Training your replacement
May 7, 2004
Discuss High Tech
Outsourcing has been much in the news lately. Along
with this trend another, more disturbing, one has emerged…companies
asking employees to train their own replacements. In the professional
equivalent of “digging your own grave,” companies are threatening
to withhold severance pay or eligibility for unemployment unless their
current (soon to be former) employees transfer their knowledge. I find
this to be one of the most repugnant policies I have ever seen. Any company
that will do this to their employees deserves to go as bankrupt financially
as they are morally. If you are ever faced with such a choice, here are
some guidelines to help you through the ugliness.
In control, not controlled
One of the most important tasks you should pursue today, and for the foreseeable
future, is to remove your company’s ability to control you using
offers of severance pay. If you do not have the financial ability to walk
away from your job at any time, you are vulnerable to all sorts of manipulation.
Starting today, if you haven’t already, reduce your debt as low
as possible. Once that is done, start developing a war chest of savings
that will allow you to walk away from an intolerant company. You must
be in control financially or your company will control you. It is only
through this war chest that you will be able to pursue the options listed
Get out, quickly
Once a company has informed you that your position will be outsourced,
I believe you have no further responsibility to that company. They may
try to cajole you into “doing what is right,” by staying on
during the transition. They may try to entice you or browbeat you by offering
and withholding severance pay. Do not allow yourself to be controlled.
This is work, not a friendship. Don’t make the mistake of believing
any company is looking out for your best interest.
Outsourcing positions shows that the company no longer has any respect
for you or your work. Companies can quote financial statistics ad infinitum,
but to me, it comes down to respect for the human beings who have been
working for the company. Once that respect is lost, you need to move on
as quickly as possible. You need to have a level of respect for your own
work and life.
Instead of wallowing along for another 2-4 weeks of unpleasant, demeaning
work, spend that time looking for your next job. Working on your job search
will be worth far more than any severance pay a company can offer. You
owe it to yourself and your family to move on to the next phase in your
career as quickly as possible. Remaining at a company when you know you
will be outsourced is crushing to your self-esteem, damaging to your psyche
and slows the process of finding a new job dramatically. Instead of spending
your time transferring your knowledge to someone else, take that knowledge
onto your next job where, hopefully, it will be more respected.
This is one of the great absurdities of asking an employee to train their
replacement. If your knowledge is important enough to transfer to someone
else, then it should be important enough to justify keeping you on the
payroll. Otherwise, if the knowledge isn’t important, why are they
willing to spend dollars in severance pay for you to transfer it. You
should remember this at all times. Don’t allow yourself to fall
into the trap of self-doubt.
Don’t play games
Finally, a clean break with a company saves you from playing any number
of games, many that you cannot win. Some people might suggest you train
your replacement slowly or poorly. Some might suggest you use your remaining
time to sabotage your company’s efforts. Others might tell you to
“suck it up” and take the companies money. After all, work
means taking whatever abuse a company can dish out. All these paths lead
down a road to further trouble.
Slowing your work, or performing it poorly could lead to the company denying
your severance. Taking action against the company could lead you into
deep legal trouble. Staying at the company can leave you with issues of
self-worth and self-doubt. Don’t play these games. Don’t waste
your time and energy.
Once a company has announced that your job will be outsourced, your responsibility
to that company has ended. Your best course of action is to move on, as
quickly and painlessly as possible to the next step in your career. You
can only do this effectively, though, if you have your financial life
in order. If you want to insure that you don’t fall victim to the
severance pay trap, start preparing today. Outsourcing might be just around