Losing a key team member is tough. Both involuntary (fired) and voluntary (resignation) can cause you to question yourself. “Did I do enough while they were here?” “What could I have done differently?” I’ve been there as a corporate hiring manager and a small business owner.
The common refrain says “it’s just business”, but great leaders believe differently. People who excel in their roles do so because they care. They take ownership and pride in their work. They listen and nurture relationships. Saying “it’s just business” is an attempt to avoid the emotions that arise when a relationship ends.
Saying “it’s just business” is an attempt to avoid the emotions that arise when a relationship ends.Tweet
Why does losing a key team member affect me?
Loss creates a range of emotions: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Here are some ways it might show up during the process.
- Denial – Not acknowledging their resignation. Procrastinating on taking action to fill the role. Not telling your team of the change. Letting behavior slide so you don’t have to fire an employee or terminate a contract.
- Anger – Frustration they’re leaving you. Thinking they’re selfish or ungrateful for the opportunity you gave them. Frustration they didn’t meet your expectations.
- Bargaining – Negotiating compensation in an attempt to make them stay. Overanalyzing the past “If I did this, then X wouldn’t have happened.”
- Depression – Feeling sad you’re losing a team member. Feeling overwhelm about the increase in workload.
- Acceptance – Realizing you can’t force someone to stay. Acknowledging people can outgrow their role. Acknowledging people’s interests and goals can change. You didn’t fail at hiring. Being at peace with change.
It’s normal to feel some or all of these emotions. The key is to not dwell in them. Acknowledge them and keep moving forward.
Evolving relationships are a part of life. Each relationship serves a different purpose and thus has a different timeline. The end of a relationship doesn’t make either person a failure.
Each relationship serves a different purpose and thus has a different timeline.Tweet
When should I worry about turnover?
If your team is a revolving door, then review your practices and ask for feedback.
Start reviewing your hiring practices. Are you setting clear expectations for their role? What’s the screening process include? Are the questions asked during the interview relevant or status quo? Good hiring is a mutual fit.
Get feedback on your leadership. How are you nurturing their growth? Be active in providing support, resources, and coaching for them to excel in their role. Prepare them to take the next step whether internally or externally. Team members who are bored, under valued, and/or unappreciated will leave.
Assess the culture and pay attention to behavioral shifts. People have different and shifting priorities. A team member with dependents will have different needs than someone without dependents.
How can I be better prepared for losing a team member?
Always be recruiting. Have a list of individuals you would contact when a position opens. This makes it a lot easier when you need to fill a position. Instead of starting from zero and making a desperate hire, you can pull from this group.
Cross-train team members. Having team members who can complete tasks and projects outside their primary role benefits everyone. It makes it easier not only when you lose a team member, but also during vacations or sick days. In addition, cross-training provides additional skills for career growth, empathy for demands of different roles, and improves teamwork.
Document and update processes. Don’t let all the knowledge leave with your team member. Updating processes and templates needs to be a regular practice. Your internal wiki is a dynamic database. It evolves with the growth of your business and each contributor. Here’s an example of a wiki dashboard for a team of writers.
Next man up. “Next man up” is a common phrase used in football. When a player gets injured, there is someone on the roster ready to go and do the work. The same applies in your organization. Part of being a leader is coaching team members to take on new responsibilities. This allows them to be prepared to fill roles when they open.
Cultivating a team requires a lot of work. You’re learning about each team member as well as yourself. It’s a continuous process that’s both challenging and rewarding. You’re capable of doing it well!