4 Ways to Lose Top Performers – Part 2

 Discouraging drive and desire for promotion

Secondly, we can inadvertently stymie the professional ambition of our most talented employees and place them in a vulnerable position. I often feel that an organization could increase retention by positioning itself as concerned about their personal development. This could be a competitive advantage if you can show personal growth even when positional mobility may not be present.

Mark was a manager who used a different technique to weaken the resolve of his employees, sabotaged their ambition and placed them in a position ready for defecting. Mark’s manager decided to work with three of the star performers on  Mark’s team to determine their readiness or potential for promotions down the road. Each individual true to Mark’s pre workday comments were happy in their current roles and had no ambition beyond a sales role. The manager was particularly impressed with one individual. He asked her why she was not interested in a management role. She hesitated then responded, “Mark is always complaining about the lack of work life balance in his job. He left them voice mail and e-mail messages at one thirty in the morning. His voice mail messages often sounded tired and harried and she could not see herself devoting this much time to a management position.

Mark also felt it necessary to second guess upper management decisions. Rather than adopting than supporting the position and teaching his team to figure out how to make the decisions work. He could have relied on past experiences and stories to show how we can release the power within us to achieve these objectives. He could have used the instances as a growth opportunity, a teaching moment. Companies are worried about the competition stealing their employees when they have managers within making them vulnerable to capture. 

During turbulent times the excellent manager will focus their team on matters they can control. They would instruct them to move away from thoughts and behavior that are not productive. I saw a presentation on gratitude, when the team was asked to flip chart all of the things we should be grateful for as a part of the company. The group was surprised at the comprehensive list they developed. They were accustomed to looking at the difficult aspects of their jobs.

Ironically, Mark did not want to lose his employees to promotions. Therefore, he did not speak highly of relocations. Since there were limited sales positions available, if someone did not want to go to the home office, they would feel there were limited opportunities. Individuals left the company because of this perception which could have been handled differently by their manager. He ended up losing them anyway.

The aiding and abetting can also occur at lower levels in the organization.  Negative veteran employees can be a detriment to retaining less tenured co-workers. Susan was a 21 year veteran of our company. She was a mainstay of his territory. She had seen many managers and team members come and go, but she was steadfast never interested in promotions. We began to wonder if Susan was a positive influence, especially with her longevity. Veteran representatives have credibility with newer employees, after all they should know since they have been around so long.  Susan’s sales were always good so we left her alone, but her team members left and Susan remained.

After a merger, I was surprised to see Susan’s name on the list of candidates for a management position. I ensured that I was on the panel that interviewed her. Why after so many years was she finally interested? She gave credible responses such as her children were out of college and she could devote full-time to managing. When we asked for the names of people she had mentored and helped move up in the organization, she drew a blank. After a long pause she mentioned the name of a 6 month representative she took a job because of a recent opening in his area. She spent twenty-one years with us and could not cite evidence of a consistent pattern of developing her peers.

Susan did not get the job and was angry. I could not settle her down on a one hour telephone conversation. She was so upset she became a performance problem, equipped with insubordination. I was convinced from her comments that she had been that negative force we suspected. She had probably helped more people leave then she convinced to stay. Susan’s story had a happy ending. I received a letter from her telling me about her role mentoring and developing new employees. They looked up to her and took pride in their development. She no longer wanted to be a manager and was happy in her new role. She could have been doing this for years. I wonder how many she could have saved, but that was a pointless line of thinking.

4 Ways to Lose Top Performers – Part 3 – Next week

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