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Have you ever wondered – Is It Me? Am I the reason good employees leave?

If your instincts question your ability to keep good employees, listen. It’s a sign that you have the potential to be a good leader because it is natural for good leaders to question their capabilities, their role or their contribution to any situation and take accountability. This is how they grow and how they strengthen their leadership skills. However, if, on the other hand, you believe that you are always right and never take responsibility for your Team, that’s a red flag, and it is highly recommended that you reflect, start with our Insights Corner Post – 3 Tell Tale Signs of Ineffective Management Practice. It should shed light on any blinders you may have. Then look at other articles we have on our Insights Corner blog page.

The Quote Employees don’t leave their Jobs, they leave their Bosses! “ is harsh but true. Let’s explain. 

If we are genuinely conscientious, whenever valued employees leave. We will be curious and work to get to the root cause underlying their departure, questioning ourselves to determine if there was anything we could have done differently to prevent this employee from leaving. And, in case you were wondering, hearing how much the employee loved working with you and the company is no consolation because 1: you lost a valuable employee, 2: you were caught off-guard, 3: there is now a huge gap to be filled, and 4: you now have limited time to find a replacement. If you are lucky, your employee will stay on longer than the standard 2 weeks’ notice to help train their replacement. What’s even worse is that finding the right resource isn’t as easy or economical as it used to be.

While there are genuine situations when leaders are forced to strategically manage rogue employees out of the organization – for example, when the employee employment contract binds them. There are valid situations when leaders are expected to make the tough decision and let employees go when it threatens the business, such as when:

  • The employee’s performance is unacceptable; or
  • The boss-employee relationship with the organization or Team has broken down, or
  • The employee adopted the ineffective practice of doing only enough not to get fired – quiet quitting; or
  • The employee lacked interest in the organization, or
  • The employee lacked the capabilities and skillset to do the job; or
  • The employee refused to grow or improve with the organization, etc.

To a lesser extent, there is the situation when the decision to retire someone early is forced upon us, for example, when the business finances are at risk. Leaders are asked to either trim the fat – retiring roles that are no longer nice to have, absorbing their responsibilities; or to cut costs by downsizing – retiring a certain percent of the workforce. In both situations, there is an element of the least valuable employees being let go.

What if it’s Me, not them?

It is a common annual practice for leaders to engage in Strategic Planning – an intensive exercise of reflection, problem-solving and optimistic planning for the upcoming fiscal year. A Strategic planning process seldom questions the manager’s role in losing key employees. Instead, resource planning is done with planned actions on how to better manage the workforce, putting the responsibility on HR to improve employee engagement, correct company culture issues, and develop employment procedures and policies to correct “the attrition problem”.

Food for Thought! As a Leader, have you ever had a director, manager, or supervisor accept the responsibility for losing valued employees while being committed to improving moving forward? What about you? Have you ever wondered why someone you relied on suddenly up and left? What will you discover if you play devil’s advocate?

The Truth

The truth is, when a steady stream of high-performing employees with great careers ahead of them leaves, it’s because they are leaving their bosses, not the job. Employees leave because:

  • They felt stuck and couldn’t see any solution in the organization; or
  • They have out-grown their role and do not see any exciting career prospects for them; or
  • They want growth, more responsibilities or a salary increase, and do not see the possibility of getting that growth or expansion; or
  • They felt unappreciated, unmotivated, or disenchanted with the role; or
  • They felt stressed or frustrated with the situation; or
  • They feel bullied or disrespected; or
  • You are aggressive, rude or disrespectful to them; or
  • You are continuously discrediting or unappreciative of their work,
  • Etc. The list goes on.

The A-Players

A-Players are employees who execute their duties exceptionally well, work well with others, and continuously go above and beyond to be valuable employees. Depending on which camp you are in, you see A-Players as either an asset or a threat.

Strong leaders value other A players in their Team because they believe that the more expertise in the Team, the stronger the Team and the better the Team will perform. The better the Team performs, the better they perform. Whereas, leaders lacking confidence in their capabilities often feel threatened when A-players join their Team. The adage of the employee vying for their boss’s job is built on the premise of an insecure boss. Followed closely by the ‘bad boss” cliche in which the boss does everything in their power to discredit the good work of their employees while taking all the credit whenever possible. The message is not to get pulled into the drama but to be mindful of any biases based on your own insecurity and to do something about it.

If by chance you’re a product of the so call ‘bad boss’, learn from the experience, learn from your ‘bad boss’ what NOT To Do! Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you are already a leader with the positional power to hire, fire and shape the careers of those reporting to you. Those above also look upon you to grow your unit in lockstep with the rest of the business. However, if you ignore your limitations, your good employees will ultimately leave you for better bosses, and you will end up with a team of employees with low potential or employees who are too afraid to leave.

What can be done?

It is understood that with the current economic situation, and the current state of the business, managers may feel as if there are limited opportunities to address some of the issues listed under “The Truth”. However, there are strategies management can use to increase employee satisfaction outside of a promotion or salary increase. Three Strategies to consider if any of the points discussed in “The Truth” exist in your unit:

1: Create Opportunities for employees to strive within your unit.

Condition:: Within every Team, there are employees seeking opportunities to showcase their capabilities, take on more responsibilities, or grow within the Team.

How:: Delegate – Managers can fulfil the employees’ desires by delegating.

  • Delegate special projects to your hard-working excited employees,
  • Delegate leadership opportunities to eager employees to speak on specific issues,
  • Delegate administrative opportunities to passionate employees to prepare presentations for the Team,
  • Delegate problem-solving opportunities to the consultant within the Team to find solutions for challenges within the Team, etc.

Opportunities which will satisfy your ambitious employee’s appetite for growth, more responsibilities, and recognition without increasing the unit’s payroll cost; with the added benefit of increasing employee engagement and improving productivity within your function. Not to mention the ripple effect of enriching the quality of your leadership within the organization because when your unit thrives, you thrive.

2: Improve Culture within your Team.

Condition:: A team is dysfunctional when team members display high levels of stress and frustration and are generally unhappy. There is a high attrition rate, and much of your time is spent managing team issues and complaints.

How:: Respect – at the core of a healthy team is respect. It is one of the most important building blocks of productivity and success because when people respect each other, they work better together.

  • When a manager respects their employees, their employees:
    • Feel safe enough to speak up, and they speak up more,
    • Take pride in their work, increasing productivity,
    • Contributes more, going above and beyond to help their bosses.
  • When managers practice respect they:
    • Seek feedback and input from their subordinates,
    • Listen to the ideas and feedback from their subordinates,
    • They lead as a team – less as a dictator.
  • When managers encourage respect among team members:
    • Team members learn to trust each other more and are more comfortable working together,
    • Team members collaborate more, and they feel safe sharing ideas and getting feedback,
    • Team members develop friendships and enjoy working together, improving morale and productivity,
    • A manager’s job is more manageable, less stressful and enjoys greater productivity.

Regardless of the state of the Team, Respect is one of the most impactful solutions any leader can implement to cultivate a healthy team culture. It has the power to transform any dysfunctional team into a high-functioning results-oriented team.

You see, several years ago, when I was introduced as the leader of a five-function team, my introduction was met with resistance. It was obvious that in this Team of experts, each expert believed that they were better than their peers and demonstrated very little respect for each other or each other’s work. We needed to leverage their expertise while putting their egos into check to succeed. A policy of non-negotiable respect was implemented, and within three months, we went from a dysfunctional combative work practice to a collaborative problem-solving one, delivering one successful project after another.

It wasn’t easy and will not be easy for you; however, the experience was highly rewarding.

3: Level Up Your Management Practice. 

Respect is fundamental to keeping high-calibre employees from leaving, but alone it is not sufficient. Managing a team of high performers, people who grow, and people who are continuously levelling up their skills and capabilities; demands managing all aspects of their employment. Our February Insights Corner Article –  Remote Management – Straight Talk  – provides tools, strategies and insights on how to level up your management practice so you develop a more holistic approach to managing the entire employee’s experience.

Read this article to identify gaps in the 6-core management duties, and use the 4-Pillars of Management Practice to develop your management practice to attract and retain the best employees.

Yes, It’s Me!

Why? Because ultimately, you are responsible for your Team, and valued employees don’t just up and leave if they are happy, heard or feel as if they are part of a team. Before they even think of leaving, employees will discuss their ambitious desires with you, giving you an opportunity to find an opportunity for them or to find and train a replacement to minimize the negative impact of their departure on you and your Team.

Every article you read, every seminar you attend, and every opportunity you seek to improve must end with action.

From this article:

  1. Make a list of improvements you would like to see in your Team,
  2. Understand what the employee engagement levels are,
  3. Identify gaps in your management practice and use your experience and knowledge combined with the insights from this article and the two additional reading references below to devise “Fit for Purpose” strategies for your Team.
  4. Read the two additional reading material references below.

Additional Reading:

  1. Insights Corner Article: 3 Telltale Signs of Ineffective Management Practices 
  2. Product: Leadership Processes, elevate Critical & Strategic Thinking

Be Strategic,

Written by Nallanie Manick, MBA, PMP, B.Sc.