When your employee outgrows you

header_EmployeeOutGrowsCompany

Crystal Spraggins

Once in a while, you’ll find that the reward for a fabulous hire is an employee who’d be better off managed by someone else—someone with more skill, more knowledge, deeper pockets, or perhaps, access to more challenging or more prestigious work. 

All relationships evolve over time, and your relationship with your staff is no different. Even the employees who seem most vested in your mission may eventually decide to work elsewhere. That’s life.

Here’s a list of dos and don’ts for taking “life” in stride.

Don’t be difficult

Does the prospect of sourcing and hiring someone new who may or may not work out fill you with joy? My guess is no. Still, that’s not a reason to give your departing employee a hard time. Don’t try and load the employee up with a last-minute laundry list of projects, don’t look at him cross-eyed when coworkers take him out for a congratulatory lunch and he comes back 20 minutes late, and don’t start being standoffish. It’ll just make the last few days awkward, give the employee an incentive to leave everything as undone as possible, and cause you to look petty.

Do be gracious

You said so yourself—this is an excellent employee! He’s done fine work for you over the years, so don’t begrudge him happiness now because it’s a bit inconvenient for you. Say congratulations and mean it. Tell him you’ll be sorry to see him go but do understand that it’s time for him to move on. It’s the humane and mature thing to do, and it’s good karma, too.

Do put yourself in your employee’s shoes

Seriously, would you give up a great career opportunity that had the potential to benefit you fiscally, emotionally, and intellectually just because your current boss might not like it? Yeah… that sounds silly, doesn’t it?   

Do stay in touch

So you won’t be around to witness first-hand your star employee’s next great accomplishment. Well, things change. (We just talked about that, remember?) Your business will change, your (former) employee’s goals will change, and there’s always a chance your work paths will cross in the future, just when the employee is ready to make his next big move, only this time your opportunity is exactly what he wants. The world is smaller than we think.

Don’t make this about you

You’ll be impacted by your employee’s decision, yes, but this isn’t about you. This is about your employee and his career growth. Stay focused, please.

Don’t be bitter

Perhaps you’ve been mentoring this employee for years. Perhaps he was having a hard time finding gainful employment until you gave him a chance. Perhaps your job “rescued” him from a terrible work situation. Whatever. If the employee did his job and then some, he’s repaid your good deed in full. Here’s a hard truth. You may feel territorial about this employee, but he owns his career, not you. You did a good thing in offering this person a job, and you received something good in return. Don’t ruin it by being bitter now.

Don’t badmouth your departing employee

She didn’t give enough notice. She left to go to a competitor. She stonewalled when you asked whether she was looking for another job. (You shouldn’t have asked that, by the way.) Whatever her misdeeds in your eyes, don’t badmouth her now that she’s gone. Did she do a good job for you? Then let the rest be. Your criticism won’t convince anyone that you’re justified in being miffed. It’ll only reflect poorly on you.

Do plan for that next great hire

You did it once, and you can do it again! Now’s your chance to revise that job description and think about any gaps between your departing employee’s performance and your preferences. Nobody’s perfect, so take this occasion to hire a new employee who suits you even better than the fantastic one who moved on.

There’s a reason why an entire industry has emerged around the notion of managing change. Change is difficult. However, change can be beneficial, too.

So roll with the punches on this one. A few months from so, you’ll be glad you did.

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