It’s every manager’s worst nightmare.
An employee you love who is exceptional at his or her job just resigned, seemingly out of the blue. When you ask the employee what you could have done to stop it or make them happier, they don’t have a good response. They offer some form of “it’s not you, it’s me,” that horrible breakup line people use to soften the blow, but all recipients know is BS.
Michael Lopp is the author of a few management books and he’s overseen teams of software engineers. Lopp recently wrote a great article on his blog, Rands in Repose, that clearly states what that star employee wouldn’t say.
The employee let his or her “shield” down and took an interview somewhere else because, after subconsciously asking themselves a set of questions about their current job, they realised they could maybe be happier.
According to Lopp, a few of those considerations are:
- Am I happy with my job?
- Do I like my manager? My team?
- Is this project I’m working on fulfilling?
- Am I learning?
- Am I respected?
- Am I growing?
- Do I feel fairly compensated?
- Is this company/team going anywhere?
- Do I believe in the vision?
- Do I trust the leaders?
And, if a star employee drops his or her shield (as Lopp calls it) and resigns, you as a manager need to realise you screwed up, even if your resigning employee denies it.
“When I ask, when I dig, I usually find a basic values violation that dug in, stuck, and festered,” Lopp writes. “Sometimes it’s a major values violation from months ago. Sometimes it’s a small violation that occurred at the worst possible time. In either case, your expectations of your company and your job were not met and when faced with opportunity elsewhere, you engaged.”
So, how do you keep a good employee from looking around to see if the grass is greener somewhere else?
Loop doesn’t have a clear answer. But he stresses that constant communication with employees is key. Also, continue to give your employees new, exciting challenges to tackle so they don’t get bored. But most importantly, managers need to recognise that everything they do and every decision they make can ultimately become the reason a star employee chooses to stay or walk.
Give Lopp’s full article a read, it’s really well done.