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Returning to a past employer: can it work out?

Kimi Raikkonen returns to Ferrari: should you ever go back?

September 24, 2013

Never go back, they say. Of course, there are high profile examples of people returning successfully for a second stint with an employer, writes Lawrence Bowen.

Indeed Winston Churchill’s first spell as part of a government thankfully did not deter him from taking the country’s premiership in 1940.

But there certainly seems to be reluctance over whether to move back to a previous role or company.

Such doubts or concerns were brushed aside by F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen, who recently agreed a stunning deal to return to Ferrari next season.

The world’s most famous racing team swooped to pair the Finn – who won the World Championship with them in 2007 – with Spaniard Fernando Alonso as they bid to end Red Bull’s dominance in the sport.

Raikkonen, who earlier this week admitted that money was the prime motivation behind his move, said: “I can’t wait to be driving a Ferrari car again and to reacquaint myself with so many people with whom I had such close links, as well as working with Fernando, whom I consider a great driver, in order to bring the team the success it deserves.”

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen

Two former world champions driving on an equal standing for an iconic brand like Ferrari sounds like a match made in motorsport heaven.

But reality, it appears, is not that simple.

Despite the multi-million contract, Raikkonen faces the same challenges that any other worker returning to an old workplace has to contend with.

And, looking from the outside, the 33-year-old’s reintegration into Team Ferrari may not be the seamless journey he hopes for.

Michael Woodward, organisational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan, stresses that it’s vital to leave an organisation on a positive note.

He told Forbes: “Life is unpredictable and circumstances are constantly changing. You never know who may be of value as a contact in the future, so it’s important to keep as many doors open as possible.”

This wasn’t quite the case with Raikkonen. His contract was prematurely ended in 2009 amid rumours he was difficult to work with.

Speaking in 2009, Raikkonen confirmed his departure from Ferrari was a mutual decision, insisting he was glad to get out.

He said: “I don’t miss anyone. To me, leaving there was a relief. Things don’t last long if you’re working somewhere and the relations are not good.”

And former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has been highly critical of the appointment – claiming Ferrari are “insane” to return to Raikkonen.

He told German newspaper Bild: “He can drive a car fast, but he can’t work with the engineers, he can’t develop the car, he won’t go to sponsor appointments.”

So has Raikkonen burned his bridges? Apparently not, after last week’s surprise announcement, although some working relationships will presumably need to be repaired in the F1 close season.

However Mr Hoover stressed canny professionals should keep all their options open when leaving a job.

He added: “We live in a very connected world where people are just a click away. Don’t ever underestimate who is connected to whom and how fast word can travel.

“Many people just forget how important it is to maintain their bridges.

“Maintaining relationships is important for future progression, because you never know who will be doing what and where they will be working.”

Excelling in his profession has seen Raikkonen return to an employer where the relationship had been fairly strained.

Being good at what you do is certainly an important element in returning to an old employer.

However, if you lack the foresight to leave professionally in the first place, it makes any potential return so much more difficult.