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SMITH’S GOLDMAN SACHS RESIGNATION: Your Resignation is Part Of Your Personal Brand


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A more spectacular resignation is hard to imagine. Last week, South African-born Greg Smith walked away from his workplace of more than a decade, Goldman Sachs, in a manner that had global company leaders blanching over their croissants and newspapers, and the investment bank losing $2 billion in market value.

It is the kind of middle finger-departure about which leagues of employees fantasize: Hand in your resignation letter and make your idiot boss pay for your suffering under his leadership.

Professional Revenge an Unwise Solution Says Goodman-Bhyat

But such acts of professional revenge are most unwise and are likely to do as much damage to your personal brand as it may to the pride or reputation of your boss, says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, Managing Director of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, the South African partner of IRC Global Executive Search Partners.

“Whether Smith was justified in his criticism of his former employer or not is not at issue. Very often criticism is valid. However, seen from a personal-professional context, such actions could have long-lasting consequences for an individual’s career. Although his courage for standing up to ‘the man’ may have been widely applauded, there are very few employers who will be standing with open arms to welcome him into their employ,” she says.

Goodman-Bhyat says that the type of emotiveness and “instinct”-based behaviour that came across in Smith’s resignation letter are further factors that would make companies hesitate to take on an individual.

“Big or small, professional-space companies are very reluctant to appoint employees who exhibit signs of being prone to indiscretion and emotional reactions,” she says.

How Your Resignation Can Affect Your Personal Brand

Goodman-Bhyat says that, although SmithÂ’s resignation was on the far end of the scale, it served as a reminder to employees to resign in a way that retains dignity and professionalism and doesnÂ’t burn bridges.

“At the point of resignation, there really is no point in letting the boss feel the force of your resentment. Doing so will serve no purpose other than exacting revenge – if that - and can’t possibly add to your future career and prospects. It can, however, come back to bite you.

“The way in which you want to leave an organisation is part of the long-lasting impression you leave not only with your direct boss, but also everyone who worked and engaged with you.

“Keep it to yourself and keep moving. You are leaving. Opening a can of worms is unnecessary,” says Goodman-Bhyat. On the other hand, when it comes to issues of ethical breaches and criminality, these should certainly be exposed, but with extreme caution. Disclosure of such matters via ‘whistle-blowing’ should be dealt with very carefully, preferably after getting sound legal advice.

“Even during the exit interview, if asked directly, it is wise to find a balance between discretion and honesty. Remember that the exit interview is not a therapy session where you can offload indiscriminately. Rather, use it as an opportunity to point out challenges and problems in the workplace, but continue to use your best diplomatic skills.

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