It’s Not Me, It’s You: Why Your Employee Quitting Is A Good Thing

Oh, $hit

It’s Monday morning at 10:23. You’re working through the normal Monday rush when you receive an email from Stan. “Hey Sarah (that’s you), can we chat. Just need five minutes”.

(sigh) Argh, ok.

Add it to the pile. Wanting to quickly get back to Stan, one of your middle of the row employees “sure, let’s chat. give me a few minutes”.

Stan’s a likeable guy. He isn’t amazing and sometimes needs to be pulled in to chat about deadlines and outcomes, but nothing too serious. You both love pop culture and exchange the occasional Star Wars reference.

10:40 you finally get through enough of your inbox to chat with Stan.

You grab a meeting room.

“What’s up Stan”?

“Look Sarah, this isn’t easy to say… but I’m resigning. Here’s my resignation letter. You’re great, but I’ve got another job.”

$HIT. Just like that, your brain switches into panic mode. Panic then becomes self-doubt.

You can’t help but ask yourself “how did I get this wrong”? Things were going ok. Stan was fine. What happened?

After what felt like an hour in your head, but was really only ten seconds, you reply “oh, wow…um…ok. I’m sorry to hear that. Do you mind sharing why”?

The why

What follows is usually one of a few responses:

  • Boredom with the job
  • Looking for the ‘next adventure’
  • No room for growth
  • Not on the same page/journey
  • Not in love with where we are going
  • Things have changed too much
  • etc, etc, etc

You accept Stan’s resignation and head back to your desk. Naturally, you feel defeated.

Stop.

Here’s where I want to do some reframing.

Stan quitting is a good thing

I have spent YEARS working with leaders who’ve lost people AND who haven’t.

I’ve had clients with 38%+ attrition which is horrendous. But I’ve also had clients with 0% attrition which is scary. If you employee dozens or hundreds of people and no one ever leaves that means they are either hiding in the mediocrity of the organisation or not being honest about where they are going. It’s just not possible for hundreds of people to have none of the things in the reason list (bullet points above) come up for them for years on end. Don’t let mediocrity become your default.

On the other side of this, one of the things I hear come up often is the sense of guilt people like Sarah feel when an employee quits. Sadly, the leaders who feel guilty are often the ones who, by doing the right thing, led to the employee quitting.

We REALLY need to get our mindset right about healthy attrition. People NEED to quit. People’s values change, your values change, the companies direction changes, the pressures change and even life circumstances change. Why would we want the same team that got the old results to stay if they weren’t prepared or willing to get the new results?

Embrace healthy attrition

I get it. I’ve had amazing team members quit. I remember a particularly amazing employee quitting. We did her exit interview (I got the other directors to do it) and the feedback was that she loved the place but didn’t want to do that work anymore AND was looking to change professions.

I was happy for her, but the directors couldn’t help but talk about what we should have done to get her to stay.

WHAT???? Really??? Get her to stay???

For a moment, I nearly agreed. But that’s the problem. She needed to leave. She was amazing but didn’t want to go where we were heading, didn’t love the work and now is amazing (years later we still keep in touch) at her new profession.

If we don’t have some level of healthy attrition, we get stuck or we don’t hit the level of performance we need because we don’t have the right people on the bus.

Checking if it’s time for some people to move on

When’s the last time you really discussed where your people see themselves AND reflected on who you need on your team to get where you need to go? The fear of change can cripple even the best leaders, but I want you to ask yourself a few key questions:

  1. Do I have the right people in the right seats on this bus (to get us where we need to go)?
  2. Would I rehire every person here? If not, what am I doing to change that?
  3. How am I challenging my team to adapt or leave?
  4. When have I / will I have those honest conversations about people’s future?
  5. How will I help my team members move on from the team when they need to?
  6. How will I manage the guilt when people do leave?

Don’t let attrition hurt your growth.

You’ve got this. Keep being amazing!

Till next time.

-Travis

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