JOSE MOURINHO is a man who knows how to win trophies. But another aspect of his careers is almost as impressive – his ability to stay friendly with his employers when he has moved on. Even though he is leaving his most recent club Inter Milan in the lurch, its president Massimo Moratti apparently made it easy for him to leave, and even reduced the amount of compensation that Real Madrid had to pay for breaking Mourinho’s contract. The Portuguese maestro also seems to have stayed friendly with another former employer, Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich. In a world where slanging matches and abuse are a common currency, Mourinho has the knack of keeping relations sweet.
In some ways, says John Purkiss, a City headhunter and the co-author of the book Brand You, Mourinho is the quintessential modern employee. People broadly take two approaches to work, Purkiss says. The old way is that you work for an employer, try to get a pay rise and if the answer is no, then you move on. The more modern way is to see yourself as essentially self-employed, and to look at an employer as a client. “You do your best job for them, and then when it’s time to move on, you leave on good terms and you stay in touch with them and don’t burn any bridges.”
It is, says Purkiss, all about building your own personal brand, and as he points out, nobody does this better than Mourinho, the self-styled “Special One”. In fact, sportsmen and artists have been doing this forever. Look at Beckham, or Damien Hirst, whose earning power has been multiplied many times over by their ability to manage their images.
Remember that you never know what the future will hold, and how good relationships will help. Purkiss tells the story of one woman who worked for Morgan Stanley and then left to set up a chain of bagel shops. It was far easier for her to find investors because her former colleagues and clients knew that she would do a good job, whatever she did. An equally common story is that people work for an employer and fall out with them. They join a new firm in the same sector, only to find it is taken over by the old one, and life suddenly becomes difficult. Good relations matter.
Ken Brotherstone, CEO of executive search company Kinsey Allen International, says that one of the keys to Mourinho’s good employer relations is that he “always speaks warmly of old employers. Lots of people when they decide to move on focus on the negative, rather than saying: ‘I have had a fantastic time here but it is time to go elsewhere’.” Even if things have been fractious, an ability to rise above things and be generous is good for your career, as it just makes you look like a better employee. Nobody likes grudge-holders.
People like Mourinho change jobs often, but they don’t move for the sake of it. You should always give your present employer a chance to come back with a sensible counter-offer, says Brotherstone “It’s important not to be hasty.” Also, if you do decide to leave then you should handle it carefully. Resigning can stir up strong emotions and your boss might well feel betrayed. “They might feel that they have invested in you, you are being disloyal, sometimes you need to let the dust settle and let the boss come round to accepting that you are leaving.” Leave it for a few days before you discuss how you are going to manage the hand-over and always offer to help it go smoothly. Whatever happens, do not use your leaving as a chance to settle old scores.
Neil Owen, a director at recruiter Robert Half International, says that you should make sure a resignation doesn’t come out of the blue. Before you decide to leave, you should have thought hard about the reasons that you are seeking work elsewhere, and have talked to your employer about your career goals, and the opportunities for developing them internally. “If you have calmly discussed this, then if you do decide to resign it shouldn’t come as a big surprise.” When you do resign, be professional and state the reasons that you want to leave very clearly, thank your employer for the time they have spent developing you and always potentially leave the door open for a return. “It can be emotional, especially if you are resigning to somebody who has mentored you, but make sure that you keep your composure.” Be prepared for an emotional reaction, and stay calm.
Act professionally through your notice period as your employer is likely to be asked for a reference at some point. Also make sure that you explain your decision to your staff, as they might take it as a slight on the company. Again, this can be emotional. Be professional and if you do arrange to meet people afterwards socially, then make sure you do. Keeping your network active is important, and it can be easy to lose touch with people who can turn out to be valuable later on. Do all this, and maybe just a bit of the Mourinho magic will rub off on you.