The last fellow I broke up with, I was pretty sure that when it was over, it was O-V-E-R. There wasn’t anything he could have said or done to make me change my mind. The most heartfelt apology, a trip around the world together, promises to change everything that was wrong about us within his realm of control… nothing. Some relationships you’ve just got to let go.
Putting my boy troubles aside though, when in the workplace, why do we try so often to make things work when the reality is that it’s simply time for the relationship to end? Someone gives their notice. We’re caught off guard by it, so then we scramble to try to retain the individual. We might throw a retention bonus at them, perhaps we’ll come up with a new role or fancier job title, maybe we’ll even offer some extra time off, a telecommuting arrangement, a part-time schedule… we could pull all sorts of tricks out of our HR goody bag, but before even going there, do we ever stop to ask whether it’s too little too late?
Some relationships are worth salvaging. With an A player who has given their notice – and I mean someone critically involved not only in current operations, but someone who has a significant role in the future and is tied to your succession plans – I’d say see what you can do to retain ‘em. And this is if, and only if, you can be brutally honest about their motivating factors for leaving. You’ve got to ask yourself:
• What triggered their desire to leave in the first place?
• Are the issues really something the organization can help or control?
• Can you explain why those things went wrong and why they won’t happen again?
• What’s being offered over at the other pasture with greener grass and how can you match it?
• Is this A player’s wants and needs realistic?
• Can the changes being made to right the wrongs be sustained?
If you can really make change happen to address the wrong – because really, something wrong had to have happened for them to entertain another option – and, if you are completely committed to ensuring the change is sustained, then, okay. Make it happen. Pull out what’s needed from that HR goody bag of yours in order to keep that A player around. Just don’t offer any goodies up as a desperate move to make them stay, and then not follow through. Because if you put that A player back into the same swing of things and there is no change? That’s your recipe for disaster. It would be like sending flowers to me day after day when I’ve said I want to break up with you, (and I like hydrangeas, by the way) and then never actually changing a darn thing about the issues we had leading up to the breakup.
Yep, breaking up is hard to do… but making up isn’t always the best answer. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let things go, and in many instances, I’ve found that’s where the real growth is. You become introspective. You analyze what went wrong and how you can do things differently in the future… and for the next fellow that comes around, that makes the experience richer for him.
Wait… was this about my relationships or employee retention?
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.