You might say that many in HR suffer from fear of abandonment. You monitor employee turnover rates. You create compensation plans to maximize employee retention. You do succession planning to ensure people have a pathway to develop within the organization. In other words, you pour a ton of effort and energy into ensuring people don’t leave.
The thought of employees quitting and leaving is scary. But here’s what’s scarier and more insidious: employees who quit and stay.
At a fundamental level, when employees become frustrated, discouraged or demoralized, there are often three coping mechanisms:
- Proactively work to make the situation better. While this is the path we’d all like to think is the best one for employees, it can be a tough slog. It usually involves confronting people about the root causes of their frustration. It requires that the frustrated and discouraged employee exposes the fact he’s demoralized—often times to the very people who are the root cause of the morale damage. It’s the noble approach, but it’s not the easiest.
- Quit and leave. This one’s pretty simple. At some point, people will decide that life is too short to be frustrated and discouraged at work, and they’ll search for a new job. And if they’re valuable contributors, there’s a pretty good chance they find work elsewhere, and then it’s “sayonara.”
- Quit and stay. Ultimately, this is the path of least resistance, and as humans, we tend to like that path. It’s easy enough to rationalize: “Hey, I’m still collecting a paycheck; I’ll just stick with it, keep getting paid and stop investing myself emotionally in something that only frustrates and demoralizes me. And hey, maybe things will magically get better if I stick it out—so it’s a win-win.” This is the choice that happens silently, without anyone ever knowing the decision was made. It might even happen subconsciously—without the employee knowing consciously he’s made the decision. And this is the choice—if made by enough people—that can erode a company’s culture from the inside out.
Organizations are best off when they can create environments where employees don’t need to pursue any of these to coping mechanisms. HR leaders want to create environments where employees are engaged in their work.
So what’s the formula to ensure that employees sustain their passion for their job and their company? Stay tuned tomorrow for some suggestions courtesy of management expert Ken Blanchard.