When we leave a job, we may harbor secret dreams about leaving with a dramatic flourish. We tell off the irritating co-worker (“You did nothing but gamble online all day, you slacker!”) to the boss (“You’ll never get anything done without me around!”) to the parking lot attendant (“It wouldn’t kill you to be nice sometimes!”)
If we’re smart, however, we don’t burn bridges behind us. We leave with a congenial smile and handshake for everyone, including the parking lot attendant. Because let’s face it, the working world can often be a very small one and you may end up back at the very company you left.
Why? Sometimes absence makes the heart grown fonder. After working elsewhere, you begin to forget the issues that drove you out in the first place. Or, a former boss or colleague makes an offer you can’t refuse – to return to your former employer as a sort of conquering hero. Not only will you be making more money, but you will be offered a much better position with promises of great things to come.
But wait a minute. Do you really want to go back?
Some employees answer with a resounding “you bet!” and return with great success, happy to be back at a company they know and understand. They realize that had they not left, they might not have gotten such wonderful new opportunities. For companies, returning employees are often of great benefit, since there’s little training time involved and the employee can sort of hit the ground running.
At the same time, however, there are employees who try to return to the fold with unfortunate circumstances. After the worker begins anew at the company, the employee soon remembers with blinding clarity why he or she left in the first place. The employee not only regrets returning, but now runs the real danger of angering co-workers and bosses when they choose to leave again.
So what’s the solution? The key is that anyone returning to the mother ship had better have a clear understanding of not only why he left, but why it’s such a good idea to return. Begin by:
· Taking roll. Look at who is still at the company and who isn’t. Are the same people still around? If so, what was your relationship with them? What about the boss? Will you have to work for him or with him? Was that relationship on solid footing before you left? Take a hard look how you felt about these people when you worked there the first time – they’re not likely to change much, so you’re going to have to do some soul searching about whether you can really work with them again. Also, be realistic about who might be resentful – and try to set you up to fail – if you return.
· Understanding the company culture. Maybe the reason you left the first time was because the employer didn’t promote from within or didn’t recognize your contributions. Unless the top ranks have changed, this culture is likely to remain the same. How does this fit in with your career plans?
· Looking at the employer’s financial health. An increase in salary won’t mean much if you face a layoff in six months. Make sure the employer is on sound financial footing before returning – have there been any layoffs or cutbacks in development? Or is your hiring just another “quick fix” they’re using during tough times?
· Getting the inside scoop. Meet with anyone else in the company who has returned to the fold and see how their transition has gone. If you’re still on good terms with other employees, meet them for lunch and see if you can get a feel for company morale and the business’s future.
What are some other things to think about before returning to a former employer?