The Deliberation Process

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Lee also points out that there are two distinct periods in an employee’s

process of thinking about leaving—the first period being the time between

an employee’s first thoughts of quitting and the subsequent decision to

leave. As an example, one ex-employee said:

‘‘After the merger I gave it a year to see what the company would be

like, and I tried to keep my attitude positive, but things were no different,

so I started looking.’’

Another man I interviewed told me that when he was promoted, no

announcement went out, which he took as a personal slight. He first started

thinking about leaving when he asked for more responsibility, but was

turned down. He knew he had proved himself in his current position. The

disappointment was made even more bitter because he had lived abroad

for a year, apart from his wife and son, and he felt the company owed him

a new opportunity. Instead of getting the job he wanted, he was transferred

to another department. That’s when he made the decision to leave.

The second period in the deliberation process is the time between the

employee’s decision to leave and the actual leaving. As you might expect,

the chances of a manager re-recruiting and successful gaining renewed

commitment from an employee are not as great during this second period

as they might have been during the first. This is why it is important for

managers to be alert to the signs that an employee is just starting to disengage

when there is still time to do something about it.

Since most disengagements begin with some kind of shocking event

like those listed above, managers need to keep their antennae up for signals

that a valued employee may have recently received a disappointing shock

Or better yet, because it is often hard to read the feelings of employees

from the looks on their faces, managers should simply sit down with their

direct reports on a regular basis and ask, ‘‘how are things with you?’’ Such

simple, caring questions can help avoid turnovers like the one mentioned

above, opening up discussions that can lead to a resolution of the precipitating

issue.

Or, perhaps the employees could have done more on their own initiative

to resolve the situations. Or, maybe they had done all they could.

It may even have been impossible for the managers to accommodate the

employees’ wishes. We will never know. The point is, if the manager does

not regularly initiate such discussions, and they never happen, it is the

manager and the organization that risk suffering the loss of talent and the

high costs of turnover.

When we consider the gradual, unfolding nature of employee disengagement

and that, as research reveals, 75 percent of employees are disengaged,

there can be but one conclusion: The need for managers to initiate

action to engage and re-engage employees is urgent, and the daily opportunity

to do so is ever-present.