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Let Unhappy Employees and Vendors Go – Don’t Chase

letting an employee goSeveral years ago I hired a vendor that wasn’t a good fit. Try as we might to work together, we didn’t communicate well. Everything was a struggle. After a frustrating few weeks, the owner of the business offered to refund my money and amicably part ways. His company had already done work on our behalf and I didn’t want to lose momentum. I turned him down. That was a mistake. When a small business owner, who needs your business (money), tells you to go elsewhere, listen. We parted ways a few months later in a much more costly and less amicable way.

You don’t want to work with people who don’t want to work with you. The same is true for friends and romantic relationships. Don’t chase people. If they don’t want you, move on. There are lots of other people who will see your value.

There are differing schools of thought on whether or not you should try to retain unhappy employees who quit. I’d be interested in seeing statistics on how long employees who quit but are then retained, stay with an organization and how well they perform. I’d let them go. Again, you don’t want people who don’t want you.

The challenge is that most people are afraid to speak up in organizations and relationships (of all kinds) when they’re unhappy. Unhappy employees typically quit versus make requests and give feedback.

The antidote is to create a culture in which employees, vendors, and customers openly make requests and talk about what is and isn’t working. Create a climate of candor in which feedback is exchanged regularly versus just during exit interviews, which is too late.

How to know when to cut bait with unhappy employees and vendors:

  1. You’ve had several open discussions and can’t meet each others’ needs. If you don’t have a job the employee wants, that’s a good reason to part ways.
  1. It’s not a good culture fit. You talk and talk but don’t communicate. Issues don’t get resolved. Frustration is the norm. This is also a good reason to end a working (or personal) relationship.

Five steps to create a more candid culture:

  1. Discuss employees’, customers’, and vendors’ needs and requests at the beginning of working relationships. Agree upon what success and a good job looks like. Ask lots and lots of questions, and listen closely to the answers.
  1. Ask for feedback regularly. Conduct a weekly plus/delta (a discussion of what is and isn’t working) during which all parties are invited and expected to speak freely. The more you have these discussions, the easier they will be and the more candid people will become.
  1. Address challenges as they come up.
  1. Discuss challenges that can’t be fixed.
  1. If a relationship isn’t working, end it sooner rather than later. Be slow to hire and quick to fire.

There are lots of talented vendors and employees. Find employees and suppliers who are easy to work with (for you) and who can meet your needs, and vice versa. If you can’t meet each others’ needs or the relationship is a constant struggle, those are good reasons to move on. Don’t chase.

why employees quit

About 

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at www.candidculture.com.

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One Response to “Let Unhappy Employees and Vendors Go – Don’t Chase”

  1. Cindy Foreman says:

    Great article, Shari! I would like add a comment on this where employees are concerned.
    If you’ve worked hard to develop a good rapport with your employees, which I have, and one of them tells you they need to leave because of salary, for example, due to changing family circumstances, it’s worth having a conversation to determine if you can improve on whatever the issue is. I went through this with one of my best employees, and upon learning the circumstances, I went to the mat trying to keep him since he was very happy in his job and with our team. Unfortunately, all of my efforts didn’t get the results needed to retain him, due to employer limitations, so I then did everything in my power to help him find a new job that met his needs. And we have stayed in touch ever since.
    I want my employees to strive for more, and I tell them that and do everything in my power to help them maintain their marketability. In the IT industry, change is constant, as is turnover. But when you show them you believe in them and care enough to invest in their future as much as they do, you shouldn’t be disappointed when they’re ready to spread those wings and fly. I’m proud of them and happy to help them grow, and when they display the confidence to step out into the world to take on more than I can provide them, I consider that a success.
    Happily, when I lost that outstanding employee, he referred his ‘replacement’ to me who was a friend of his who happened to be looking, and I was able to hire that person and he’s working out great too.

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