The Many Upsides of an Employee Leaving

One of the most common issues I face weekly when advising my clients is handling employee-related matters. For every company, people leaving the organization is a natural occurrence that will be happening in a relatively consistent cadence. There’s no denying it will eventually occur. According to some reports, turnover in our industry is around 25% yearly.

Whether we’re talking about an employee that might decide to quit, or about the need to let someone go, there’s a silver lining. It’s never fun, but I believe that by being attentive and focusing on the path forward, we can squeeze the lemons to get a sweet lemonade the whole team can benefit from.

What are the upsides?

There’s a vacuum to fill: We like to think we’re all unique snowflakes, but the truth is that organizations are fluid enough to cover for whatever space is being vacated. If the person had some extra responsibility, it might be an excellent opportunity to sponsor someone on the team to give it a try. On some occasions, I saw people mortified before the departure of The Oracle kind of engineers. You know the type, those senior developers who have been there since day one and have become an internal version of Stack Overflow. Lo and behold, the majority of the time, other people step up to the task, even if they hadn’t expressed the desire prior. Growth!

Refresh Your Routines: Just because something was done in a certain way for a while, it doesn’t mean there are no better approaches to it now. Changes in personnel are an excellent opportunity to review how things should be done. Maybe you only now noticed that there was no documented way to handle a particular error because Alice always covered for that. There’s no more Alice, and it’s time to make do without single points of failure.

Novelty: I always say it’s a good thing to get new blood in an organization. If everyone remains in their same positions for too long, we become too lax and stop reinventing ourselves. Use the change as a reason to rethink things from the ground up. Maybe it’s an excellent opportunity to re-org a couple of teams’ responsibilities? Perhaps consider simply decommissioning that old service that no one else knows how to maintain?

There are usually a lot of small decisions to make during these times. The rule of thumb should be not to rush to conclusions. Instead of answering “who’s in charge of X now?” with a name, think whether that question even makes sense. Maybe we should kill X? Or, on the other hand, perhaps everyone should be in charge of X?

You know the organization is going to move on, no matter what. Embrace that thought from the get-go to make the most out of it.