When Employees Choose to Leave

When Employees Choose to LeaveAugust 21st Show Audio

Please find some links and notes from the 2 Regular Guys Podcast. Aaron and Terry discussed the thousand reasons people leave good jobs. As a manager or owner you can name them all. But in reality, people don’t usually leave a job. They leave their boss. We’ll discuss the whys and hows of turnover in your own business. When Employees Choose to Leave!

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When Employees Choose to Leave

There are a thousand reasons people leave good jobs, sometimes it’s moving back home, or a spouse getting a better job, or that thousand other reasons. As a manager or owner you can name them all. But in reality, people don’t usually leave a job. They leave their boss. Today we’re going to discuss the whys and hows of turnover in your own business.

In my classes I always tell the students about calls to suppliers. They start something like this, “There’s something wrong with the ink… there’s something wrong with the emulsion,.. there’s something wrong with the pretreat…” Well guess what, it’s rarely the ink, or the emulsion, or the pretreat. It’s almost always you!

It’s the same with employees leaving, owners and managers explain any exodus with a list of reasons, and rarely is that owner or manager on that list of reasons.

The Eccentricities of Ownership

Aaron: While we’re talking about owners and managers, I’ve heard you use the phrase “the eccentricities of ownership.” I have a feeling that has to be a part of this conversation.

Terry: Let me start with a message to employees. Every owner and manager has a style and personality. Every business is the exact reflection of that style and personality. Either deal with it or move on to the next opportunity. It’s as simple as that.

Recognize Good Work

Aaron: Okay, let’s dig in. What’s your first warning to owners and managers why their employees are walking away?

Terry: It’s pretty simple. Every employee, I don’t care who you are, wants a pat on the back. Totally outside our industry but incredibly telling, and this really happened to me on a flight. I was sitting across the aisle from two pilots who I’m sure were dead heading to another location to pick up a flight to locations unknown. They were having a serious and troubled conversation about a higher ranking pilot. One pilot said to the other, “Just once I’d like to hear him say, ‘Nice landing.’” Needless to say as a writer, I grabbed my notebook and wrote it down word for word. I don’t care who you are or what level of success you’ve achieved, sometimes you just want to hear, “Nice landing.”

Aaron: Let’s stay on the subject of recognition. What are you seeing out there in production shops from managers?

Terry: I hear this all the time, “I pay them to work, and to do good work. Their paycheck tells them I think they’re doing a good job.” We spend the majority of our times at our jobs. It’s important to each of us to have a good environment for that commitment.

Company benefit story – some managers think it’s all about the bonus or the paycheck – a manager has to recognize what’s important to the employees

Recognizing Poor Work

Aaron: We’ve talked on the show before about the flipside of this. You’ve talked about managers spending all their time focusing on the “problem children” in a company.

Terry: And that is the opposite side of the coin, focusing too much on the problem children and not on the good employees. It’s common for managers to look at the good employees and say, “You’re all good, keep going,” and then focus their attention on getting the black sheep in line. That time would be better spent praising performance in front of the black sheep, rather than coaxing them along.

Treating All Employees Equally

Aaron: What’s next on your list of reasons people mysteriously leave their jobs?

Terry: The concept of teacher’s pet didn’t end in high school. Any reasonably sized company, in truth it could be a company with two employees, has that employee who says all the right things to the boss and then turns and flashes evil red eyes at the rest of the staff. I had just such an experience running production in a large Midwest printing facility and dealing with the company president’s personal assistant.

Keeping Promises

Aaron: You and I have talked about management issues many times before, both on the show and over wings and beers. I know you have a thing about people keeping their word. How does this impact employees walking away?

Terry: To kick the can down the road, it’s easy to say, “We’ll talk about that raise in a month.” “You’re next up for a promotion.” That same owner or manager either has no intention of keeping that promise or doesn’t see the importance of it. But that employee went home and wrote it down on his or her calendar. And when that conversation or that raise or that promotion doesn’t happen, resumes start getting updated. (Perfect twice in your life, the day you’re born and the day you write your resume.)

Piling on Work

Aaron: I know you’re pretty passionate about this. What’s next on your list?

Terry: Here’s an easy trap for a manager to fall into. The best employees get more worked pile onto them, because they have a history of getting it done. It’s easiest to keep piling it on than for that same manager to take a chance with this new assignment in the hands of a marginal employee.

Jobs List when I was working my way through school at the campus bookstore…

On Call 24/7

Aaron: For employees moving from punching the clock to being on salary can have some reality checks like working late and working weekends with no change in pay. Does this impact employees choosing to move on?

Terry: This has been talked about in the media recently. Having a job, even a job on salary doesn’t translate, in my opinion, to being on call and being available 24/7. Everyone needs time away and time off. Yes, we work late and sometimes get to leave early without impacting our paycheck. But, employees are employees. There’s a reasonable end to the work day and the work week. I’ve worked with many companies who do trade shows, and Aaron you and I have both worked or traveled through many a weekend. The employee oriented companies will offer compensation for the sacrifice of a weekend. Most commonly you’ll see something like ½ day off for each weekend day you’ve worked. Does the time off matter? Not really. It’s the impression on the employee that we appreciate you giving us this time and effort. In the end, all we’re talking about here is an employee hearing, “We appreciate your effort.”

Trusting Employees to do Their Jobs – TRUST

Aaron: Terry, you’re in sales now and dealing with salespeople is a whole different show :-), but you were also that senior manager in several large garment decorators around the country over the past 35+ years. How did you deal with these same owner/manager issues we’re talking about here?

Terry: You’re right, Aaron. After a while I had the benefit of having a reputation for success, so I would go into a company and ask, “What do you want to accomplish?” And then I’d say, “Here’s the deal, I will get where you want to go, but don’t quiz and question my methods and techniques getting there. My job here is based on me getting to your Point B. I can do that.” Now I didn’t say that at my first job, but I might have said it at my second! If you produce results, you can say that kind of thing.

But we’ve talked on this show before about trusting people to do their jobs. Questioning every decision will lead to absolutely no decision making. I see this all the time out in the industry. “No matter what I do or decide, it’s not right or not good enough.” This is probably the greatest downfall of owners and managers, trusting your employees to do their jobs. And yes, biting you lip as management to not tell them what they’re doing wrong. Here’s what too many owners and managers fail to grasp, most employees come to work and truly want to do a good job! Close your door and bang your head on the wall, but allow your employees to try and sometimes fail. In the end, you’ll see much more success than failure.

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Aaron: You always have a lot of comments about owners and managers, and today’s show is really about what owners and managers do wrong in managing their employees. More than that, what owners and managers do to lose good employees. We have time for one more. What’s your last suggestion to management?

Terry: There are owners and managers who cannot 1) give a compliment, or 2) give a compliment without saying “but”. “Good job on that, but…” In this category is the constant second guessing of every choice and decision. “It doesn’t matter what I do, it’ll be wrong.” What’s the result? Employees saying, “What do you want me to do next?” And they will do nothing more and nothing less. And the owner/manager? The constant comment is, “I have to make every decision… I have to tell them every step of the way what to do…” And followed by, “Why can’t I find good employees… who want to work???”

Aaron: We’re running out of time. What’s your parting comment to business owners and managers?

Terry: A message to owners and managers… look in the mirror when you’re looking for someone to blame for your shrinking staff. And it’s not too late to right the ship of your business. Those good employees you’re so desperately seeking? They’re probably working for you today, and reading the Want Ads over lunch.


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  2. ISS Orlando – 9/10 to 9/12
  3. NBM Denver – 10/2 to 10/3
  4. ISS Ft Worth – 10/15 to 10/17
  5. SGIA Atlanta – 11/4 to 11/6

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Terry’s Books

Screen Printing: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business Just $4.95 as an e-book.

Direct to Garment: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business Just $4.95 as an e-book.

Scheduling and Estimating Production Time for Garment Screen Printing Just $2.99 as an e-book

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