Career Opportunities
A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Training your replacement

May 7, 2004

Discuss High Tech Careers

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 below.

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 the corner.

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