The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Drive Good Employees Away

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Tuesday, September 03, 2013
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With the pending severe worker drain prompted by boomers in full or partial retirement, keeping good employees has never been more critical. The most significant word in retention, however, is “engagement”. Too many workers are present but their imagination, spirit and creativity have departed out the door with disillusion. Consider these top five actions that pull the plug on employee energy:

1. Be a know-it-all and discount the input of others. A new senior level manager was brought into an organization. When department heads met with him, he proclaimed “lower cost, higher quality, more sales”. He asked for their input and then immediately dismissed whatever they said. The fact that he had never worked in this particular industry had already prompted skepticism. The department heads, whose support and knowledge are critical for a turnaround, have departed in droves while those who are staying just shrug their shoulders and say they’ll hunker down until they find something else.

2. Never admit mistakes. The worn phrase from the old movie Love Story proclaimed, “Loves means never having to say you’re sorry.” As wrong as that advice is for intimate relationships, it is just as stupid in business. When ego and arrogance replace the realities of a decision, employees watch in dismay. The operating plan becomes mired in finding ways to justify action rather than admitting error and looking for a new, more promising direction. The cost overruns on building a large golf course were huge because the senior manager refused the input of his department heads and then spent thousands trying to cover up design flaws.

3. Act first and think later. The ready, fire, aim approach of shoot-from-the-hip-and-think- later is all too common in our 24/7, do-it-now world. The results can be disastrous – particularly if the vehicle for action is e-mail. E-mail now stands for escalation and error. The person who blasts off a response without carefully considering the tone and the names on the distribution list can find himself spending time and energy undoing collateral damage. The more critical the relationship and/or the outcome of the action, the greater wisdom is in carefully measured actions and more likely than not, face-to- face conversation.

4. Create an inner circle that thinks alike. Howell Raines, executive editor of the NY TIMES, was the subject of a 17,000-word article that appeared in the NEW YORKER in June 6, 2002. It was a brutal expose, painting a documented story of him as an arrogant bully who played favorites, listened only to a few people and pummeled far too many. When folks outside of his inner circle tried to tell him their concerns regarding Jayson Blair, the now infamous fabricator of new stories, Raines ignored them.

His resignation from the NY TIMES speaks to the danger of that inner circle. The higher the stakes, the more critical it is to have input from people with various points of view and different ways of responding to a situation. If a CEO puts people around her who merely parrot her beliefs, the organization is being led by lemmings. And if the inner circle is of a ready-fire-aim mentality, there’s no caution in action. If the inner circle mirrors a slow, all-the-facts-first mentality, the organization might miss critical opportunities and be too slow to respond to a changing marketplace. Organizations should consider using assessments in order to understand the behavioral diversity of the team.

4. Say one thing and do another. A high-tech manufacturing company in Southern California announced significant layoffs because of poor performance. Every budget item was to be scrutinized. The following weekend, the CEO took the top management team away to the Ritz Carlton in Monarch Beach so they could ponder these new realities. Care to guess how fast the employees got wind of this “cost- saving” move? Or how about the professional services firm that proclaimed mandatory attendance and then repeatedly ignored a senior consultant who only showed up when he “felt like it”. If you want to model truth and trust, ask the people around you how often you engage in these behaviors. And if you are not happy with the answers, DO something different. You might also need to bring in an external coach to help you with the process. The results: you win and the organization wins.

© The Resiliency Group.  Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Since 1980, professional speaker and Hall of Fame member Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter. Her latest book is Gifts from the Mountain-Simple Truths for Life’s Complexities. Her other books include Talk Ain’t Cheap…It’s Priceless and Work for a Living and Still Be Free to Live, one of the first books to address the notion of balance and authentic work.  Find out more about this compelling and effective professional speaker and join her free newsletter by visiting

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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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