Getting dumped by an employee sucks.
When an employee you like and see great promise in leaves you, it stings. When they leave you to make a career decision that is not understandable (in a worst-case scenario, questionable)… oh dear god, it just makes you want to cry. Watching this train wreck can be painful. And usually, it’s not even a slow death. It’s a fast, unexpected one. It can render you speechless. It really does make you question every single reason why you manage, why you even give a crap about teams, or employees, your influence or your very ability to do your job. Self-doubt creeps in.
Self-doubt at work really feels the same as self-doubt in any relationship. It can eat you up. And, like jealousy, it doesn’t do anyone any good. So here are a few tips to help keep your heart from being broken by your employees when they quit you.
a) Don’t be a manager. Really. Don’t be in this line of work. It’s not for everyone. If you want to be a manager, leader, etc….then you have to know there will be times your heart will get a little broken.
b) Don’t presume you know what is best for your adult employees. Quit doing it. You don’t. I’ve had a few bosses in my life that thought they had me pegged. They actually discouraged me from trying new career paths. They were selfish and self-serving. I remember when I quit one of my jobs to go into HR, my boss looked incredulously at me and went, “Do you think you are up for that?” Yes. I was.
c) Do not play the role of the mama or papa bear. You know this kind of manager. He or she always refers to their team as kids. Such as, “I am so proud of my kids, they did so well on that presentation.” This characterization doesn’t suit any manager very well. It forces your employees into a type of work relationship that is not healthy and is, in fact, insulting to the employee. If you like this type of employee relationship, you will definitely get your heart broken when your employees quit. And get ready—most of your employees with any sort of self-respect will quit you a lot.
d) Cross-train your team members. If you run an HR house, likely you have a team of generalists. This set up lends itself to cross-training. Just be sure everyone knows how to do a little bit of everything. This softens the blow if one of your employees makes a quick exit.
e) Change your focus. Focus on providing your employees with their best experience while they work for you. Notice I said their best experience, not YOUR best experience. This means providing your employees with learning ops, managing to their strengths, opening new doors for them and removing obstacles. Sometimes that will result in an employee outgrowing their current role, which isn’t a bad thing with this mindset.
f) Have solid and deep relationships with people outside of work. Those who have deep relationships outside of work typically are able to roll with the punches inside of work much better.
Have you been dumped by an employee? Hit me in the comments…
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.