An executive leaves an organization, one which he had served faithfully for eight years. It was part of a for-profit hospital management company. What happened next was a real shock to his system and faith in professional networking.
Join me today for the rest of this disturbing story.
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During Robert’s tenure with the organization, he built up a fairly robust network of contacts within the operating division. Many in his network spoke regularly, sharing ideas and advice. Socializing at corporate meetings and trade association gatherings seemed to cement the bond they all had.
Overall, his network was fairly large but many of his contacts worked for the same company across the state and the nation.
Robert’s departure was of his own choosing. A new divisional president radically altered a market strategy that Robert and his former boss, who died suddenly, had worked to develop over the past two years. There were numerous meetings with civic leaders and the medical staff. What Robert felt was an exciting new vision for the organization was developed. There was a unity of purpose throughout the community and the hospital began to make notable progress towards its business plan goals.
But now these changes in strategy would undo that hard work. What concerned Robert most was that it felt like a break in trust with the physicians and community leaders who worked hard to help him recruit new doctors and support personnel who would provide services the community needed and wanted. Now, the new division president saw Robert’s hospital as nothing more than a catchment of care location, a place from which to redirect patients to their own larger partner hospital 45 miles away.
When Robert broke the news regarding the changes to his local team there was, as expected, a lot of frustration. For Robert, it was also a decisive moment in his career. He felt as though he could no longer work for the company. After a lot of thought he quietly announced his resignation to pursue other career opportunities. There was a nice story in the newspaper. There was a community reception for Robert and his wife. He was touched by the large turnout. Throughout his transition, Robert kept the real reason for his departure to himself. When pressed by community leaders and colleagues, he took the high ground.
After taking a month off to get past this emotionally taxing decision, he began to reach out to his professional network, placing numerous calls and sending emails. His message: I hope we can stay in touch. If you hear of anything in your network, please let me know. Could we connect for coffee… That sort of thing.
Save for an occasional perfunctory email, all he heard were the crickets. The close camaraderie he had enjoyed was as if it never existed. His was treated as if he had an infectious disease and everyone was told to keep their distance. Of course there was no formal corporate directive to his colleagues to avoid contact, it was just a collective cultural response: you are no longer in the family. You must have done something wrong. Why risk the ire of the divisional executives by trying to help Robert?
Across the country, on a Monday morning when Jerry, a Senior Vice President of Operations for an inner-city medical teaching hospital came to work, he discovered he had a new CEO. The hospital’s board of directors had met over the weekend and decided to bring in a new leader. Someone who could right the struggling ship.
From the outset, Jerry, who had worked for the organization for 15 years, sensed that he and his new boss were not on the same wave length. Jerry’s two divisions were performing at, or better than budget, a neat trick Jerry thought, given the terrible economic conditions in the community, a problematic and very costly EHR implementation, and cuts in Medicaid reimbursement. Jerry’s performance did not seem to matter to the new CEO. There was friction from the outset and some outright confrontations. It was if someone had placed a target on his back.
Six weeks in, Jerry was summoned to the CEO’s office on a Friday afternoon. Two security guards were present in the waiting room. When Jerry was ushered into the CEO’s office, his new boss was not there. The CHRO was and he handed Jerry an agreement and insisted he sign the document on the spot. When Jerry declined, asking for time to review it, he was given a document detailing his scaled-back severance benefits. The security guards then led Jerry to his car in the parking and told his personal effects would be shipped within two weeks.
That was it. Fifteen years, over. No time to tell his long-time assistant and his direct reports goodbye. They were in a meeting with Jerry’s replacement who informed his team there had been issues and Jerry was no longer with the organization.
Later, Jerry recalled, “You know when there is a new CEO, not succeeding or surviving is always in the back of your mind, but when you walk in to a meeting and they say the words, it is shocking. It rocks your world and if it doesn’t you aren’t human.”
Nine weeks into his job search, Jerry discovered he, too, was persona non grata in his network of contacts – those with ongoing business ties to the organization, especially those who continued to work there.
Unfortunately, this sort of treatment is fairly common. You leave and suddenly no one has time to talk with you.
Just when Robert and Jerry needed their professional network, their friends and colleagues the most, they were treated as if they were somehow damaged goods, or had somehow betrayed the organization.
This type of behavior is not uncommon in healthcare and most other industrial sectors, and that is really a crummy reality.
If you have never been fired, chances are you may finally become acquainted with that reality in this new normal economy what with corporate or divisional consolidations or changes in business model fundamentals. You will be like what the late Bum Phillips, the colorful Texan and one time head coach of the Houston Oilers said of the reality of being an NFL head coach: “There are thems [sic] that have been fired and thems that are gonna be.”
When you are pushed out – laid off or terminated – it is horrible. In many cases you are are shocked, angry and isolated.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When a friend or colleague loses their job, call them. Remind them how much you enjoyed working together and sharing ideas. Remind them that they can call you whenever they need an emotional jump start or some market intel. It’s lonely and it’s tough to be looking for a job today. Your former colleagues need you and, one day, you may need them.
Today, I hope you will share this video blog to help support a colleague who may need a kind word. Reach out. Be the servant leader or good friend you always claim to be and stay in touch. Make an occasional call with words of encouragement that could provide that little emotional push to help them get over the finish line and back into the ranks of the employed.
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Thanks for watching. I hope to see you next Wednesday.