Young Mr. Flanagan
(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
“Coughlin’s Law: bury the dead, they stink up the place.”
As you may recall from the 1988 widely-panned, though decidedly guilty pleasure epic Cocktail, Bryan Brown’s overwritten character Doug Coughlin uttered those words to his young protégé: Tom Cruise’s Brian Flanagan.
I mention the quote here because of how well it applies to business life – whether you are the employer or the employee: bury the dead, they stink up the place.
People leave, let’s get over it. Gone are the days when a man arrives for work in the factory two days after his high school graduation and leaves forty years later with a gold watch. The American career path hasn’t included this scenario since before Lyndon Johnson took office. Over the past several decades, American workers and American businesses have had an arrangement: Every man (or woman) for himself (or herself).
Once someone is truly ready to leave, help them leave. Be happy for them. Otherwise, they begin to stink up the place.
For some reason, many managers still don’t understand this as they’ll suddenly bend over backwards in an attempt to keep someone that has already checked out; yet treat them like a leper if they leave. When someone is ready to leave – so ready that they’ve announced it – managers need to look to that person’s replacement to step up all while wishing the departing employee a fond farewell.
Employment is most often “at will” in America; and this can be a good thing for both employer and employee. They owe you nothing and you owe them nothing.
As an employee, this means the minute you realize there’s no longer a fit, it’s time for you to consider a career change. Once you find a fit elsewhere, you need to leap and not look back.
If there truly was no longer a fit, be sure not to fall for their efforts to keep you. Because if you stay, you will very shortly begin stinking up the place – even if you’re the only one who smells it.
Bury the dead, they stink up the place. It’s a law; and Doug Coughlin ultimately shared that it was the only one of his laws that really mattered.