Why Won’t You Leave?

The other day I was talking to a friend about the turnover he was experiencing in his department. He mentioned that he had the opportunity to conduct exit interviews with many of them but wasn’t really learning anything useful from them. And it was hard to find new people.

We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? And we’ve heard the wisdom that people don’t leave their jobs as much as they leave their bad boss or their wrong culture. But my friend wasn’t a bad boss (as far as I could tell) and the culture wasn’t toxic (also as far as I could tell). Yet, if this wisdom is indeed wise, what would motivate a person who is on their way out the door to tell their boss or HR rep anything useful?

We thought about the value of focusing not on the people leaving, but on the people staying. Why are you still here? And furthermore, by talking to the people who haven’t left, we could get a sense of who might be thinking about leaving. We could also learn about the people who are still here but mostly due to inertia, a kind of spurious loyalty that can lead to the exit ramp soon as an opportunity becomes available.

And, importantly, who is still here because they want to be here. They like it here. Maybe they love it here and we want to know what they love. Maybe they know other people like them who would also love it here and lead to an even more cohesive culture. And maybe things aren’t perfect, but if we show the people who stay a little more love, they’ll tell us how we can lead them to love us even more.

So don’t forget the members of your team who are still with you.

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