OK – what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Terrell Owens? For you non-football fans, I’ll give you a one sentence description of Mr. Owens: A very talented professional football player who – in addition to his high level of talent – is known for his narcissistic, flamboyant personality with a "the world revolves around me / it’s always someone else’s fault" attitude (fair or unfair, that’s how he’s perceived). He has now left 3 teams in his career and on his way out, he’s made his negative opinions of each team / some players very well known.
Regardless of his talent, however, how many of you would hire him (or someone with these traits) if you had the chance? Why or why not? I have to believe that for some of you, the answer would be a resounding "no way." But why? He’s extremely talented in his job. Does it really matter what he says about his current / former coaches and teammates? Isn’t it all about how much talent he has? Does he care about what other people say about him? Most importantly, what legacy is he going to leave with football fans around the country? (And my opinion? People like this care a little bit more than they let on.).
And that is a great question for all of us to ask ourselves. Are you talented at your job? Check. Do you know what others think of you at your current job? Check…or at least you think you do. Do you know what your ex-colleagues think about you? Maybe. And a great question…especially as we leave a job, regardless of whether it was a layoff, performance-based termination, or your choice to leave.
Human nature puts a little bit of the "I don’t care what they think" attitude in us…especially when the company makes the decision for you, which really causes emotional reactions. But how we leave an organization is critical for so many reasons. There’s the "don’t burn bridges" idea that we’ve all heard before. What if we want to come back some day? Then there’s the "I may have to use them as a reference" mindset. But it goes deeper than that. So, you’ll never want to go back to work for that company and you don’t need them as a reference. Doesn’t matter…the world is small and you will cross paths with that company, that manager, those ex-colleagues again…either directly or indirectly. Trust me. And here’s the scary thought – you may never know it. People talk…fair or unfair, they do. And those people talk to other people, and so on. And all of this talk may never get back to you…which is much more damaging than hearing it. You can’t address and explain what you don’t know.
Leaving with your head up and with a positive attitude – regardless of the all the emotions running through you – will go a long way. And I’m not going to even play the spiritual, "life is too short to hold grudges" card. Although for that reason alone my point is valid. Once you leave, be very careful in whom you confide. As badly as you want your new colleagues to know your true feelings and what you’ve been through – how unfair you were treated, how badly you want to destroy them or see them fail, etc. – you won’t win that fight…no one does.
Move on with an attitude that’s going to help you succeed in your next venture and take all of the history – both bad and good – and learn something from it. Otherwise, the only thing that happens is you look like Terrell Owens – pointing fingers and making excuses.