All businesses experience employee turnover. How you deal with that turnover says a lot about your attitude, your values, your willingness to learn. And it says a lot about your future potential for attracting new employees.
I see employers who clearly have morale issues and do little to nothing to uncover the source of the problem. Or if they do find the source, they choose to do nothing about it. Then, when employees leave, these employers are shocked.
And then they get mad. They get mad at the employee for “deserting them”, or being “disloyal”, or “using them” and then moving on to a better job (which gives the employer the “right” to feel betrayed).
The final step in this dysfunctional cycle is that they vilify the former employee to anyone who will listen. “He wasn’t very good. Poor performer. Bad for the team. Don’t know why I hired him in the first place.”
Former employers bad-mouthing former employees seems to be pretty common. I personally know a number of such situations myself, and I also have enough information from both sides to know that the problems weren’t just a poor performing employees.
For example, I know a CEO who was a bit of a tyrant. When the CFO left the company (to get away from this new CEO), the CEO, in what I can only imagine was an effort to save face, told the staff that it was good riddance, and it was their opportunity to “upgrade.” Really?? What do you think that did to morale? I can tell you it was already on a downhill slide and simply continued from there.
I think that sometimes employers find a comfort in believing that the employees need them and can, therefore, treat their employees any way they want, regardless of care, fairness, or compassion.
Your future depends on it
What they don’t realize is that they carry out this boorish behavior at the peril of their future success.
Who wants to recruit a friend or recommend a peer to work at a company where she’ll be bad-mouthed and considered incompetent when she chooses to leave? And if the employer is saying those things about former employees, what are they saying about the current employees? Word gets around; reputations are built and talented people know they don't need to work for companies like these.
Employers are not entitled to employees. Any of them. And employees do not “owe” their employers anything beyond exchanging their services for a paycheck.
If an employer really wants to keep their employees on staff, have employees who are genuinely interested in helping the company grow more successful, and become a magnet for talented people, they need to start by realizing they’re not entitled to any of those things. They have to work diligently to create an organizational culture where people are welcomed, appreciated, and respected for their contributions, asked for their opinions and participation in building the business, and acknowledged and rewarded for their efforts.
If you see the negative, bad-mouthing type of behavior at your company or at your client companies, where the employer is always right and all former employees are wrong, I suggest you help dig into the root of the problem. If left unchecked, this will erode any goodwill currently in place, and it’s really, really hard to build back lost trust and forward momentum.
Photo by Elnur