The “Two Weeks’ Notice” Bombshell
Is this the radical solution you need to keep your best employees and move out disruptors?
It’s Friday and the end of a really long and exciting week. Your small but dynamic team has basically lived at the office to complete the company’s proposal for a piece of business that’ll change everything.
Just a few more days to go. You can taste the win.
Then Amanda, one of the stars on your team walks in. “Hi Amanda,” you say. “When we win this thing, I’ll be relying on you to deliver big time on this contract. I know I can always count on you.” Amanda sits down and hesitates before she speaks.
“I really appreciate your confidence in me. It means a lot. But I’ve got something I need to tell you and it may disappoint you.” Suddenly you get a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach and sit up ram-rod straight. She lays it on you. “I’m giving you my two weeks’ notice.”
Time stands still. You stare at her in shock as she gets up and quietly leaves your office.
What just happened? How did you not see this coming? Why didn’t she talk to you if she wasn’t happy? What went wrong?
Unfortunately, “two weeks’ notice” is the gut punch too often delivered at the end of many professional employment relationships. And you barely have two minutes to wallow in your bewilderment because you realize the miserable task you now face: replacing a key employee.
Two weeks. Bah! In this labor market? No shot. Then there’s the additional pressure on you and the rest of your team.
When I was climbing the corporate ladder, a few times a year I’d get a surreptitious call from a headhunter hoping to entice me to leave for the next great opportunity. I won’t lie, it was a thrill. And they caused me to take a closer look at my current situation and wonder whether the politics, roadblocks to advancement and other factors were worth my continued loyalty.
Usually, nothing came of it. I was blessed with some great bosses and challenging work. But sometimes it would have been nice to feel comfortable enough to talk about my situation and the other opportunities coming my way. To see how my current position could be improved. Instead, I played it close to the vest – twice leaving good jobs for greener pastures.
The other side of the coin
Suddenly losing a key contributor is one kind of pain. Similarly, but more lingering and destructive, is the pain felt from an employee who has become (or has always been) a wrong person or in the wrong seat (see your EOS Accountability ChartTM). Despite the fact that their continued presence chips away at the cultural fabric of your company, removing them can, at best, be awkward and at worst, present a real HR challenges So, the issue persists.
In cases such as this, managers have been trained to employ strategies like a "Performance Improvement Plan" to lay the groundwork for significant change in behavior or documenting the case for removal by just cause. It’s arduous, time consuming and expensive. Not to mention the continued downslide in morale. What small business has these kinds of available time and resources to fix this problem?
In a recent Friday Forward email, Robert Glazer describes an alternative that flips “two weeks’ notice” upside-down. What if we made it OK for an employee to leave our company? What if we encouraged them to share their concerns early, made them feel heard and worked with them to make things better – even if it meant transitioning them to another employer?
We might heed the advice of Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix. She goes as far as suggesting that along with providing honest feedback, we provide job references and time off to find a new job to those employees who are no longer a fit.
This alternative approach intentionally removes the stigma attached to voicing concerns over job performance, career development, compensation and work environment. It extends and reinforces the essential quality of open and honest discussion of issues at every level of the organization. It carries with it the potential to uncover people issues and solve them in a collaborative fashion, for the good of all.
Real leadership and management
A component of this approach is eradicating traditional performance reviews and remediation programs. In their place are real-time mentoring and frequent goal-setting and review sessions. In EOS, the system we coach leadership teams on using, this is real LMATM (which stands for leading, managing and holding accountable). You might consider tailoring such discussion sessions to cover future performance expectations, career advancement and compensation and work environment issues.
Open and collaborative employee transitions might be a radical idea to some. But wouldn’t that be less disruptive and less costly than allowing a bad situation to fester? Or than waiting for a valued employee to drop the “two weeks’ notice” bombshell?
Ideas to Consider
- Make it “more than OK” for employees and managers to be open and honest about concerns related the normally uncomfortable topics of job performance, development, work environment and compensation.
- Consider creating and open and collaborative approach to transitioning employees to more satisfying situations – even if you help them get a job at another company.
- Abandon traditional employee reviews for frequent mentoring and discussion sessions on performance expectations as well as career development – use these meetings as an opportunity to hunt for people issues.