A reader writes:
I’m a manager who has trouble when employees leave. I had a recent experience where I was shocked that my employee was leaving, despite having no inkling of it prior and also having extensive conversations where we discussed her future.
I get that things come up and that people need to do what they think is best for them, but I work really hard to be professionally supportive and understanding of personal issues (and I was very helpful with this employee around family issues). I just feel betrayed. Thanks for your advice.
It’s not a betrayal, and it’s not personal. People leave jobs. It’s normal.
You can be the most supportive boss in the world, and people are still going to leave. It doesn’t have to be a reflection on you; it’s often about wanting new challenges, wanting a shorter commute, wanting more money, wanting to get more experience in a different area, simply wanting a change, or all kinds of other reasons that have nothing to do with you.
Or, it could be about you — and sometimes it probably is. You don’t like everyone (I assume), and it’s not reasonable to expect that everyone will like you. As a manager, you have a very specific style and way of managing. Some people will like it (hopefully), and other people will not. That’s okay. That’s normal.
And ultimately, the biggest thing to keep is mind is that employees don’t owe you lifelong loyalty. That’s not what the relationship is. It’s business. It’s not family or friendship, no matter how warm the relationships might feel. These are people who are working for you in exchange for money. They might really like you, but this is still a business transaction. (See how many of them would keep showing up if you stopped paying them.) And part of this relationship is that either side gets to terminate it. Just as you might lay off or fire someone, your staff members might leave. That’s part of the deal.
As a manager, the best thing you can do is to make real efforts to retain high-performing staff members … but to be genuinely happy for people when they move on to the next thing in their lives. And know that it will happen eventually no matter what you do.