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Why Care About Why

They Leave?

The greatest obstacle

to discovery is not

ignorance—it is the

illusion of knowledge.

It was almost six weeks since Anna had resigned her position with her former

employer, but it was obvious that strong feelings were still stirring inside

her:

‘‘I was thrown into the job with no training. I asked for some one-onone

time with my manager to go over the project inside out, but he never

had the time. I sensed he didn’t really know enough to be able to thoroughly

brief me anyway.

‘‘When I got feedback that certain work wasn’t acceptable, he

wouldn’t be specific about how to correct it in the future. . . . He actually

enjoyed intimidating people and he had a terrible temper—he would ask

me a question and if I didn’t know the answer, he would make fun of me

in front of my coworkers. As it turns out, he wasn’t following the right

work procedures himself.

‘‘Later, when I was working way below my skill set, I was told they

weren’t ready to give me a promotion, even though I had mastered everything.

‘‘Finally, when I resigned, they didn’t seem interested in why I was

leaving. There was no exit interview. They never listened to me when I

was there, and they certainly didn’t care to listen when I left.’’

Anna went on to say that she loved her management position with her

new employer: ‘‘I’m still doing what I love to do, but in a much more

professional environment. There’s open communication and no gameplaying.

I know where I stand with them at all times.’’

One more thing—Anna went on to mention that she had hired away

a talented colleague from her former company.

In the post-exit interviews I conduct for client companies with employees

they regretted losing, these are the kinds of stories I hear. I know

there are two sides to every story, and that Anna’s former manager might

tell it differently. But I also know that there is truth in Anna’s story, and in

all the stories I hear—more truth than they were willing to tell their former

employers when they checked out on their last day of employment.

The good news is that some companies do wake up and realize it’s not

too late to start listening to former, and current, employees. Some grow

alarmed when several highly valued workers leave over the course of a few

weeks, and others become concerned about protecting their reputation as

a good place to work. Most companies, however, simply want to make

sure they have the talent they need to achieve their business objectives.

But the fact remains that many managers and senior executives don’t

care about why valued employees are leaving. Their attitude seems to be

‘‘If you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you in the backside on your

way out!’’

You care, or you wouldn’t have picked up this book. So why do you

care? Why even take the time and effort to uncover the real reasons employees

leave? It would be much easier just to accept what most employees

say in exit interviews. You know the usual answers: ‘‘more money’’ or

‘‘better opportunity.’’

Who has time to stop and wonder why they left, anyway? They’re

gone. They didn’t want to be here, so why worry about what they think?

We can’t expect to retain everybody we hire. Let’s just get on with finding

a replacement.

If this sounds familiar, it should, because it describes the prevailing

mindset of most managers in American companies today. Most are overworked

and many are frustrated with their inability to meet the demands of

the workforce, much less have time to do exit interviews. And increasingly,

human resource departments are so understaffed that they can do little

more than ask departing employees to quickly fill out exit surveys on their

last day.