Lose the Losers and Keep the Keepers

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the breaking point when you decide that enough is enough. Whether you’ve been overlooked for a promotion, put down by a coworker or manager or work in a toxic workplace, you’ve decided that you are out of there.

The excuse you give, and it is usually an excuse and not the real reason, is that you want to work closer to home, need more family time or have a better opportunity. Not that all of those are reasonable—they are rarely the core reason why you depart.

Truth be told, the real reason is tied to something else that has built up over time. It’s not about the money, the commute, or family balance. In the workplace, goodbyes usually take a long time in coming.

The bureaucracy of the organization, system frustrations, not being given the appropriate tools to do a job effectively, working within an environment that supports mediocrity or with managers who have no business managing or just not being appreciated usually leads the list of what ails the workplace.

For the employee, it could be the toxic coworker that your manager fails or refuses to deal with; it could be your input has never been solicited and management dictates things that directly affect you and your productivity and are counter-productive to it; it could be that you are invisible, leaving no window for advancement, stretching your talents or even given training opportunities; or it could be that the art of respect isn’t practiced.

For the manager, it could be that no matter what you do, HR won’t support you in terminating the low-performing employee; it could be that your recommendations are routinely shot down at management meetings; it could be that the hour expectations are outrageous; it could be that no matter how good employees are, the door to advancement is closed to them (and maybe you) because of nepotism; or it could be that general respect and appreciation is missing.

By the time most people make the decision to leave, their loyalty factor to the organization has diminished to such a level that it would take a tsunami to alter it. For too many companies, their workplace slogan could be: We Keep Our Losers and Lose Our Keepers.

Replacing people costs money…lots of it.

How much? Most HR pros factor in 100-150 percent of the annual compensation for the person being replaced. You may ask, “Why so much and where do those moneys go to?”

Most people don’t know. An employer may have to pay recruiting fees, advertising costs related to the position, new training (or re-training), orientation expenses, moving expenses, sign-on bonuses, overtime to current staff or temp help until a permanent replacement comes in all add up to a tidy sum. There is some down time with the rest of the staff when the new person comes on board (and there is down time pre and post because everyone is talking about the vacancy factor and/or can the new team member do the work, etc.).

So, how do you circumvent the goodbyes of the workplace, and keep the keepers?

It starts with tuning and getting rid of what disconnects people—intervene and prevent them.

It starts with learning what the true culture of the workplace or team is.

It starts with finding out what the unwritten rules of the workplace are.

Sure, businesses have mission statements—most post them in the lobby; some print them on the back of business cards.

Mission statements always sound great. Ask, how closely do they model the behavior of what management and employees do? Are the written word and the behavior and actions in synch or are they in contrast of each other?

The answers are usually not close enough and they are out of synch.

Unhappy folks—be they on the employee side or management—will list communication snafus at the top of their list—missed, incomplete, wrong, none, too little and too late.

Workplaces should only have a few ways to communicate: verbal, written, or virtual. Of course, there are variations. Too many think that they can do it in a telepathic mode. Which means there’s none.

The key is to do it and do it timely, completely and with respect. And however it is done, to make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands the how-tos and what-fors. When communication is open, the disconnects disappear.

Do some digging—the unwritten rules of the workplace rule. Think—what did you wish you had been told when you first started working…and you learned via the hard knock route?

Was it one of the “pew” rules—a chair, pen, mug, parking place, desk—anything that someone else could perceive as “mine” and that you used by mistake?

There are rules dealing with employees who have kids and those that don’t (it’s amazing how so many managers seem to think that singles or those without kids can push the longer hours nor do they have other responsibilities); rules dealing with working with other departments; rules that imply how you have to deal with coworkers habits (smokers may get to take more breaks); rules that deal with housekeeping and cleaning up (anything in the refrigerator is fair game), etc., etc.

A savvy manager and employee will take the time to probe and find out all the nuances of what makes the workplace tick. Then, share them with others.

For a manager, if there is an employee who doesn’t fit; who plays games and pits worker against worker or withholds information that could be vital to a job, start the process to dehire.

For an employee, if there is a manager who doesn’t respect you; who plays games and pits worker against worker or withholds information that could be vital to a job, start the process to dehire yourself.

Today’s workplace slogan should be this: Lose the Losers and Keep the Keepers.