As I was writing the post on Celebrating Every Departure It got me thinking about The Great Resignation and my previous thoughts on the impact of changes (organizational, family, personal, societal) on an employee. To sum it up: with every change comes an emotional journey that looks like this (up on this scale is positive, energizing emotions and down is disturbing, energy-draining emotions):
The emotions, as one steps through this process look like this:
Despair (bottom of the curve)
Exploration (starting go up)
Section 1 - The Current Situation
When you add up everything that is going on in the life of most humans (aka employees), it is a lot. COVID, worldwide economic challenges, political drama, and family add up to a lot of stress that is unavoidable. And I did not yet mention work.
Depending on where you work, where you are in your career, what you do - there is a lot happening as well. What you end up with is a lot of overlapping curves that look like what I've shown above, but all happening at once and all happening with different amplitudes and wavelengths. The experience of change and its emotional aftermath looks like this for many humans today:
As leaders, we can either recognize this and do what we can to help our employees manage the changes and stress level that come along with this, or we can prepare for them to look elsewhere for those who will.
Managing this does not mean that we can help them with everything in their personal life or if they choose to over identify with external forces. We can't. We can help them isolate what is work related and what isn't and seek to understand where they are on those slopes, and see if we can help them.
For direct reports in many situations, it is also appropriate and helpful to know what is going on in their life and have a sense of what other events may be impacting them. This is probably obvious, but that does not mean that you can effectively help them with how they are managing the change. A helpful way to think of this is to look at the work related items and be willing to dig in on those (and to acknowledge there is often more than one). Perhaps something like this:
Section 2 - Responsibility
All of this can be very trying, for everyone. There's a lot going on in the world and to have it show up on top of work challenges is difficult. There's a temptation I feel at times to revert back to my earlier approaches. This largely consisted of ignoring people's personal problems and emotions. In my head, this sounded like this, "Focus on the work while you're at work and worry about your home life when you're at home."
This works for some people, but for a lot of others it doesn't. Some people are good at compartmentalizing, and some people are good for a while until they aren't. But even for them it doesn't mean that they aren't experiencing these things. The curves in green are still there and they are still the concern of leadership, if you want top performers and if you want your projects to go well.
So, I'll say this: none of this is your responsibility. Managing emotions is the responsibility of every individual.
But knowing and caring and guiding are things that you can do and that you may want to do, and they can be done in the name of performance and outcomes.
Regardless of the kind of leader you want to be, you employ humans (most of you) and that means that they experience this. You aren't responsible, but guiding people and offering help can lead to higher performance and better outcomes.
Section 3 - What You Can Do
Here is a list of things (some that I've been a part of implementing, and some that sound like good ideas) to deal with the large rate of change inside and outside the workplace:
Multi-level Check-ins - having additional check-ins with individuals outside of the normal supervisor check-ins. This is informal, but I do try to meet with a wide swath of employees, regardless of level. I have heard of companies implementing official programs to encourage directors/VPs/C-Level folks to meet with people below their normal direct reports. This gives you a gauge on what is happening and a chance to let people talk outside of normal meeting conventions, relationships, etc.
Starting Something New - a good remedy for all this change is more change. I've found that starting new programs, get-togethers, professional development opportunities, happy hours, volunteer opportunities, etc. can be good for people to have something to look forward to. This does not directly address the challenge itself, but it helps to balance the scales and see companies listening and operating in a positive way.
Willingness to Listen - a bit of a cliché, but true none-the-less. Be willing to listen (for real and in an active way) and search for places to use insights you gather.
Train Others to Listen, Especially New Managers - Often when people are transitioning into management they want to see things happen a certain way, or they believe that leading has to look a certain way. This type of certainty usually leads to not listening well to others. Listening and ideas can be seen as challenging to this orthodoxy or that orthodoxy because people don't agree or simply don't understand. Listening can help with that.
Be willing to circle back around to challenging topics without waiting for others to bring them up.
Follow Up - do the stuff that you say you are going to do.
Discerning Transparency - Where it doesn't damage the business, share what is going on.
Positive Reinforcement - Balance the noise and challenging emotions with your own voice - let people know how they are doing, and reinforce the things that are going well. Always link your positive reinforcement to specific, concrete things. Saying "Julio is great." or "Regina did an awesome job." is almost like saying nothing at all. Better to say, "Julio really killed it in the client presentation yesterday, he was totally prepared and was able to respond to the client's questions in real time." This is real, positive reinforcement that focuses on what you want to recognize.
Compassion - Have compassion for those around you. It is easy to look at things through the lens of numbers or through the lens of your problems and why certain things are hard for you. Try to look at it through other people's eyes and understand where they are coming from.
Change is hard. The big the change the greater the impact on an organization and it's people. A great leader understands this and constructs an organization to help people gather their own strength and bring their best to a business.
We can't protect people from change, but we can give them support to bolster their own resilience and a place where they know they will be listened to.
Price remains pretty constant so there does not seem to be any demand issues influencing the price of IP addresses. In fact, Azure price seems to have moved down slightly, over and above my mistake in using Azure's default 730 hour month calculation last time (there are no months with 730 hours in them, that I know of).
Perhaps this is the new, metric February we've been hearing so much about. :)
I think it is time to seriously look at the issues with security and factor that into the equation. Will be creating a blog post on this topic in the coming weeks.
Once someone has made up their mind to leave for a new job - once it's final and there is no convincing them otherwise - it is time to celebrate.
Yes, every time.
People leave jobs all the time. It is one of the great things about the USA: our freedom to take our talents where we like for the best or most benefit. And that system works best when people feel confident and mobile in their careers.
This doesn't make it any less painful for the company that loses an employee. Often, this is very inconvenient and can feel scary.
Of course, if you are working hard to build trust you will get the opportunity with some people to intervene early, but even then, things are going to happen, people will be headhunted, and you will have instances of the grass looking greener. People will leave.
When they do it is time to celebrate their accomplishments, both individual and team based, and to wish them well. Not just on the surface, not just as lip service, but also honestly and with the joy of seeing people succeed and move on.
My path to this realization has been long. It isn't that I wished people ill or got angry. I always tried to be supportive, but inside I was often full of fear - this person was key to an account or integral to a project, how will we succeed without them.
But really, what else can be done? Holding on to resentment isn't helpful. They're going to leave anyway. This is a thing to celebrate and I believe that regardless of the circumstances celebrating is appropriate.
It was a sales manager that I worked with that really made me see this. He finally had to say to me, "You're hanging on every person who leaves with a lot of stress. What if you celebrated all of them instead? We should be happy that they have grown and can be successful. We need to let them go."
It went against a lot of years of fighting to keep everyone all the time, but I came around. Here are my reasons why:
Show your employees that you care about their long term success. By celebrating each person who leaves you show them, publicly, that you don't harbor any hard feelings toward someone.
Make it easy for people to come back - when someone goes and you celebrate you build up good feelings that make them think of you when they are looking again (it may be sooner than they think).
Build team resilience - if the team sees that you are celebrating the departure because it is a natural part of life, they will move more easily through the change making them and the company more resilient. Being in resistance to the change will not make it easier and it won't stop it from happening.
Move more freely to the solution - once you stop resisting that it is happening you can think about what to do in the short term and long term.
This is challenging. As I've written in the past, you can't expect everyone to move as quickly in their response to change as you can. As a leader you're likely more adaptable and more experienced with change.
This is especially true when people are leaving. Be sure to include time in your celebration for the sadness people feel - let the celebration be part of the process of moving on. But don't let the sadness overwhelm or define the event.
In this case, you may need to push yourself as a leader and a manager - maybe you need to move through the curve even a little faster than you're comfortable with. Use it as an opportunity to grow. Say goodbye and stay in touch with people, they may have opportunities for you in the future.
Build the best work place you can, build culture, work to retain people, work extra hard for the superstars. Do all that. But eventually some will go. Take a deep breath, you did everything you could, time to celebrate as they move on to the next adventure.
I've written a decent amount over time about assuming positive intent. Whether it is employee recognition or finding ways to include gratitude - I think that this these types of tools are very important to battle our inherent bias toward negativity.
I recently received this article in an email from Trello. It is a good read, and I recommend it. They use a modified form of Hanlon's razor to seek out a more nuanced vision for why people do things. To quote them:
Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which can be explained by moderately rational individuals following incentives in a complex system of interactions.
This really works for me, though I prefer the much simpler maxim from an old boss of mine:
Assume positive intent
I think that it can be very hard to assume positive intent. It may be easier (in fact it may only be possible) to use the version that they came up with. I don't have to extend myself (though I do have to do work) to think about moderately rational individuals following incentives.
I believe you do have to extend yourself a little bit to assume positive intent. By which I mean, I have a desire to see my own motives in a positive light and I have to extend this to others and see me in them (and them in me) in order to assume positive intent.
Let's be straight though, it's hard sometimes. So I appreciate having a fallback position. When I can't see positive intent, I can look for moderately rational individual following incentives. And this much better than some of the alternatives that we sometimes come up with.