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What do sex, drugs, and turnover have in common?

When my kids were in elementary school, I didn’t talk openly about sex or drugs.

See, I was afraid if I talked about it, then they’d do it.

So I just pretended that sex and drugs didn’t exist.

Which taught my kids to pretend the same thing, at least in front of me.

 

When I was a manager, I felt the same way about people leaving.

I was afraid if I talked about it, then they’d do it.

Instead, I pretended that people who worked for me would never leave.

Which taught my team to pretend the same thing, at least in front of me.

 

Looking back, this wasn’t a helpful way to prepare my kids for adult life.

Instead of open communication, it created secrecy around those topics.

Which meant they didn’t learn about them from me, but from their friends – or the internet.

 

And pretending my employees would never leave wasn’t a helpful way to prepare them for their next role.

Instead of open communication, it created a culture of secrecy around those topics.

Which meant they didn’t learn about them from me, but from their friends – or the internet.

 

Instead, open up a new conversation.

You might say things like…

  • On a scale of 0% to 100%, what’s the chance you’ll be with the team/company at the end of 2020?
  • I realize there’s no chance you’ll retire from here – so how can I help prepare you for your next role?
  • What other jobs in the company would you like to try while you’re here?
  • I don’t plan on retiring from this company, but am here to learn and grow into my next role. How about you?
  • What do we need to do to prepare for the fact you won’t be here forever?
  • What do we need to do to prepare for the fact that I won’t be here forever, either?

Talking about it won’t cause it, I promise.

And, I suspect, it will make sure everyone is better prepared for the future.

Stay curious,
Marcus

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

2 Comments

  1. Greg on December 4, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Hey Marcus, first time reader, first time responder. I’m not sure how old this article is as there is no date on the page so forgive me if I’m commenting on something ancient.
    Where to begin – with the children or the employees? Had you spoken to your children about sex and drugs, they might have been the ones repeating that information at elementary school which would have labeled your kids as “different” (maybe cool). If they weren’t called into the principal’s office – along with you – who knows how it would have changed their entire lives. Never look back. Do the best you can and be confident that, at the time, you made the right parenting decision since, until we figure out how to travel to parallel universes, we will just never know what the correct decision was or how a different decision would have changed the world.
    As for employees… any employee would have to be insane to tell his superior that he was planning on leaving unless he wanted the consequences (mundane projects, no bonus, etc). No one wants to be a lame-duck employee. As a manager, you should *always* assume you can lose an employee at any time (accidents are rarely planned) and prepare in advance for that. Employees, like children, are each different. What works for one (talking to them about leaving), may help establish an open and honest relationship while with another, it could make them think you are dropping hints that they need to leave, and they decide to leave before they get laid off.

    And just because someone on the internet says, what I say is true, “I promise”, doesn’t make it so. Now if you are willing to provide a written guarantee with monetary compensation if you are wrong… you should add that. 🙂

    Lastly, you have a typo where you use “hear” where I hope you meant “here” (“I don’t plan on retiring from this company, but am hear to learn and grow into my next role. How about you?”).

    • Marcus Blankenship on December 6, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      Thanks, Greg. Typo fixed!

      Also, your points are well-taken. There are no guarantees – I certainly can’t make any. But I wonder if managers bring up the topic first, then employees might consider being more open. I think it’s about Psych safety.

      At most companies, it’s NOT safe to talk about leaving, or you will suffer the consequences. I just don’t think it has to be that way.

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