The Employee Walk of Shame: How HR Can Help Make It a Little Easier

I’ve lost jobs and I’ve called old employers to see if they would want to hire me back. I’ve usually gotten a response that sounded something like, “Oh, boy would we want you back – but we just don’t have anything. Good luck!”

Many of us in the talent game talk about our employee alumni and how we should engage our alumni, but very few of us really take true advantage of leveraging this network.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine took a new job. You know the deal – shorter drive, more money, growing company – oh, golly, just where do I sign!?

The fact was, it was all they said – shorter drive, more money and they were growing – but what they forgot to tell him was,“our operations are broken beyond repair, you will work seven days a week and probably 12-14 hours per day because of the mess we have, but keep your head up – it’s the only way you won’t drown here!”

The hardest thing an employee can do

So, now what does he do?

He already had the going away party – a bar night out with the work friends, with promises to do lunches and not get disconnected – and he already packed up and then unpacked in the new office.

Let’s face it big boy; you’re stuck!

But not so fast. He then did the single hardest thing an employee can do: he called his old boss after seven days and said one thing – “I made a mistake; can I come back?

Luckily for him, his old boss was a forward-thinking leader, and so this past Monday, he did the second hardest thing an employee can do – he made the Employee Walk of Shame.

You can imagine the looks from people who didn’t know him well — “Hey, wait a minute; didn’t you leave?” — and having to tell the same story over and over, feeling like he failed and like he wasn’t good enough.

How HR can help

HR plays a huge part in this story because it was HR who can make this Walk of Shame a little less rough.

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Let’s face it — it IS different. You just don’t leave and come back like nothing happened, because something did happen. There was reason he left and that reason isn’t going away.

A transition back into the old job needs to be put into place even though he was only gone seven days. It’s not about just plugging back in  — it is about re-engaging again and finding out what we all can do better so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also about making sure you let those employees who you truly want back know that they are welcome to come back (assuming you have the job) and not just saying that to everyone. There are employees who leave that you say a small prayer of thanks, and then there are others where you wish there was a prayer you could say so they wouldn’t leave.

Make it easy for your employees to do the Walk of Shame. It helps the organization, but you also need to realize returning workers are hurting, they are embarrassed, but they are also grateful!

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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