I Want Them to Leave

Quasi-hypothetical situation: Three people are asking to renew their contracts for the next four years, but I can’t keep them all, so I ask the obvious question: Why do you want to stay? Sadly, I don’t get as many “I’m going to stay in for as long as possible. I want to be retirement eligible and still keep going,” as I’d like. That certainly wasn’t my answer the first few times I asked to re-enlist. Instead, I usually get something like these:

Person #1

I have a plan. Staying here will allow me to finish the school I need and get the certification for what I want to do next when the four years are up.

Person #2

I had a plan but didn’t get on it soon enough, so now I’m behind the eight ball and know I can’t get out yet. I don’t want to stay in but need to, and I’ll probably be bitter about it for at least a year, maybe all four.

That might not be the exact wording, but it’s what the English-to-Jamie translator hears.

Person #3

I don’t really have anything better to do. I don’t have a plan for what’s next, so I might as well stay here since I have no idea how I’ll pay the bills otherwise.

If you were in my shoes, and I hope you will be someday, who do you want working for you for the next four years? Who would you choose to stay? This isn’t the first time I’ve written about leaving, and I promise it won’t be the last. Again, I want people to leave on their terms, and these examples are different versions of that.

You know which one I want to keep?

All three of them.

I think I’m obligated to say that since I’ve been all three of these people at some point in my career. Don’t get me wrong. I also want them all to leave, because everyone moves on sooner or later. I just don’t want any of these people to leave quite yet.

So, why keep all three?

If someone’s asking to renew their contract, that usually means that we have at least four years invested in that person, and those skill sets are important to me. Getting someone new at the entry level isn’t as valuable as keeping the people we’ve trained.

Person #1 already has a plan and is renewing a contract for a specific reason. This makes it easy for me to help that person be successful. He or she values what we offer, and we can find a way to both be successful.

Person #2 is a hard one, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Often, we have people who don’t really want to be here. They haven’t committed to all this, but they stay in because they didn’t plan far enough in advance. They realize too late that there are no better options with the time they have. Alas, they stay in and are bitter about it.

With a little effort, the next four years towards that original goal of getting out is possible. That person just didn’t know how hard it was to move on to the next adventure. I recommend people start making that plan at least two years in advance, especially if family or school is involved. Many people only get serious and plan about nine months out, and much flailing ensues. With some redirection, person #2 can become a lot like person #1.

Person #3 has no real terms that make staying or leaving valuable to him, or in many cases, the organization. I don’t want an employee to stay just because he has no idea what else is out there. More often than not, this person will be in the same spot four years later, with no plan, and he’ll likely be more dependent on me than I am on him. I see a lot more of this than I would like, but it’s not the end of the world. The organization won’t crumble because there are some people who are happy right where they are. These people are no less valuable than the others, but it’s frustrating when you want people to be more successful than they do, or just successful in a different way.

Of course, since I’m in the business of being absurdly positive, I’ll try my best to get this person some guidance, help him find whatever talent he has, and move him closer to being like person #1. I want people here because they want to be, with a plan to make the time worthwhile, and who appreciate what we have to offer. Some people just figure it out a little later than others. It’s my job to help them along the way.

I want all three because they’re trained, they all have something to offer, and they all have potential, just like I did. After they’ve met that potential and met their goals, I want them to leave.

– When it’s your turn to renew your contract, which one of these examples will you be?

– Of the people you have, which categories do they fall into?

– Do you know their goals?

– How can you get more of them towards person #1?

Related Articles:

Set Three Goals

Survive or Thrive

Have a  great week out there.

– JT
Day Job Final_Web

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.