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Burying the Hatchet

December 5, 2010
by Tim Tolan
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Clear the air before moving to another job

I received a call from a really stellar candidate we placed a few years ago. Like most employees in this marketplace - she had a story. I really like her style, experience and her knowledge of all facets of healthcare IT. She is sharp! The problem, a new leader took the helm a year or so ago and their relationship was...well like oil and water. Not a good mix. It was a death sentence from the moment they started working together one-on-one. One thing led to another and before long they both reached the realization that one of them had to go. Guess who won? The CEO did and they always do. In this case this candidate had a strong track record, great tenure during her career and multiple career high points she could take to a new employer and make a real impact.

Well - not so fast. As most C level executives in HCIT already know, there are no six degrees of separation. Maybe two. Worst case three. This cottage industry leaves most of us in a situation that somebody knows somebody that knows you. That's a reality. Getting a (decent) reference from a boss you parted ways with is important. She called me for advice and to help her find a new home. As I listened to her tell me her story I really wanted to help her. She had (GREAT) talent and was a good person. Without finding a way to bury the hatchet with her former CEO her reference review had all kinds of challenges. My suggestion: Call the CEO and invite him to lunch to "clear the air". Talk about what happened and be honest and open and let him know while things did not play out as planned - you did offer the organization many years of good service and hard work and ask for a reference for your next job. Some may think its a odd to ask a favor from leader you did not see eye-to-eye with. I disagree. I think it's a good offensive strategy. It's also smart. What do you have to lose? A lot if you don't bury the hatchet and move on.

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Comments

Tim,
Interesting post. Thank you. I think you make a great point. The new CEO only becomes more powerful by helping your candidate. He probably understands that and should welcome the lunch.

The only non-starter would be if the new CEO is actually a tyrant. Read the post "Working for a Tyrant—Life is too Short..." for more on that!

You did neglect the issue of whether her prior boss could and should be the major reference to her accomplishments. What's your read on whether the prior executive should be the prime reference regarding her recent role performance?

Absolutely! The former CEO is clearly in her camp and on the top of the reference list. However, since she stuck it out in the new regime for a while - the new CEO will certainly get a phone call. Many candidates want to blow off a less than stellar reference and I strongly suggest burying the hatchet and try to make peace before forging ahead. Good feedback Joe.

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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