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LTT Business Bulletin - November 2015

“My name is Mel and I’ve been moved on – there, I’ve said it!”

Mel Tunbridge, Principal at Agile People Partners, reflects

on the time this happened in her career, and how it could

have been handled so much better.

Have you ever been overthrown as a leader?


I have, and I’m out & proud about it. It’s a topical subject with yet another Australian Prime Minister being ousted recently. Many of the best leaders I know around me have been “over thrown”. Call it redundancy, contract not renewed, moved on after a newer senior structure was put in place or whatever, the definition for the purposes of this article is “leaving not of your own accord”.

What I find remarkably interesting, particularly as a HR professional who is on most occasions orchestrating the exit, is the appalling way it’s executed. In my own example, I put it down to the fact they clearly didn’t have a HR person in their corner as the “emotional intelligence” throughout the process, but it’s not uncommon.

It’s the little things – for example, my email and internet accounts were cut off days before my exit date. My manager, who I had a great relationship with and enormous respect for, put someone else in charge of the ensuing conversations.

People will forgive the reasons, and in most cases agree to disagree with the semantics, but rest assured they will always remember the way they were treated and that’s the stuff they will relay all over the place. It won’t matter how much energy and resource you put into your employee value proposition if ousted employees are re-telling tales of woe – true or not, perception is reality.

If you’ve been “moved on”, you’re in great company!
Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded. His second act turned out to be bigger and better than the first.

Walt Disney’s newspaper editor told the aspiring cartoonist he wasn’t creative enough.

J.K. Rowling spent too much time at work brainstorming story ideas when she was moved on from Amnesty International.

Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor started her career in New York as a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar. She made waves for her innovative shoots, but Editor Tony Mazalla thought they were a little too edgy. She got canned after a mere 9 months.

• A Baltimore TV producer told Oprah Winfrey that she was “unfit for television news”. She was pulled off the evening news and moved to daytime television.

Ok, so maybe you’re not as high profile as the folks above, but something we all share through experience is the emotional roller-coaster associated with not being wanted anymore. In my favour as a humble HR Director, my situation has never been high profile and certainly not so very public as some of our good company above, nor our friend closer to home, Mr Abbott.

Regardless of your opinion on Mr Abbott’s time as Prime Minister, let’s not forget he is a human being. I will quote Mike Baird, the NSW premier who impressed me with his words on the ousting of Mr Abbott:

“Politics can be brutal. What can be lost in the rough and tumble is the people, and the relationships.

I’ve known Tony Abbott for close to 15 years and I am proud to call him a mate. He will be hurting. So will his wonderful wife Margie and his girls. As their friend, I hurt with them.

Many of those throwing stones don’t see the heart behind the man who has spent decades volunteering at the local surf club or working a shift with the Rural Fire Service… not for political gain, but for the simple reason that he loves his community”.

So if you’re on the receiving end of a moving on discussion, allow yourself the emotional time to process what’s happening – stand up for yourself, if that’s required, while keeping your dignity and legacy intact. Get advice – it’s hard to see clearly at such an emotional time, usually with reasonable sums of money being negotiated. Bring yourself to a place of peace and move on with great gusto. It may well just be the motivation you needed to do something new, explore that new business idea or accept that next great role. Give thanks for the great things the role and the organisation you are leaving brought to you.

And if you are in the driver’s seat of moving people on, do it with humility and respect. Remember you are dealing with someone’s mother, father, significant other, etc. Your decision will affect a raft of things in their life. Yes, there are processes and policies and laws that govern how the process should be carried out, but that doesn’t restrict you from being authentic and caring. I made a decision when I entered HR that the moment I forget I am messing with people’s lives, I will get out – well, I’m still here!

Best wishes to all who find themselves in this space currently, regardless of the side of the table on which you find yourself. And let’s leave it with the words of Anna Wintour “I recommend you all get fired ……”.


Mel Tunbridge is the Principal at Agile People Partners, a niche HR consulatancy based in Sydney. You can contact Mel at mel.tunbridge@agilepeoplepartners.com.au