You’ve noticed the signs. Your key performer’s star is no longer burning so brightly. They’ve stopped putting in overtime and no longer seek you out with new ideas or to talk about the future. They are taking odd times of day off. Or strange 24 hours bugs have appeared that necessitate a day off.
They seem even more attached to their smart phone than usual. You probably shouldn’t need it spelled out, but they are almost certainly in the market for a new job.
They’re leaving you – or at least thinking hard about it.
Why are they considering leaving?
1. They want more money, and have been receiving other offers. This is not terribly surprising; research by Bain & Company shows that star performers are roughly four times more productive than average performers, so competition is understandably fierce. This one is easily fixed: offer them more money or a promotion. If your company can’t afford a pay rise, then explain that to them but come to a compromise- perhaps a 4 day week or advancement will convince them to stay. If money or hours is all there is to it, your problem is solved. Unfortunately, this is often not the only reason they’re straying.
2. They’re bored. These are stars we’re talking about; they want the opportunity to shine. You need to keep star players challenged or they will move on to more exciting pastures. Consider how you can use their skills and knowledge in a way that re-energises them without losing their wealth of experience. Speak to them about what their personal and career goals are, and see how your company can help those happen.
Perhaps they want to start a volunteer program, take a sabbatical, or work from home. Often star performers don’t like to complain or ask for things- they’re more likely just to move on quite rapidly when they’re not content. It’s your job to find out what they want from their job to make them stay. Otherwise, you could be in the uncomfortable position that their LinkedIn profile will soon be updated with the name of your fiercest competition.
3. You’ve started taking them for granted. They’ve been working without complaint for so long that you’ve stopped thanking them for it- you’ve unconsciously started seeing their voluntary overtime as their actual work hours. No matter how much they enjoy the job, over time they will resent a lack of appreciation for the extra work they do- and that’s when they start opening emails from recruiters that they had previously deleted without a second’s thought. This is quite easy to address: affirm to them that they really don’t have to do more working hours than anyone else, and insist that they take proper weekends. Hiring a person to fill the work gap is better than losing your star performer.
4. They’ve become disillusioned with you as a manager. Ouch. Somewhere along the way, for some reason, they’ve lost faith in you. This might be fixed with an honest chat-It might be something as small as a misunderstanding, or an unintended offence.
It might be because they’re burnt out and things are bothering them that didn’t before. If you can be brave enough to bring yourself to ask them what’s gone wrong between you, there’s a good chance the working relationship can be salvaged.
5. They’ve become disillusioned with the company. Perhaps they’ve lost faith in the company’s ability to succeed financially, or no longer have the passion for the product that they once did. Both of these situations can be turned around with a good discussion about job security or perhaps a new use of their talents within the company to re-energise them. However, if it turns out that the employee has a moral issue with the company’s ethics or behaviour, then this is much more difficult to fix. This type of disgruntled star player can become very dangerous to your organisation, and their dissatisfaction can often become toxic to morale. Try to turn this employee around, but if you don’t think it is possible, then don’t fight them leaving and keep things polite.
Star performers will generally be confident in their abilities, so they will not tolerate being unfulfilled in their job for long. Their decline from happy hardworking employee to disgruntled employee looking for the exit can be alarmingly rapid, so keep your eyes out for the signs and have a conversation with them if you see their enthusiasm flagging.
Until next time,