Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tough loss

This week saw me experience the first ever of my employees to resign. Tough, tough loss.

I've had Help Desk contractors who have left to do other things, which is what I prepare them to do since there are rarely opportunities for them to come on-board.

I've had employees that I've wanted to fire, but thankfully haven't, because it helped me get better at coaching problematic individuals and poor performers.

This one was a high performing, ambitious, young professional. If one should always be looking for their replacement as a way to facilitate their own upward mobility, this person was to be my replacement.

I shouldn't be surprised, given that their departure is identical to a career mistake I wish I could take back. Hubris. I was going to get my way come hell or high water, and if it meant I had to quit to show how serious I was, I was going to do it. So, out the door I went to a 45% raise and better vacation and benefits and less stress. And I liked it for exactly 9 months, at which point I began to loathe it.

This employee has taught me a lot over the 5 years I've mentored him. They challenged me when I've been less than intellectually honest, when I've been less than engaged, when I've bordered on doing something rash in the name of righteousness, when I've been unnecessarily rigid in my beliefs or decisions.

Leading this individual has also reinforced to me some lessons I had already learned.

Problems will always get fixed. Maybe not on the time table you'd prefer, and maybe not without having it brought to light and guarded repeatedly, but they do get fixed.

The grass is never, ever greener. The only reason this person went to another employer was because it was different. They might as well have gone to McDonald's. I've heard the pitch, the rationale, etc. - it doesn't add up. Bottom line, whether or not they were right, they believed that they were undervalued and that this fact would never ever change. Sounds awful familiar.

Hopefully I'll be able to remember and believe these lessons over the next 5 - 7 years, because there are periods of time where it's very, very difficult to keep going down this same road. I know that doesn't make my condition unique. I'd be perfectly justified in leaving, just as my departed employee was. That doesn't make leaving a good idea.

Now I have to identify who will be the next leader - either someone I have working for me already, or someone who we bring on-board specifically for the purpose. It would be tough for me to go somewhere else at this level never having lost a key employee. I'm actually looking forward to the opportunity to use this event to change some things for the better.

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