6 Surefire Ways to Lose Good Employees


Turnover. It’s a costly word.  It directly impacts your budget with advertising, training and overtime expenses.  Sure, you save on payroll during the recruitment process, but any savings realized is offset by lost productivity, overtime and paid leave disbursements.  What cannot be quantified as a budget gain or loss is the cost of the knowledge, relationships, training and experience that walked out the door with your staff member.

The return on investment grows over time and, quantifiable or not, has a positive effect on the bottom line, efficiency, productivity, customers and ultimately morale.

Anyone who has ever left a job has a story behind their exit decision and any manager who has ever lost a respected team member has a story too. If you do not see the benefit in reducing turnover and retaining key staff members, or you think employee satisfaction surveys are a bunch of hooey, here are six tried and true ways to lose employees.  Sadly, these examples are based on real events that happened to both colleagues and friends.

  1. Let your team know that they are replaceable. Be sure to let them know that there are over a 100 people lined up for their job, willing to work for less money. Regale them with stories on how their breadth of knowledge, loyalty and work ethic add absolutely no value.  Oh, and don’t forget to add that their “replacements” do not care about such trivial things as working conditions, pay increases or happiness.  Close your conversation by saying employees are a dime a dozen and generally a pain in the rear.  For good measure, you could tell them, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
  1. Don’t be consistent in enforcing policies and procedures. Yell at one person for not including the correct purchase authorization forms but completely ignore the same requirements for someone else. For good measure you can make the inconsistencies person specific – Joe has to fill out every form and following every policy, but it is ok for Bill not to be bothered with any of that nonsense. As for you, their supervisor and leader, well you can follow policies and procedures when you feel like it.  The rules are for others.
  1. Promote the wrong people. Here is the perfect opportunity to pick the dude that sleeps on the job. Hey, he’s really nice to you and always tells you what a good job you are doing, so he must be the perfect guy for the promotion. He obviously knows what he’s talking about, you are good.  Once he takes over his new duties be sure to ignore complaints from his subordinates and overlook his frequent napping.  Act baffled when others show no respect.  For added fun, be sure to let the rest of team know his value.  Give him an award or another promotion.
  1. Don’t treat staff like humans. Face it, life is messy. There are sick kids, soccer games, hobbies, pets, family events, death, trauma and none of this belongs at work. Offer zero flexibility for schedules or time off and make sure that everyone knows they need to be in their chair for a minimum of 8 hours a day. Whatever you do — do not show empathy.  These folks are your personal robotic workforce and they need to be treated as though they do not have a life outside of work.  Expect them to be at  your beck and call 24 hours a day.   For extra fun, find someone with the weekend off and a vacation starting on a Monday.  Call them late Friday and tell them you need them to work Saturday. When they tell you they’ve made vacation plans, vehemently express your distain and tell them their vacation doesn’t start until Monday.  Threaten to fire them if they don’t show up on Saturday.
  1. Pit team members against other. This is pretty self-explanatory. Simply put, find something of value, say pay increases, and make employees fight each other for the raise.  Chaos will ensue and morale will plummet.

6. Undermine their authority. Another easy one – When your downline managers make a decision contradict it.  Take action in the opposite direction.  Better yet tell each team member something different, take your own action, or give an assignment where you say just the opposite of the team.

Wendy Dutenhoeffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Eugene de Ribeaux

Thanks Wendy. You certainly have described a very unpleasant manager. Even Michael Scott of the “The Office” seems more likable!! Thankfully I haven’t had to work for any folks like this, but do know they are out there. The bigger challenge, I suspect, are managers who THINK they are NOT doing these things, but inadvertently are – through unintended words or actions.

Sonia Chakrabarty

Thanks for this post! These are incredibly helpful things to keep in mind for what not to do at all levels, from management on down.

Paul Alberti

Nice List Wendy, thank you. My questions is, we write these lists out several times a year, books by the dozens are written and management training programs make millions teaching how to be a manager. But we keep writing and teaching the same list +/- a few steps. Are Supervisors/managers that forgetful we have to keep writing lists, are supervisors/managers not reading or learning the lists? Or, do they just not care and keep making the same mistakes over and over again?
Why are we not seeing an upturn in better supervisory/management behaviors if these steps are so common and obvious?

Juana Williams

Paul, not every organization has meaningful management training. The “manager training” basically consists of the forms needed and how to complete them! Employees have to be considered people (not just numbers) before training would include how to treat people.

Doug Glass

I’m intrigued…insomuch I will inquire after that elusive sixth surefire way to lose a good employee. Somehow, I am certain, I have falling victim to it.