Bad, Bad Manager: “You Can’t Leave Me!”

Jessica Lee Jessica Lee, Retention

This one comes out of the bad manager’s play book.

A friend instant messages me the other day. She’s on the market for a new gig and I’ve been helping outPanda as her pseudo career adviser. She’s an A-player who has lots of options to entertain. She’s paid her dues at her current gig, gained a ton of great experience… but she’s not able to innovate and keep growing in the way she wants to. So on this particular day that she messages me, her manager sat her down to talk. “I hope you aren’t looking at other job options. Don’t you see we’ve laid other people off and kept you?” How nice. The message could have probably been delivered a bit differently, we all can agree on that. But then it got worse. The kicker: “You can’t leave me,” her manager said. Wow. Are you cringing as you read this?

Times are tough everywhere, I get this. And especially in organizations like my friend’s where they have done layoffs and made salary cuts both, those who are left are likely doing more for less. But that’s not an excuse for bad behavior. If this were a manager in my organization, there would be a few different things I’d ask him/her to consider:

  • People look at other job opportunities even when they aren’t looking. Everyone likes the passive candidate better, right? Never assume all doctors appointments are doctors appointments.
  • But if you really think someone “can’t” leave you? Well, then let people stretch their wings. If you really can’t bear to see them go, what is it going to take to keep them satisfied and fulfilled?
  • Sometimes you’ve just got to let go. People may leave, and the reality is that everyone is pretty much replaceable. Guilting someone into staying won’t resolve whatever underlying issues they have which are causing them to even be open to leaving.
  • Of course you’re human, we’re all human… but are you really that needy? And do you want to really show that card to your team? You’re a manager for goodness’ sake. Infuse some confidence in your staff. Even if you feel like it would be difficult to do without one of your staff members, even if you’ve worked hard to make them feel valued by recognizing them and doing all those warm fuzzy things… get a grip.

This story ends nicely for my friend – she was offered a new gig last week and it’s a great career move for her… but when she gave notice to her manager? The tears flowed and again it was more, “You can’t leave me,” chatter. No wonder my pal is getting out of there. Sigh… can we get this manager some coaching please?