How to Leave a Job
Date: October 19, 2013
I've been thinking a lot about the unwritten rules of leaving a job (not because I am leaving, but because I know a number of colleagues and former students who are leaving or have left good programs in the last couple of years). I think a lot of us aren't really great at leaving, especially when we feel a strong connection to the job. The more growth that your program had under your direction, the harder it is to leave, I think.
I believe that it is critical to your singers' future success that you not leave passively. The outgoing director must prepare his choir for the new person, and take active steps toward helping them transition. This will help the incoming person transition more smoothly, and ultimately will help to protect the singers and the program that you spent so much time and energy building. So, some guidlines:
- Never go back! (Well, not really never)
- Stay away from the school, the kids, the ensemble for a good long time. High school, and minimum of 3 years before you can go back. Middle school is 2 years.
- College should be the longest, because the kids you recruited when they were seniors will come and you won't be there, and that is a thing. 4-5 years.
- Don't stay connected on Facebook. I don't know the ins and outs of Facebook too well, but it's just another way of staying connected, and that will only harm the current situation.
- Actively prepare your kids for someone new.
- People are different with different styles and values. The new person will inevitably value something different than you do. Push the singers to be open, and to be open to the difference all year.
- Teach them maturity and leadership: “Give the new person a chance,” and “help them be good at this new job.”
- Remind them how crucial their cooperation is to having a successful year. Without their positive, helpful, and enthusiastic attitudes, no choir situation would work (even if you weren’t leaving).
- Drill and repeat. Often. Don't let it slide.
- After you leave, don’t go to the concert, don’t communicate with the singers, don’t offer free advice to the new director, no matter how well intentioned, unless they ask. And even then state your opinion in a limited fashion, and be prepared for them ignore your advice.
- If you do accidentally have some communication with a singer...for example, you see someone at the grocery store or something...do not offer any opinions, implied or explicit, about the current situation. If they try to engage you ("it's just not the same as when you were here."), remind them that this is new and that their job is to help the new person find their way and make the program great, and don't engage with their opinion.
- Q: What good can come from staying connected? A: None!
- Jealousy on your part that the program is doing well, or anger and disappointment that things aren't going well.
- Bitterness on the new directors part on you staying around, making his or her job harder.
- The singers will be either pining for you and not focusing on the current situation, or realizing that this person is better. Either way, not good.
- Think how you would feel if someone else were doing it to you…you’d hate it, no matter how much that person’s heart was in the right place.
- Take the time to organize all your files in a simple and easy way, so that the new person has easy access to everything. This also includes all the passwords to websites, Facebook pages, and Google accounts. Put them all on a thumb drive and give it to your administration.
I'm sure there are other rules. And some will undoubtedly disagree with some of my rules above. I've seen a lot of people...good people, leave a job and somehow stay involved, ostensibly to "help," or the passive departure, which leaves the singers on their own about how to deal with the changes in the program. Either way, it invariably leads to complications for the new person. I know people who have retired and stayed in a relatively small community, and have been a continuous thorn in the new director's side for more than a decade. But that is worst case. And I am not casting stones here...I built a really good middle school choir program about 15 years ago, and I (stupidly), went to their first concert after I'd left. I was a huge distraction, and I'm sure that director was annoyed at me for being there. I shouldn't have been. So this is also a way for me to make amends.
OK, that's it. Fire away! :)