Chef Laura: Consciously uncoupling

Breaking up.  Getting dumped.  Splitting up.  Separating.  Divorcing.  These are all commonly accepted expressions to explain the end of a relationship.

But last week with the help of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, the phrase “Conscious Uncoupling” entered our lexicon. This term, created by author and psychotherapist Katharine Woodward Thomas is vying for word of the year for 2014.  Sorry “selfie” – you’re sooooo 2013.

Conscious Uncoupling is the practice of ending a relationship in a mature way.  Sure it’s not as cathartic as throwing a dirty martini in your SO’s face, but with 41 percent of first marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, perhaps it’s time unhappy couples took the high road when navigating Splitsville.

Love life aside, Americans also, on average, change jobs 11 times in their career.  So at least 10 times, one party has broken up with the other. 

Neil Sedaka cautioned us 52 years ago that breaking up is hard to do, but with the following steps, maybe it doesn’t have to be.  How can we, as employees, sever ties with an employer in a way that would make Ms. Paltrow proud?

  •  Do a bit of soul searching.  Are you running from something or running to something?  Unless you’re seeking employment at Swingle, the grass isn’t always greener.  As with a romantic relationship, are the things bothering you in your current situation “nuisances” or “deal breakers”?
  • Plan your exit strategy.  Tempting as it is to pull a Snagglepuss: “Exit, stage left!” resigning takes thoughtful planning.  In addition to the obvious action of securing a new job first, there are tasks you’ll need to complete in order to wean yourself off the corporate teat.  Two weeks before you give your two weeks:
  1. Prepare what you will say to your boss
  2. Write your resignation letter
  3. Look into any lingering healthcare benefits or flex spend funds not spent
  4. Get your 401K, stock options, and pensions in order
  5. Look at your vacation benefits.  Can you use your earned PTO to get things in order before uncoupling from your employer?
  6. Stop taking on new clients.  Is there a savvy way to give your coworkers some new customers or sales opportunities without tipping them off?
  7. Make sure your T&E expense accounts are up-to-date and reimbursements have been submitted.
  8. Gather up any personal items around the office.  Your manager might not take your resignation as well as Coldplay’s front man, so be prepared to be shown the door, with your yellow clocks safely stowed away, once you deliver your news. 
  • Communicate like a grown up.  No one appreciates a breakup by email, text, or through the grapevine.  The same is true for your boss.  Tell them your plans first – in person or by phone – two weeks prior to your last day.  
  • Have a transition checklist ready.  Resist three pitfalls during your final fortnight:
  1. Over-promising amount of work you can complete in 10 business days
  2. Under delivering above-mentioned work load
  3. Succumbing to senioritis

Instead, organizing paper and digital files for your replacement is SOP.  Note: purging documents that your company may need once you are gone is not cool…just cold.

Many industries are tight-knit.  So before your go all Force 10 from Navarone, keep in mind that your industry is probably more It’s a Small World and less Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. 

By Consciously Uncoupling with your employer, you can spend those last two weeks tying up loose ends, saying goodbye to colleagues, and ending on a high note full of positivity and appreciation. Then take a bow as you bow out with grace and your reputation intact.  Now go Viva la Vida!