Has your manager ever messaged you first thing in the morning to say they’d like to meet you in a conference room (or video conference in today’s remote world)?
When I was about 18 months out of college, my manager did this on a regular basis. In a pre-Slack world, he typically reached out via Microsoft Lync and AOL Instant Messenger. Or he would just stop by my desk and say, let’s grab a room. As a blissfully unaware 23-year-old, it never occurred to me that this kind of impromptu meeting could be a stressful trigger for many employees.
My manager and I had a great relationship, both professionally and personally. He was smart and driven, and I was an eager pupil. We spent a lot of time together outside of work, watching sports, playing cards, and getting dinner and drinks downtown with the rest of the under-30 crew at our company. The line between manager-employee and friends was often blurry, to be honest.
One day when we arrived in a conference room for an impromptu early morning meeting, his manager, John, was also there. Despite my good relationship with John, his presence caught me off guard, and rightfully so! They were ambushing me to say that not only was my manager leaving the company, but John was also leaving. In one meeting, I was told my manager and my skip-level manager were both leaving.
Devastated, I left the meeting and soon realized that with both my manager and John leaving, my new manager would likely be the Chief Financial Officer. Was I, a 23-year-old marketing analyst who mostly wore cargo pants to work, going to report directly to the CFO? Yikes! (*More on that later.)
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what the heck does this have to do with marketing or marketing ops, the topics Justin usually writes about? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.
After that experience 15 years ago, I developed a bit of immunity when it came to employee turnover. It doesn’t bother me or stress me out when someone leaves. Don’t get me wrong, I am sometimes crushed and disappointed, but I always try to take it in stride. It’s not personal to me.
At the same time, I realize marketing roles aren’t as commoditized as sales or finance jobs. And marketers don’t have the luxury of “ramp” time like our sales counterparts do. In software sales, you’re rewarded if you sell anything in your first 90 days. In marketing, you’re put in a performance improvement plan if you don’t contribute in the first 90 days.
That’s a lot of pressure.
Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed a lot of turnover at work. It’s happening at my company, it’s happening at your company, it’s happening at everyone’s companies. What’s wild is that it’s not just the normal job-jumpers, the people who never stay at a company more than two years, or the people who always leave immediately after getting promoted. And it’s not just people who are unhappy with their jobs. It’s literally anyone and everyone and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern.
Chances are, this turnover is impacting you and your marketing team. And not just if you are the one left at your company. Turnover also impacts the people starting at new companies. Because if you are starting at a new company, that likely means you are filling a role that was vacant due to turnover, and whatever the reasons for that person leaving will likely impact you as well.
So in the spirit of helping you adjust to your new marketing job or helping the next person who takes your old marketing job, here are two tips for employees to help those they are leaving behind and two tips for employees as they begin their new roles.
On Your Way Out of a Marketing Job …
1. Put Others in a Position to Be Successful
In a nutshell, this just means don’t leave things in shambles and expect your remaining colleagues to pick up the pieces. Set your employees, your colleagues and your boss up for success by doing your job until your final day, training people on what you do, and documenting everything. If it’s at the end of a quarter, make sure next quarter’s marketing plan is at least started. If it’s the beginning of the quarter, make sure the rest of the quarter has a plan.
Be a good, generous person, and leave things better than when you arrived. On your last day, you should feel confident that the remaining team members know what they need to do to be successful without you there. It’s obviously not your responsibility to teach them everything, but do enough that they’ll appreciate your efforts.
2. Provide Constructive Feedback, but Don’t Burn Bridges
It’s OK to be honest about why you are leaving, or what the company could have done differently. But make sure you are providing that feedback to the right people, at the right time. Don’t air dirty laundry on the way out to your direct reports. Do tell your manager how they might do things better/differently for the next person in your role. If your manager and direct reports were great, tell them! Leaving a position with a smile on your face and positive memories is a great feeling you (and your colleagues) will remember for a long time.
Related Article: Contemplating Laying Off Your CMO? You May Be Shooting Yourself in the Foot
On Your Way Into a New Marketing Role …
1. Read the Room to Understand the Perception of Your Predecessor and Your New Team
If your predecessor was well-liked and things were running smoothly before you got there, you should have very different priorities walking in the door than if your predecessor left behind a hot mess. If everyone is confident in the quarterly marketing plan in flight, continue with that plan. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Instead, build on the momentum and positivity. If it is broken and people are eager for change, then it’s a great opportunity to come in heavy handed.
2. Read All the Documentation and Ask a lot of Questions
Showing your new team that you are interested in learning about their way will give you instant credibility. Study their plans, their strategy, their results. Get to know which marketing programs are working and which are not. Even if their way seems terribly flawed, get to know it before criticizing it or changing it. Start by listening and asking questions. I like to tell my new employees to write down three questions during every meeting they attend for us to discuss in our 1-on-1s.
Related Article: Is It Ever Going to Be Easy for Marketing Ops?
Turnover Is Hard. You Can Make It a Little Easier
Turnover is hard, but it can’t be avoided. So buckle up (or unbuckle) for a bumpy ride. Just do everything in your power to make the change as painless as possible for your old and new teammates.
While this advice may seem applicable to everyone, it’s especially important for marketers. We typically don’t have a strong bench like Sales or Product Development, our roles aren’t as specialized as Legal or Finance, and there is usually no expectation of “ramping,” because marketing can’t wait.
Marketers are usually full of ideas. Some good, some bad, some new, some old. Successful transitions into a new role are often decided based on whether you and your new colleagues are able to identify and agree on which ideas fit into each bucket. So keep an open mind, listen, ask questions, and if you empathize with your new colleagues’ journey, they will do the same for you.
*PSA: Reporting to the CFO was an amazing experience. If you get the opportunity to report to a C-Level executive who actually invests time in getting to know you and cares about your development, it can be career-changing. I was able to sit in on executive team meetings and board meetings, and get an inside look into what it takes to run a profitable 250 person company. I was in way over my head, but no one needed to know that besides me.
Justin Sharaf is a marketing and marketing operations leader who has worked at some of the biggest names in B2B and B2C during his 15+ year career. He is currently Vice President of Marketing Operations at Collibra.