The Hands-On Hand-Off by Brad Howlett, CFM

handshake-facility-manager-management-leadership-facility-university-facilityu-ifma-brad-howlettAt some point in every facilities manager’s career there comes a time where the FM’s responsibilities need to be passed on to a successor, or a replacement.  Hopefully this happens because of upward mobility—being offered a higher level position.  Sometimes it comes under more difficult circumstances for the FM—organizational restructuring, downsizing, etc.  Either way, it pays in the long run to be proactive in the hand-off of the FM’s knowledge and responsibilities.

We all have met people who tend to hold on to knowledge rather than share it.  Those folks justify their secrecy by citing reasons such as “job security” (no one else knows how to do my job so they can’t fire me!) or “it was hard for me to learn it, it should be just as hard for the next guy”.  As professionals, we have a choice:  to systematically catalog all of our knowledge and activities, making our positions transparent, or to practice secrecy and hold on to all that “tribal” knowledge.  Note the use of the word “professionals” in the preceding sentence.  If one is indeed a professional, I think the answer is clear.  One must provide their employer the best chance to successfully move forward so that the employer will do the same for the professional when the opportunity comes to them.

It seems understood across many types of professional disciplines that those who are most interested in helping others advance achieve the highest level of success.  This may tie in to some innate human characteristic of helping the greater good, thereby ensuring the success and prosperity of the human race.  When an individual helps another to succeed or progress in their growth, the benefactor of that help usually desires to reciprocate the favor.  Sometimes it’s repaid through verbal praise, a good reference, a few extra hours at the office, loyalty in a time of conflict, or increased performance at crunch-time.  In the context of this article, it will usually be a good reference or a job lead, sometimes a severance package that’s not even contractually obligated.

True leaders value their people.  Someone who values people will garner support from those people.  Someone who garners support from enough people is going to have plenty of help in their endeavors.  Those who have help with their endeavors are destined to be successful.  After all, didn’t we recently leave the age of information and enter the age of relationships?  The trend that I’ve noticed during my management career is that no matter what job it is, or where it is, the one aspect that is universal is people, or more precisely, relationships.  Nowadays hiring managers look at who referred a candidate as more important than what their qualifications are.  If one is being laid off through no fault of their own, isn’t it in the person’s best interest to hand-off their role proactively and transparently to maintain that relationship?  What kind of reference would a past employer provide if a laid-off employee left angrily and gave no thought to the continuation of the company?  Is that the professional attitude that future employers are looking for?  Of course not.

Most often, it is in the FM’s best interest to approach the situation along these lines:  “I don’t necessarily agree with you laying me off, however I do know that in order to make the transition successful I will need to meet with your designated person to brief them on the operation.  I have dedicated much of my professional life toward making this organization successful; I hope that the organization appreciates that and will support me in my future professional endeavors by providing a great reference for me.”  If the FM is being let go through no fault of his/her own, this request will be responded to in a favorable manner.

It may be difficult to help an organization who has made a difficult decision to terminate an employee, especially one who works as hard as most FMs do.  However, if the hand-off is managed proactively and professionally by the FM, it could be the stepping stone most of us hope for at some point in our career.  In every situation, and under any circumstances, we FMs must conduct ourselves professionally and ethically in order to realize our greatest potential.

Brad Howlett, CFM, FMP, has served as Facilities Manager for public and private organizations, independently and salaried.  He currently sits on the IFMA Northern Rockies board as Treasurer, and blends the Millennial and Generation X styles in his management approach.  Because of this blended style, he has been accused of being able to work well with anyone at all, on any project.  He can be reached at or on LinkedIn at

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