“Yeah, this is what I really think of you….!”
Who hasn’t at one time or another fantasized about broadcasting to the world his/her frustrations with a company, boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse or school, leaving with no intention to return? Call it temporary insanity, or, if you prefer, referring to the movie, The King’s Speech, we have a voice and we just want to be heard. So, when Greg Smith, Executive Director of Goldman Sachs, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, publicly airing his reasons for resigning from the company, we all felt a huge sense of catharsis. There was a public outcry—Goldman’s stock fell, Occupy Wall Street became reenergized, late night talk show hosts were given fodder for jokes and commentary, Jerry Maguire’s Manifesto from the same named movie became a favorite analogy, and even Oscar the Grouch got in on the action, in a satirical blog entry, resigning from Sesame Street and being outraged that children had morphed into “eyeballs,” like clients from Goldman Sachs had deteriorated into “Muppets.”
But, from the same Jerry Maguire moment, the new mission statement “Things We Think and Do Not Say,” the contents of his report which got him fired, there are far too many reasons why we don’t “air our dirty laundry” publicly when exiting a company, besides the fact that we are reasonable, intelligent people. Here are five of them.
Making a Living. Greg Smith has made a healthy salary working at Goldman Sachs and, with his newfound celebrity may not have to worry about being hired in the future. You may not have that luxury. A public resignation may harm your reputation and could jeopardize your chances of getting another job anywhere.
The Facebook Scare. In the age of social media, your “not-so-public rant,” can go viral at any time and, yes, there is a healthy paranoia about this, just as the “spring break” scene has become tamer for this reason; this is today’s reality.
The Domino Effect. Speaking poorly about a company affects not only the people or the boss you are angry with and want to hurt, your criticism also may impact the clients, the shareholders, all the employees, all the suppliers that do business with that company, all the companies that interact with that business, etc. Depending on the company, its image, its media coverage, etc., what you say may cause a ripple effect. Is fair to involve so many others in your personal tirade?
It’s Old News. It’s probably all been said before anyway, so why put yourself in a vulnerable position? Greg Smith’s words were nothing new. For years, it’s been publicly acknowledged that when the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (or the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act), and other acts, deregulating the U.S. Financial System and thereby changing the way a bank can function, took the focus away from the banking clients and put the focus instead on the growth of the banking industry/financial services companies. Since then we have a broken banking system that government, politicians, and others are at a loss to change. This became apparent with the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. Saying this in 2012 casts suspicion on Smith because he looks the more foolish for not leaving the company sooner, for staying in the industry, and for not fighting to change the company culture during his almost 12 years at Goldman.
Things Your Mother Taught You. You don’t discuss politics, religion, sex or disenchantment with your job with absolute strangers. One-on-one private conversations, with friends, family, career coaches, recruiters, executive search consultants are one thing; they are a safe environment for this. The public domain is not safe. A public airing of your feelings will both alienate you and create instant enemies throughout the world.
Tying this all together, ironically, what in the end distinguishes us from “being a man or a Muppet,” (from the Academy Award winning song, “Are You a Man or a Muppet?” from this year’s Muppet Movie), is our ability to distinguish between a momentary thrill and a potentially life tarnishing experience. The temporary is not worth the long lasting effect. After publicly resigning and airing your grievances, will you be able to promise that you won’t hate yourself for doing it, perhaps not now, but at any other time in the future?
Susan Goldberg’s company, SGES, conducts retained senior level executive searches for businesses in different industries and provides career coaching for professionals. Susan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also follow Susan on twitter at @suzebizcoach and on Facebook at Susan Goldberg Executive Search Consulting.