Top 5 Ways to Lose Your Best Employees

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Categories:  Work Commentary
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I prefer my golden eggs cruelty-free.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a list based on my employment at any specific company. This is a compilation of personal work experiences combined with those of friends and family members working in today’s tech industry. I want to stress that I am happy at my company because they DON’T do any of these things.

#5.) Keep Toxic Employees Around

When you allow a toxic employee to continue pulling a paycheck, your other employees are fully aware of it. If this person is lazy, unskilled, unmotivated, and/or unqualified but they aren’t disciplined or fired it leaves your staff to consider two options. Either you are so out of touch with the operations of your company that you’re completely unaware of how toxic this person is, or you’re fully aware and are too timid to do anything about it. Either way it demotivates your productive workers. Why should they work their asses off while this guy surfs the internet all day? What chance do they have of being recognized and promoted later on for their great work if you don’t even notice the gaping black hole in their department?

This issue is worsened the farther up the chain of command this toxic person is. Anyone working beneath them will grow to resent the role of management in your organization based on this one person’s poor example. What career path could they possibly have at your company if this person is taking up space above them, and perhaps even taking credit for their work? Toxic managers are effectively impenetrable barriers to their subordinates.


v. To remove someone from the To: field in an email chain for specific messages in an attempt to keep them out of the loop on a particular topic, then add them back in afterward.

Some friends of mine have actually come up with a term for when their supervisor excludes them from conversations with the higher-ups in an attempt to take full credit for their work. Some of them are minus-plused on a regular basis, and only know it happens when other people in the email chain mention it to them.

#4.) Boast an Open Door Policy, but Don’t Listen

If an employee comes to you with a reasonable request or complaint, and you don’t follow through or even acknowledge the issue, your open door policy is nothing more than an invitation for people to incriminate themselves as “not team players”. At least that’s the impression it leaves on your employees.

When someone cares enough about the company they work for to try to improve it, that is something that needs nurturing. Even if the suggestions made are not going to happen, it is important to make the person who made them feel that they were heard if you want them to continue to add to the innovation conversation in your products and services. Communication is a two-way street.

#3.) Require Approvals Every Step of the Way

If you want to inspire creativity and innovation in your employees, stop looking over their shoulders. Creative people (artists, engineers, writers, etc.) need to feel comfortable and confident that what they create will be supported, not held back by their managers. Requiring them to get approvals and documentation for every little thing they want to do, they may not even bother. This is especially true if that approval process requires several different people to approve of things. It’s the creative equivalent of the TPS reports in Office Space.

There are lots of other tips I could pass along for managing creatives, but the paranoia of constant oversight and policing is probably the top issue. Many of the things creative managers fail to grasp is that micromanaging them is the modern day equivalent of forcing left-handed people to be right-handed.

#2.) Give Public Credit to Managers and Not Producers

If you’re saying “I want to thank Bob’s team over in engineering for doing an excellent job on this new feature!” instead of “I want to thank all the engineers that made this possible,” and then listing each one of them, preferably with some highlight of what they did individually… you are effectively demotivating your primary source of income. If you don’t know who did what on that team, find out before you thank anyone publicly or perhaps even ask “Bob” to do the thanking if he knows all of it.

This is not to say that “Bob” doesn’t deserve credit for managing and supporting his team. His name should definitely be the “last but not least” one mentioned in the group. This is also not to say that the CEO of the company needs to thank every single mail room clerk in their huge company either. Delegate the thank you’s if you need to. Just do them right.

#1.) Hire Outside the Company for Leadership

You can preach all day that your employees are great at their jobs and pat them on the back ceaselessly, but if the time comes where you need a new leadership role and you decide to hire someone new instead of promoting from within, expect morale to take a dive. Worse than that, expect it to take a dive secretly.

No one wants to piss off their new boss. No one wants to be thought of as a complainer. Maybe the people you passed over for that step up the ladder will quit. More likely, they’ll just stop giving a shit about their career at your company. They’ll stop innovating. They’ll stop working on their own time. They’ll stop even thinking about work on their own time. No more reading or replying to work emails on weekends. No moreĀ helpful feedback in meetings. All the while they’ll also stop ignoring the persistent emails from recruiters and start seriously considering a change.


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