It’s All About the Heart

We spend a lot of time strategizing about retaining our best people. Retention schemes run the gamut from stay interviews to stay bonuses, stretch assignments, etc.; these are great options for trying to keeping our best people. Unfortunately, we usually don’t realize we need someone until we hear a rumor that they are looking or we get a resignation notice. At this point some managers start hyperventilating and scurry about trying to figure out how to get the employee to stay.  Depending on the person, this is one of those CODE RED situations where managers are stalking HR trying to get authorization for a stay bonus or some other ridiculous perk.  There are two things wrong with this approach:

  1. How is this surprising? Very rarely is an employee’s departure a true shock. Sometimes it’s a shock to the manager but the entire team is pretty much aware that Susie was “looking.”  Other times, it is a shock to the team but not the manager.
  2. Is the departing employee truly the best of the best? Or do we still think of them that way because of the great contract they landed two years ago.  Are they still bringing in beaucoup bucks or just mailing in the minimum?


The way I see it is that by the time you get someone’s resignation notice…it’s over.  At first I thought this was just my thought process and way of thinking, because when I make a decision I tend to make it and be done.  On the opposite spectrum, I know people who make a decision but can still be swayed because they haven’t truly made up their mind.  Regardless of where on the spectrum the decision maker is, over time and experience I’ve learned that when you get that resignation letter it’s over.  Why? Think about it.  Remember back to the last time you gave notice that you were leaving a job…by the time you got to your bosses office,  walked in the door and sat down,  you had already:

  1. Started calculating what you could do with your bump up in salary
  2. Started relishing the thought that you wouldn’t have to work for your old boss anymore
  3. Started relishing the thought of not working with the people you dislike
  4. Started thinking about which people you would miss
  5. Gotten really excited about all the new perks and/or opportunities at your new job


Get the point? If you offer your soon-to-be-departed employee a ridiculous stay-on bonus or some other perks you are going to have an employee who is only staying because of the money or perks you gave them.  They have already mentally said good bye.  The stay bonus will lose its luster in a few months and your employee will again be dissatisfied and disengaged.

If you are faced with trying to keep a good employee, take a minute to really think about the employee and their performance. Is their heart still in it? I believe it’s really all about the heart.  Do they care about their work? Do they care about their team? Do they care about their company? If you suspect their heart isn’t in it anymore, there is nothing you can do but wish them well in the future.  After all, would you want someone working for you who is clearly there just to cash their check or gaming the system just to get a bump in salary?

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7 thoughts on “It’s All About the Heart

  1. I resigned from a position, and it took two days to finalize it. I finally told them “I understand you would prefer I stay, because you respect my decision process. Respect this decision as well, please.” That resolved it.
    So now, when an employee resigns and someone asks “What are we going to do?”, I say that we will wish them well and seek a replacement.
    No ones wins in the counter-offer struggle.

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