In Fortune magazine’s new series “You Can’t Fire Everyone” Hank Gilman gives some great advice on What to Do When Star Employees Quit. He makes suggestions like making a counter offer, not bad-mouthing the new job, and understanding that sometimes employees have to change jobs to grow in their career.
All good tips for bosses.
But if you are planning on quitting a start-up, don’t expect your entrepreneur boss to behave so rationally. In fact, if you’re planning on quitting a start-up, strap on your crash helmet; there will be fall out.
It is their company; your entrepreneur boss is going to take it personally.
Your Baby is Ugly
To say entrepreneurs are attached to their companies is like saying Charlie Sheen is just having a bad day. To an entrepreneur, the company is their baby. They have birthed this thing, this business, and raised it from infancy. Because of this, they feel a bond to the company that most in corporate American don’t feel, and that many employees can never understand.
Your entrepreneur boss believes that you love this baby as much as they do. So while you were working there, you were more than just a babysitter; you were a trusted family member.
And you’ve just insulted the family.
He Made You an Offer, Don’t Refuse
Your reasons for leaving are irrelevant. Five years after quitting one start-up I received an email from my ex-entrepreneur boss telling me that I had abandoned ship. Five years later! (Can you say grudge?)
After turning down a staff job with an entrepreneur that I consulted for regularly, he refused to ever take my calls again. I had worked with him on launching three different companies, but one ‘no’ and I instantly became persona non-grata.
I’ve had friends who’ve been blackballed from certain industries after quitting, labeled traitors.
Long Road Home
Gilman ends his tips by suggesting that managers keep in touch with the departing star employee so that the door is open for their return.
But quitting an entrepreneur can be like leaving the Mafia or being shunned from the Amish community. Once you’re gone, you’re gone. You are simply dead to them now.
Work for Wonka? Know this: There’s no going home again. If you choose to leave an entrepreneur in start-up mode, be confident about your decision. The door will most likely lock behind you.