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Financial Contingencies

Most followers are not independently wealthy. The financial factors involved in leaving are often as weighty as the emotional factors. If leaving is a considered decision made mutually with the leader, we usually have little financial problem making the transition. But we will also examine a range of circumstances in which the separation may be sudden. If our principles require us to resign or to take a confrontational stand that may lead to dismissal, financial factors come into play, sometimes decisively.

If we don’t have financial contingency plans in place, our courage may be offset by our responsibilities. Many of us are contributing to the support of a family. Some are the sole support. Few of us can weather prolonged unemployment or a dramatic pay cut without seriously affecting our standard of living. Yet staying in a position for financial reasons, when doing so no longer serves us or the common purpose, can psychologically and spiritually exact as great a toll as unemployment does.

Particularly if the environment has become abusive, we can experience a terrible internal values conflict: On the one hand, intellectual honesty, moral integrity, and self-esteem cry for us to speak the truth as we see it. On the other hand, responsibility for our family, investment in our career, and yearning for security act as restraining forces against our speaking candidly. It is healthy for followers to develop financial contingency plans so that fear of losing our position never prevents us from speaking the truth about ourselves or our leaders. Paradoxically, such plans are also healthy for leaders because their existence improves the prospects of leaders receiving honest feedback.

Financial contingency plans might include:

money in the bank that enables us to “walk away” and still meet our financial obligations until we can reestablish ourselves;

agreement with a spouse or partner to support each other if one of us must leave our employment for reasons of conscience, until we can find or develop another opportunity;

establishing an ample line of credit while we are in a strong position to do so;

continuing to live within our former means when we are elevated to a higher position, so we can afford to lose that position;

staying visible in our field, to improve our chances for a successful lateral move if we leave the organization;

maintaining a sideline business, hobby, or other marketable skills that we can further develop if we must leave our field;

negotiating a contract that clearly spells out terms of severance we can live with.

Every generation observes the idealism and risk-taking of youth replaced by the pragmatic conservatism of age. As we age, we usually have more to lose. Our risk taking is replaced by another type of courage—the courage to be responsible for others. If we can put financial contingency plans in place, we are in a stronger position to remain pragmatic without sacrificing our ideals.