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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 113 – I was let go after 20 years. Am I wrong for expecting a ‘thank you’?

No. 113 – I was let go after 20 years. Am I wrong for expecting a ‘thank you’?

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28 June 2023

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: the case of a missing thank you letter, new job regret and a big question about references.

I was recently retrenched from a part-time position I loved and had held for almost 20 years. I didn’t receive a word of thanks from anyone in the company. Recently, I was talking to a former colleague who was retrenched alongside me, and she showed me a thank you letter she’d written to the company. I had planned to write a similar letter, as a reply to what, I assumed, would be a letter to me. I’m confused. In situations like this, who thanks who?

Human decency suggests if anyone has worked an extended period of time in a company, let alone 20 years, a token of thanks and appreciation from the company to the employee is called for. It doesn’t have to be over the top, but to receive silence is pretty poor. That said, I don’t think it prevents you from being the better person and writing to express how much you enjoyed your time with the company, if that is how you would like to close that chapter of your life. It may even prompt a response which includes an apology for not having thought to reach out to you first.

Either way, there are certainly no rules about this, but if I were in your shoes I too would have expected to hear something. All you can control is how you deal with the situation now, and in this case, if you show what a generous and gracious employee you were, and you will probably remind them you will be sorely missed.

I’m early in my career and recently left a role at an accounting firm. I enjoyed the team and work, but was fairly stressed given the nature of the work. Unfortunately, my new position is not what I expected. My previous employer said there would be a role open for me if it didn’t work out, so I’m considering going back. How long should I stick out the new role, if I think it’s not right? Is going back to an old job ever a good idea?

You are thinking of becoming what is a called a boomerang employee and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. You are early in your career, so now is the time to experiment and learn about the roles, workplace cultures and employers you like, and don’t like.

If you are quite certain there is nothing likely to change in your new role, I would get back in touch with your old employer and see if the offer is still open. Be honest with your previous employer about what you learnt through this process and the kind of work that helps you to thrive. If they are happy to take you back, you may as well finish up in your current role as soon as you can. A decade from now you’ll be pleased you didn’t spend longer in a job you hate.

My daughter recently started her dream job, but resigned within minutes when she saw – in a senior position – a person who made her life hell in a previous organisation. My daughter had made an official complaint about this person previously, and they were aware of this. Shouldn’t employers get references from people’s former coworkers, not just their managers?

Ideally, yes, it would be incredibly useful to hear from a range of people before employing someone, and full 360-degree reviews would be fabulous. Unfortunately, that is just not possible, although you would hope in the reference checking process, sufficient enquiries are made to try and find out anything that may have happened in previous workplaces, including serious matters, like a formal complaint.

It seems incredibly unlucky for your daughter to have chosen the same new employer to move to as the person who previously made her life so difficult. Now that she knows where this person is working, hopefully she can keep a wide berth and go and find a new organisation without any ties to the past.

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