First up, this isn’t a political site; it’s a site about all things talent. So, I’m not providing a political opinion on the news of Scott McClellan (former Bush press secretary) writing a scathing book on issues within the Bush Administration.
Instead, I’m here to point out that every workplace has their Scott McClellan(s). Not whisteblowers – those folks speak up while they are in the belly of the ship. No, the workplace equivalent of Scott McClellan is the individual who leaves the workplace and then turns negative towards your company, your leadership, etc. They do this by keeping in contact with the employees, who remain, via phone calls, emails or simply maintaining social ties with their workplace friends. Then they vent that you don’t know what you are doing.
So, it’s not an uncommon experience, in the workplace – or even in the White House. The difference between your company and Pennsylvania Avenue is the public nature of the accounts. From the Baltimore Sun:
"With former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s book catapulting to the top of the best-seller lists – even before its official release – one might mistake him for the first loose-lipped presidential insider.
Only the latest.
McClellan, actually, is assuming his position in a long line of presidential aides with stories to sell, joining a bipartisan club whose recent initiates include George Stephanopoulos and Ari Fleischer."
It happens everywhere. A guy or gal leaves, then starts being negative about how you ran the ship. That’s not a huge problem. After all, within any company, there are tough calls to be made, decisions about which not everyone will agree. There are personality conflicts, differing agendas, etc. Like Bob Sugar once said, "It’s not show friends, it’s show business"…
Think back. Haven’t you known a Scott McClellan? The guy who left and then started going negative to those who remained?
Within a company, the most important factor to measure regarding a former employee who’s going negative is what your employees think. Do they think the former employee is right? A hero? That he’s crazy? Disgruntled?
Here’s the way I would measure the damage inflicted from the workplace equivalent of Scott McClellan:
1. Is he able to recruit multiple employees to go with him? (only applies to those moving to roles where recruiting a team is part of the role)
2. After he left, was there a rash of resignations with issues similar to those he’s being negative about?
If the answer is yes to one or both questions, the employees have voted – and they tend to agree with your equivalent of Scott McClellan. If no one left to be with the basher or resigned for similar reasons, then the workforce has voted "no" to the credibility of the negative source.
Just be thankful your situation doesn’t play out on CNN or Fox News…
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.