There’s lots of reasons people quit. They could hate their job. They could hate you. They could just be ready for something new. Their spouse might have found a better job in another city. Some of it is in your control and some of it isn’t. The worst, though, is when people leave one after another, or seem to.
There’s two reasons people leave: growth and grievances. I found myself reminding someone of that distinction the other day and remember how true it was.
When someone leaves for grievances, it means something is wrong. There’s a conflict of some kind, or you had them in the wrong role. A grievance is something that should have been spotted earlier and fixed. If you’re checking in with people, and observing their work patterns, you should have seen this coming. They’ll be slower at production, they’ll offer fewer ideas at brainstorms. It’s up to you to ask what is bothering them and to actually fix it. What is bothersome is when you know the grievance and it’s something fixable, but think the person will get over it. Who has time to fix every employee’s issues? You do. That’s part of your job.
I’d rather someone leave for growth. Maybe they got their dream job, and it’s because of their experiences with your company. It could be that your team doesn’t have that path, it isn’t what you do. It means the path to wherever they want to be isn’t there. Maybe you haven’t made that path clear to them, or you don’t care about their growth. Everyone is going to grow one way or another. You have to decide whether you accommodate for that growth or not, and if you can’t, it might mean a really good person is leaving. But that can be OK. When I’ve left companies for growth, I’ve still referred good candidates to them and spoken well of them. That’s what you want.
This isn’t just for anyone with direct reports, if you have any influence on company culture, you can help determine the difference between whether someone leaves with tears of anger or tears of sadness in their eyes and whether someday, they might be back.
2) If several people have left, start taking folks to coffee. What’s the root of the issue? Morale can hit a low when more than one person leaves a team, so this is a time for frank discussions and changes.
3) Keep in contact with anyone who leaves. Don’t let them leave angry. Try your best, as a manager or a friend, to make sure that they know you respected and liked their work and will miss them (if you did and will, that is).
4) Regularly assess folks against their job description (they all have job descriptions, right?). If someone isn’t a good fit, flag them and spend some time thinking and then taking action about how you can best utilize them.
5) Ask yourself and your team members: What can I be doing better to help everyone be happy?
6) Don’t hire assholes. And if you accidentally did, make sure you deal with them appropriately. People can and will sap the energy and momentum out of a room.
As managers, we need to model good mental health practices, from the impeccable Stacy-Marie Ishmael (Source). Every single book Seth Godin has recommended (This is Broken). Advice for newer managers from Kathleen Kingsbury (part of the great Local Fix project): “Treat people the way you would want to be treated but with the understanding that your job isn’t to be liked, it is to be respected” (Local News Lab). How to deal with different conflict styles (HBR).
Jobs jobs jobs
- My shop – NowThis – is hunting for a few senior-level positions. Most are in NYC, and I’d get to work with you pretty often. If you’re interested, hit reply.
- The Real Deal (in LA!) is looking for a senior reporter who gets some editing duties. They’re hoping you have a business and real estate background. Email email@example.com.
- News Planning Editor and a *lot* of other jobs at Wall Street Journal like Editor for Digital Content Strategy and Editor for Strategic Initiatives (h/t Rachel S!).
- Deputy Managing Editor, Gizmodo Media.