10 ways to lose your best employees #blindpost

by Jeff Hilimire on January 11, 2014

This is a blindpost suggested to me by Joe* from Fast Company entitled, 10 ways to lose your best employees.

“Your best employees”, that’s an interesting concept by itself. But let’s assume for arguments sake that you have a pool of employees that are your “best”. The high performers, self-starters, over-achievers, do-it-all-and-bake-you-a-cake-afterwards kinda people.

Before you can start thinking about how not to lose them, you have to understand what motivates them. In my experience, those type of employees are less motivated by money (assuming they are compensated competitively) and are more motivated by things like:

  • Autonomy
  • Understanding the vision and how they can impact it
  • Positive affirmation and recognition (privately and publicly)
  • Loving the culture


10 ways to lose your best employees

  • Treat them less like partners and more like employees. Don’t share with them or the rest of the staff. Keep your strategy and decisions close to the vest and be vague in your answers. This is probably the fastest way to get rid of your best employees.
  • Move them up too quickly in the organization. These people are your best performers so it would be normal to see them rise within the organization quickly, taking on more responsibility and overseeing more critical tasks. This, however, can be detrimental in the long run as you could easily put them in a position to fail and be unhappy in their role. See Peter Principle for more on this concept.
  • Let them work overwork themselves. I would say about half of the over-achievers that I’ve worked with spend way, way too much time actually “working”. They are more susceptible to burn out and frequently skip vacation days or fail to “unplug” when they are actually on vacation.  Eventually they will leave for greener pastures assuming that the next place won’t work them so hard.
  • Create a competitive atmosphere between them. These top folks don’t need extra incentive to do their jobs but too often managers will try to pit them against each other in order to get the most out of them. That never works.
  • Single them out as your favorites. Honestly, I struggled with this one in the past. Not that I would call it out openly but everyone seemed to know who my favorite employees were at any given time. If I was being defensive, I’d say that’s because they were pretty much everyone’s favorite employees because they kicked all sorts of a$$, however, when people perceive someone as being the teacher’s pet they treat them differently which can cause a sometimes toxic work environment for the super star.
  • Forget that they are “people” and fail to get to know them personally. If these are people that you want to invest in and keep around for a while, it pays to spend time with them and understand what motivates them.
  • Don’t give them opportunities to grow. Many over-achievers won’t raise their hand to complain that they’re bored in their current role. They will silently continue doing their job but their eyes will start wondering to other companies and other roles. Have frequent conversations (quarterly is probably fine) to make sure you are giving them opportunities to grow and expand their role.
  • Assume they don’t need (or want) training. This is a big one and something that I missed on many times in my past. On the surface it will feel like these employees don’t need training because they are great. But they value the ability to improve themselves and will appreciate you helping them do that.
  • Don’t surround them with other great people. Great people like to work with great people. They push each other, inspire each other, and most importantly, they respect each other. Surround your stars with a bunch of schlubs and you can be guaranteed to lose them.
  • Create a sh&tty culture. Here’s the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen.

~ if you liked this blindpost, here are more you can check out. And a handful of my friends will suggest blindposts for me to write from time to time, please feel free to do that too!

* Check out Joe’s fairly recent blog!

  • http://AgencySparks.com/ Joe Koufman

    Excellent post, and thanks for the plug! I am sure I was always your favorite, so thanks for that… :-]

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