January 14th, 2017
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Agreeing to Divorce as a Work Exit Strategy

Standard End to Employment Relationships

Employment relationships generally end in one of two ways.

  1. The employee quits. This is a unilateral decision by the employee, and subject to any notice requirements the employee can quit his or her job at any time.
  2. The employer fires an employee. This is a unilateral decision by the employer. Again, subject to any notice requirements, the employer can decide to dismiss an employee at any time.

But what happens when the relationship isn’t working, but neither party is ready to pull the plug?

Deteriorating Employment Relationships

Like personal relationships, workplace relationships change over time. These shifts can be caused by things like a change in corporate structure, a change in management or other personnel, a change in role or responsibilities, or a change in business needs.

When the relationship between an employer and an employee becomes strained, it can reach a point where there is little happiness or productivity. Even when it becomes clear that the employee should probably work somewhere else, it can be difficult for either side to take action. From the employee perspective, a departure can be stressful and involve economic uncertainty. From the employer perspective, a departure can be disruptive and cost time and energy in finding and training a replacement worker.

Mutually Acceptable Exit Strategies

One approach to dealing with this situation is to explore the possibility of a mutually acceptable exit strategy. This can bring certainty to both parties in an otherwise difficult situation.

In concept, both parties would acknowledge that the working relationship isn’t actually working, and they’d agree to develop an exit strategy that would make it possible for both sides to mitigate some of the concerns of a split. For example, the deal could involve a combination of transition work by the employee, and transition payment by the employer following the end of the transition work period.

The arrangement could also include time allowances for the employee to interview for new positions, and commitments from them to help train their replacement. Obviously, the agreement would need to be crafted to suit each individual situation, but in many instances once the difficult decision is made to part company, there can often be an openness to develop a transition process that meets the needs of all sides.

In fact, a mutually acceptable exit strategy is like an amicable divorce. It allows both parties to avoid the risk, stress, and financial cost of an end to the employment relationship. This way, both parties can move on in a way that addresses both employee and employer needs.

Exit strategy proposals are not always successful, and it can be politically difficult to approach an employer with such a request.

Employees will want to be very clear that they are not quitting or resigning. However, once the initial hurdle of raising an uncomfortable subject with an employer is overcome, a mutually acceptable exit strategy may provide a dignified and amicable exit to a strained working relationship.

Careful Approach

There’s no doubt that some workplace departures need to be immediate. However where there is deterioration that could be resolved in a more elongated and amicable way, it may benefit the parties to carefully, and through legal counsel, explore the option of a mutually acceptable exit strategy.

If you have a workplace situation that has become untenable, but has not reached the point of firing or quitting, contact your legal counsel to see if a mutually acceptable exit strategy may be appropriate in your circumstance. To learn more about exit strategies, contact the writer, Jonas McKay, or any of the HHBG Lawyers at 604.696.0556 to schedule an appointment.

Posted In: Employment Law
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