be paid for his two weeks.

When he finished packing, they escorted him out of the building with his belongings.

Finally, because he worked in an open space office environment, this all happened in full view of everyone — including his entire team!

*   *   *

“I was a good employee. But I felt like a white collar criminal,” he said. 

“They surrounded me and publicly marched me out like they were the FBI. The only thing missing were handcuffs.”

He admits having had many heated arguments with his boss, but never in public and always behind closed doors. Their horrible relationship was the main reason he had accepted another job.

Sure, he understood their need to protect company files and data. That was no problem.

But…he was shocked that his boss would choose to embarrass him such a public and humiliating way.

He did request (almost whispering) that if he had to leave right away, if his exit could be handled privately — perhaps after working hours that evening with no one around and perhaps after he had been excused for the day.

His boss angrily refused and yelled out loud: “No, you need to clear out now.”

Obviously, this is one side of the story.

But sadly, situations like this one are not as rare as we all might think.

*   *   *

With all that said, what’s the message?

Well, if you’ve handled such cases similarly as an HR leader, there are some important watch outs here for you:

1. Treating your good people inhumanely when they depart your organization can damage you and your company’s reputation.

2. Former employees with unpleasant experiences can also discourage: (a) future talent who may wish to work in your organization, and (b) consumers who want to buy products or services from your business.

3. Don’t forget about your current employees. They are also quietly taking careful note of how you’ve choosen to “reward” their colleagues who decide to leave.

On the other hand, managing these kinds of situations in the right way can build “lifelong ambassadors” for your organization.

*   *   *

So what’s the solution?

It’s simple.

Try treating people when they “offboard” as well as you did when you hired and “onboarded” them.

For example, if it’s a business necessity that someone must exit immediately, at least give that person the chance to leave the building quietly and either ship their belongings to them or allow them to come back in at a quiet time after hours with supervision.

That’s just one option. I’m sure there are many others.

Above all, let people leave with their dignity.

Certainly there’s no need to deal with them as criminals.

Treat them as you would want to be treated. After all, it’s the golden rule.

Just sayin’.


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Want more tips, ideas and strategies to avoid that can drive your success as a brand new HR leader? Then check out:  THE NEW HR LEADER’S FIRST 100 DAYS: How To Start Strong, Hit The Ground Running & ACHIEVE SUCCESS FASTER As A New Human Resources Manager, Director and VP.  You can get more details HERE.

About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling HR books on career advancement including the New HR Leader’s First 100 Days.  He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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2 Responses to “HR Leaders: Are Your Treating Your Good People Like Criminals? If So, Watch Out.”

  1. Chuck Imhoff Says:

    Not a bight thing to do, yet many companies have been doing this for a number of years.

    Don’t they think if the employee would attempt to steal company property or confidential information on the way out, they would have already done so.

    What are existing employees going to think when they see this happening? Complete lack of trust.

  2. Alan Says:

    Thanks Chuck for weighing in. Couldn’t agree with you more. Because the HR director is a friend of mine and I’ve known him for years, this situation especially ticks me off. But you’re right, organizations have been doing this for years. In this particular organization, employees now carefully “manage their resignations in advance” mindful that in giving their customary 2 week notice, they’ll probably be asked to leave that same day. But they’ll leave “well prepared” if you know what I mean. Be well.