Blog: What HR needs to know about managers with separation blues?

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What HR needs to know about managers with separation blues?

HR needs to look at how exits in the team affect managers and address the ensuing psychological effects
What HR needs to know about managers with separation blues?

Namita had been working in the same organization with the same manager for last five years. This was her first job, one that she was offered on campus. It was a dream run for her, with the best ratings and immense manager support. But she had recently started feeling bored and restricted the repetitive nature of her work. Opportunities to travel abroad seemed bleak. Her husband chided her for becoming complacent and scared of moving to a different organization. This motivated her to look out. 

Luckily for her, in her very first attempt of looking out, she received an amazing offer with a big four company and informed her manager about the same. And then ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.

Namita wasn’t prepared for the reaction her usually considerate manager gave. He first tried to dissuade her from moving. When Namita did not give in, he turned stone-like. 

‘So when’s your joining there? You know that the notice period is three months.’ It was a tight-lipped inquiry.

‘That’s no problem. They have asked me to join whenever I’m released.’ Namita replied with much composure.

‘Don’t you think you should have been more considerate towards me? I have stood by you through these years and managed the best performance ratings for you. Last appraisal cycle, I almost fought for the exceptional performers’ increment for you.’ Namita was aghast more at her manager’s tone than his words.

‘You got the best ratings for me, because, I was the best among the entire lot. It was a reward, not a gift.’ Namita wanted to retort, but she restrained, ‘I am really lucky that I had such a nice manager and guide in you. But it is time for me to take the next step in my career. I have nothing else to say.’

‘Hmmm! You have said and done what you had to. Now I will do what I have to.’ It was a wrap-up. A dread engulfed Namita as her manager walked out of the conference room. 

Namita understood the full extent of his words when she received the following mail from HR. 

As recommended by your manager, your release date has been set for 10th February.  

Namita did not read further as she swore under her breath. ‘Now I will do what I have to’ her boss’ words reverberated in her mind. He had decided to release her precisely five days before the cut-off date making her ineligible for the quarterly incentive. 

Namita’s is not an isolated a case. If we look around, we will find cases where managers turn separation into an awkward situation both, for themselves as well as the exiting employee. They find it hard to accept that a member of their team has decided to part ways for professional growth or other personal reasons. It all becomes too personal a matter for them.

Why is it that some managers just cannot deal with exiting team members? 

Or let me twist the question. What are the reasons that some managers find it ‘hard’ to deal with exiting team members? Here’s my take –

Too Much Dependability 

If a manager has not taken care to create a knowledge bank to deal with situations in the absence of a particular team member, she is likely to be flustered if this particular team member were to remain absent from work for long or leave the job.

Loss of Rationality

I know of some manager friends, who are so fond of their team members that when one of them decides to leave, she is not able to cope up with the shock. They feel as if they have been betrayed. Despite all the investment they made, they are being abandoned. 

Fear of the Unknown

The exit of a team member means a new person in the team. Apart from personal grooming, all the effort put into creating an amicable team dynamics also seem to be going down the drain. Life will get back to square one for the manager.

Lag Time

The manager’s jitters are also due to the uncertainty of the time lag before an appropriate replacement is found. There could be a further lag if the replacement is not sufficiently qualified or needs too much training before becoming productive. This is a cause of stress for the entire team and not just the manager.

So what’s the Remedy?

Today’s superlatively demanding business environment triggers the above behavioral issues among managers in the situation of an exit in their team. The top management needs to identify this as a possible area of development for managers. Here are some suggestions on how things could be worked out more amicably – 

Dispensability Policy 

I remember reading about an organization where a forced leave for at least five continuous working days was imposed on employees at all levels. This was done to assess the dispensability of a particular employee and also to evaluate the readiness of a team to operate smoothly in the absence of the team member in question. 

With advent of virtual workstations and offline work practices, this policy could be extended to ‘forced leave and non-approachability for five continuous working days’

This single policy can eliminate all the anxiety and stress that comes with either sudden exit or unplanned absence of a high performing team member. It will make sure that the work does not suffer causing jitters to the manager.

Behavioral Training for Managers

While the top management wants its employees to take ownership of their work and workplace, they also need to help them cope with situations like exits of team members for personal growth goals. 

Job hopping is a reality to stay. While some employees are committed and stay long stints in one job, others are likely to hop at the first opportunity. Yet it is only fair for long-standing team members to seek opportunities to further their aspirations at any given point in time. 

Behavioral Training and counseling for managers who are dealing with exits will help them cope with the stress.

Robust Replacement and Training 

Most organizations today focus on amicable exit procedure through practices such as exit interviews, knowledge transfer, etc. Yet most managers feel the heat of keeping the show running. 

Human Resources and Learning and Development teams can play a vital role in keeping this anxiety in check. A robust placement plan using internal workforce inventory or external recruitment can help fasten the healing process post an exit. Similarly, a well-established training program will help the new team member fit in fast and become productive in the new role as soon as possible. 

Topics: Employee Relations, Life @ Work

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