Adam Ashley- Cooper Syndrome: How an employee leaves the team matters.

I am writing this as I sit on the plane, jetting across the Tasman to visit my mother in New Zealand. I am looking forward to hugging my Mum, after 18 months of enforced separation due to Covid 19. I also recently realised that my beloved Brumbies will be playing in Hamilton during my stay. It is not the first time that I have crossed the ditch to watch them play. Not that this is my main purpose this time. Just a lucky coincidence. I could spend the rest of this blog space writing an essay on the All Blacks and the team culture that underpins their success as one of the most successful sports teams on the world stage. But perhaps that is for another time?

Today, as I remember those other occasions that I have flown across the ditch to watch the Brumbies, my memory takes me back to another time and another player, way back in the magnificent heyday of the team. Adam Ashley-Cooper joined the Brumbies as an 18-year-old in 2005. Adam was special. He had explosive speed, agility, and the ability to step off his left and right foot to evade an opposition player, ball in hand, speeding up the wing, to pass the ball off, or to score a try himself. He was fearless and would put his body on the line in defense against any player coming at him hell for leather. The Brumbies crowd loved Adam.

Then in 2011, things changed. He was not playing well. There was something on his mind. Then the bombshell, Adam had signed a contract mid-season with the “old-foe” the Waratahs. Things were not good before he signed but his performance suffered hugely once the announcement was made. He remained on contract for the rest of the season with the Brums. His heart was not in it for our team.

Now, I think that I can hear you thinking, this is a blog about leadership, purpose, and values for health business leaders, so, what is the relevance of a story about a poor performing rugby player? Over the years, we have identified a similar pattern occurring in team members who decide to move on. It happens to a certain extent with every employee. No matter how committed they have been, there is an observable change in the way that employees engage in the workplace once they have made the decision to leave and often, even leading up to that decision. Their mind and heart have moved elsewhere. Of course, the way that we feel as business owners about the resignation is also likely to contribute to how the employee feels and behaves. In our practice, we have labelled this condition as Adam Ashley Cooper Syndrome or AAC.

Because of this, we have found that it is better when a team member resigns, to make the decision to move them on fairly quickly, and in most cases, we do not ask them to serve out their notice. Of course, we pay out the notice period and any entitlements. This approach is better for the business, the team, and the clients and usually for the employee leaving as well. A delayed leaving introduces all of the problems associated with the story of Adam Ashley Cooper. There is a discernable change in their performance, how they engage with the team, and their general commitment to the culture and growth of the business. I also recognise that to ask an employee to move on, when recruiting is difficult provides challenges to a business and likely added stress to us as leaders. If you are not in a position to ask the employee to leave, I recommend that you sit down and have a chat with them about your expectations during the notice period, so that everything is out in the open. The approach of being understanding about their desire to leave but also asking them to honour their employment with you by continuing to play well will establish a basis for the ongoing relationship. It is of course beneficial to them to ensure that they do leave well and maintain good relationships for reference purposes.

I am wondering if you have experienced ACC syndrome in your practice? What is your approach, to a player who is no longer playing for your team? Go #brumbies.

Dianna Howell Certmgr MIML MAPA

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