"Will you be a reference for me?"
I've worked with this person a couple times over the past 6 years. She's smart, driven, can see the big picture and knows how to tactically plan to realize company goals. Anyone would want her on their team. That's why when she started with her current employer 4 years ago, they were thrilled and she delivered above and beyond expectations. She loved her job, and they loved her back. Until, that is, the pandemic hit.
When everyone was sent home, the mood of executive leadership soured. Like many companies, they experienced a dip as the world shut down and no one knew what was going to happen next. Frequent communication from the top ceased. Quarterly all-hands meetings were cancelled and replaced by short, non-descript emails. No one knew what priorities were or what to work on next. Morale dropped.
Over time, work increased, as did revenues. There was no longer a fear of paychecks bouncing or job losses. But what didn't change was the mood of leadership. Instead of seeing how employees were doing, they wanted to know why things weren't done. Because working from home showed an increase in productivity, more work was piled on. Again, no priority outside of being "business critical." Rumor had it someone in the C-Suite said since employees didn't need to take time to get ready and drive to and from work, they had more time to get stuff done. Whether true or not, leadership didn't squash it either.
Back to being asked to be a reference. YES, I said. More than happy. But when did you decide it was time to go? "About six months ago. Whether it got better or not, it was time to leave and I was waiting for the market to pick up."
According to a publication on Human Resource Executive, one in four workers plan to move jobs post-pandemic; a 25% shift in workforce! Imagine 25% of your workforce leaving, and having to hire and retrain staff all over again. Yuk!
Between being a reference for someone who's kicked ass at her company and the HR Exec article, I got to thinking; what could have been done to keep quality people months ago that are leaving now? The answer was pretty easy: LEADERSHIP.
Here are some reasons good people leave bad leaders. What others would you add?
- Lack of Empathy: Especially this last year, things may have sucked. Let your people know it's OK not to be OK. Help them. You've probably been there too. Saying "Suck it up and keep moving on" isn't a good approach.
- No or Minimal Communication: No news isn't always good news. Rumors can fly. Wrong conclusions drawn. Bad things can happen! Leaders who openly communicate on a frequent and consistent basis keep employees informed and focused. Those who don't leave their people in the dark.
- No Culture of Recognition: "Look at what my team did for me and I'll take all the credit!!" Bad idea my friend. Give credit where credit is due. Create a culture of recognition on your team.
- No Respect: Rodney Dangerfield famously talked about getting no respect. Those who report to bad leaders feel the same way. Imagine coming to your boss with a concern or idea and being talked down to. How would that make you feel? Disrespected, and probably a whole lotta pissed off!
- Got Courage?: Tough conversations are, well, tough. As a leader, you need to have them so small issues don't turn bigger. Instead of the leader having the conversation, they send someone else to do it. Or, it could be an issue with a whole department, or customer, that the leader doesn't want to handle. Bad situations don't get better with age. Have the courage to handle them now. The converse is also true; can they allow employees to give them performance feedback?
- Little Self-Awareness: As a leader, you need to know yourself. I know, easier said than done. Understand what some "triggers" are and how you react. Leaders that don't have self-awareness can blow up in emotionally charged situations.
- Unable to Pivot: When COVID hit, many companies were in turmoil. Leaders who could quickly pivot fared better than those set in their ways. They trusted their people to continue to get work done. I know a couple leaders who are "asses in chairs in the office" people. Wow, did they struggle!
- Crappy Listener: As a leader, if an employee comes to you and you're trying to listen while multi-tasking, you'll miss what they're saying and won't ask good clarifying questions. Put down all distractions and LISTEN!
- No Accountability: Leaders own their commitments and promises. If they commit to do something, it's a priority. Those with no accountability will say they'll get to it, but don't commit to a timeframe and probably won't get it done. Employees will figure that out quick.
- Little to No Honesty or Integrity: I saved the best for last (in my opinion anyway). They tell lies (or at least bend the truth) so as not to look bad in front of others. Maybe if they're honest and vulnerable, they'll feel to appear weak. They're OK telling little white lies and may even tell people that occasionally. During the pandemic, these leaders were beside themselves because they couldn't see what their people were doing and constantly asked for updates because they didn't trust work was being done. Whatever the cause, if employees can't trust their leaders, they'll probably be gone!
If you see your coworkers leaving your company now, it's possible they decided months ago to call it quits. They're just telling you now. Maybe that person is you! In any case, good people leave often because of bad leadership.