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Why People Leave Your Team

Appreciating your colleagues, subordinates and even those that rank above you is an important endeavour that many seem to forget about. There are various ways to do it and things don’t necessarily have to be complicated.

I remember an event where I had a friend who stayed with his job for more than a decade, and not because he was short of offers, or the degree of study he was in was too niche that it only appealed to a small select group of companies. This person had no shortage of suitors and industries to venture into and it often puzzled me why he stayed. Naturally, I asked him why he refused to switch jobs despite the higher salary other companies were offering. To most of us, it would be a no-brainer to switch jobs when another company of the same standing offers us a larger salary and perhaps even more incentives. He simply told me that the current company he’s in treated him very well, and was very understanding even to his own personal needs.

Don’t get me wrong, he mentioned that the job hours were long and he had to work overtime in the office more often than some. Sometimes he even had to bring work home and slog over the weekends, but there were barely any complaints from him. He delved further into periods when he was going through a difficult time adjusting to the workload or when he had to deal with personal issues, and how these things would have gotten him fired in such a hyper-competitive environment. Despite that, his supervisors and colleagues were oddly supportive of him, and often gave him a reasonable amount of time to deal with his troubles. They mentored him and guided him into the indispensable worker he is today. He developed a sort of loyalty. When he mentioned this, I couldn’t wrap my head around it because surely you could place a value on the extra work hours you had to do, which the other companies were clearly willing to cover (even if their workload was significantly lesser). In fact, even gratitude has a limit.

Fast forward into a pandemic, I’m starting to gain greater clarity in why he refused to leave. I see companies throwing their employees under the bus when these employees slogged and worked hard for them when times were good. I’m not talking about the companies that were being hit by the pandemic and had to reduce their staff, but those who had minimal impacts (and with some earning even larger profits) during this uncertain and volatile period. Some companies also implemented more ways to supervise their employees when they were working from home, often affecting the overall morale of the team. Surely these managers would have reasoned with themselves that being a micromanager would bring about detriments eventually. In scenarios like this, workers will jump ship even for a superficial wage increase. It is difficult to retain your best and productive staff when you don’t treat them like a member of your team but instead treat them like a robot. The converse treatment holds as well. When employees trust their workers to make the right decisions, to give them space to do their things while offering their guidance and support, these employees will feel less caged up and more grateful. These employees may develop a certain sense of loyalty (and gratitude), and productivity will likely increase in the long term. They will also find less reason to jump ship. Afterall, their companies did not forsake them during their bad times, so why should they leave when the roles are reversed?

There are many ways to show appreciation to our colleagues and subordinates and these can be in the form of a simple understanding when they have to leave early to deal with a personal issue. Rather than probe them, a simple benefit of the doubt can sometimes go a long way. In fact, for most people I know, gifts don’t really carry much weight — contrary to popular belief. Expensive luxury gifts or a higher bonus may not necessarily generate the same level of loyalty than something that is non-tangible (although money is still important.) Another simplistic way of showing appreciation is also just to let them do things at their own, agreed pace (where it also does not neglect productivity). Understanding how another person works is paramount to improving company dynamics, and it can truly go a long way in keeping your team bonded and close. Small acts generate loyalty.

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