Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Truth about Resigning

Of late I have had several discussions about the reasons why staff move on, and it seems to me that there are two key barriers to communication around turnover: that most organisations and managers are in denial about the reasons staff resign; and most staff either are too afraid - or in some cases can't be arsed - to tell the truth about why they are leaving.

Of the two reasons I suggest above for why staff don't talk, I think fear of reputation damage is the main one. Confronting the issues which hold staff back will always be challenging, and when escaping the situation, why would staff create trouble for themselves by explaining? Managers often don't encourage safe and respectful dialogue: I have personally experienced two people being present in a recorded exit interview. Was I candid? Hell, no. I didn't want to limit my future prospects. 

The main problem that needs to be faced is that staff usually leave a role because of their manager (Goler, Gale, Harrington & Grant, 23 January 2018). When staff are regularly turning over within a year, then it is even more likely that we are the problem. That is a hard thing to face: but it needs facing.

Sometimes our management styles are complicated by heavy workloads, unrealistic expectations, lack of job-fit, poor support from further up in the organisation, and a high employment rate (providing more choice with less effort), but pretty much we need to look in the mirror. It is not them, it is us.

Worse, when people leave, they don't tell us that it is we who are the problem. They say:
  • "I have got a great new opportunity" (read "you gave me no opportunities"); 
  • "I am going back to basics" (read "you loaded me up with so much crap I nearly had a breakdown"); 
  • "I feel I will be able to contribute more in my new role" (read "you gave me no opportunity to make a decision or to affect an outcome"); 
  • "I need work in my field" (read "you prevented me from using the skills you hired me for"); 
  • "I was offered a job at..." (read "I have been job-hunting flat out for six months and finally got an offer"); 
  • "My new role is better aligned with my skill set" (read "you lied in the job ad and misrepresented the role"); 
  • "I feel I am not a good fit here" (read "you were such a micro-manager you wound me up in red tape and burnt me out"); 
  • "I need to be more hands-on" (read "I had so much admin I was paralysed with boredom"); 
Any of us hearing these excuses from exiting staff need to assume that we were the problem. There are things we can do about this, but that will be a post for another day.


Sam

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