Five more job departure mistakes

How to avoid common pitfalls

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

What mistakes should be avoided by departing employees and the firms that hire them?  Here are five other things to keep in mind:

6. Granting An “Exit Interview”
In some instances, it may be advisable for an employee to resign without giving prior notice. Negotiations concerning the parameters of the employee’s subsequent employment with a competitor may well be more successful if conducted by counsel after the employee has resigned. The simple truth is that no matter how well you coach employees about how to resign, they rarely appreciate the legal consequences of their words. Moreover, savvy employers may pick up on evidence of misconduct that later shows up in support of a motion for a temporary restraining order. If delicate legal issues surround the departure of an employee from one competitor to another, the discussion with a former employer may well be left to counsel, and the employee may be well advised to avoid granting an exit interview, unless the employee is contractually obligated to provide such an interview.

7. After-Hours Access
Employees planning to leave for a competitor often access their offices or computers during odd hours with the intention of preparing for their departure when no one is around.  After-hours access can be detected by security systems, or in some cases, it can be recorded by computer systems. If such access deviates from an employee’s normal course of conduct, it may tip off the employer of the impending resignation. Even if such access is not detected until after the employee’s resignation, it creates the appearance of impropriety. If coupled with other common mistakes discussed in this article (e.g., after-hours removal of business records), the appearance of impropriety grows stronger.

8. Badmouthing The Firm
Any time an employee leaves to join a competing firm, there is likely to be some hard feelings. Nothing compounds these hard feelings like an employee who badmouths the former employer on the way out the door or even after departure. Departing employees should be reminded that badmouthing the former employer to fellow employees accomplishes little — other than providing motivation for the former employer to make the transition difficult. Moreover, badmouthing the former employer to customers can have the additional effect of backfiring, resulting in the loss of otherwise attainable business and perhaps leading to defamation claims. Employees should be advised to take the high road.

9. Failing to Work Until The Last Minute
Understandably, it is hard for a departing employee to be motivated when a new job is on the horizon. In some instances, after providing notice of resignation, employers may limit the departing employee’s access to information and customers. But a decrease in productivity in the weeks or months leading up to a resignation or departure may tip the employer off about the impending resignation, and worse yet, it may create the appearance that the departing employee was holding off on completing work with the intent to divert such work to their new employer.

10. Failing To Consult With Attorney Prior To Resignation
Many hiring managers make the mistake of waiting until after an employee has been hired to get counsel involved, by which time the departing employee may have made many of the mistakes outlined in this post. Counsel should be included early in the hiring process so that departing employees obtain the advice they need. If there are attorney-client privilege concerns, the employee should be advised to consult with an attorney. No matter what, transitioning employees from one competitor to another is a process filled with tension. Foolish mistakes can increase that tension and may lead to litigation or strengthen a party’s desire to litigate. Careful planning and early advice can minimize this risk.

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