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  • Writer's pictureNeta Vizel

Fear of losing employees: Has it affected your decisions?

Should you give a raise to a low performing employee to prevent them from leaving? Especially now, when the fear of leaving increases, managers should return to their personal and managerial compass.

Autumn leaves hanging on a string
Fear of losing employees

“I have an employee who presented low performance in recent years. We provided him with clear feedback regarding his performance gap but he didn't accept it and does not try to adjust accordingly. After two significant departures in my team, I can not fire him until the atmosphere has stabilized. His leaving the team at the current point in time will cause a crisis. Recently this employee asked for a raise. I know he does not deserve it but in the current atmosphere I try to convey to him that his presence is desirable and contributing and that his stay is important to me. I am torn between the need for the short term to keep and nurture him and the need for the long term; Encourage him to leave.”

Most managers who I get to meet have a heavy work load. In some of the companies the number of tasks and the time allotted to performing them don’t match the ability of the staff to meet their designated goals. If we add to this load the challenges of remote-managing distributed teams, we get managers who are burnt out and stressed, trying to achieve the best results in conditions of uncertainty. The current waves of employee resignations add the element of fear to all this: “the fear that my staff would leave and I will have to deal with recruiting instead of getting things done.”

In situations of fear or anxiety, our judgment isn't at its best and our capacity to make decisions is compromised. A stressful situation prompts us to create security and preserve stability at all costs, and that isn’t always the right thing to do. Even in complicated situations, we mustn’t lose sight of the values guiding us and the compass directing us. And in any case, we mustn’t let fear guide our actions. We can examine the current situation from three angles: the manager and their team, the manager and the employee, the manager.

  • The manager and their team: as managers, we set personal, professional, and social examples to others in the organization. It’s likely that members of the team are aware of the low performance of that employee, but what are they learning from the manager’s behavior? That their standards are low because they’re keeping a bad worker; that the manager isn’t honest with them, because otherwise they wouldn’t be telling the employee that their presence is desirable while in reality being displeased; that the good ones are leaving and the bad are staying. Keeping the employee conveys a nonverbal message of mediocrity and sweeping problems under the rug.

  • The manager and the employee: because the employee’s low performance has been preserved for a long time, it’s likely that the feedback they received hasn’t been effective. The employee might assume their performance is good enough because the manager is saying that their presence is wanted and that they contribute so much that they deserve a raise. The manager is exhibiting signs of crisis after the unplanned loss of two members of the staff and the employee knows how to benefit from these circumstances.

  • The manager: a good manager knows how to look at any situation or person and know what is within their ability to influence for the better and what isn’t, and then act proactively to generate positive influence over the environment. To avoid falling into a trap of stress, fear and anxiety, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions which will help strengthen your managerial compass: what is my vision as a manager? What kind of manager do I want to be? What are the values guiding me? What are my red lines? What are my sources of support and advice in case of a crisis? Afterwards, depending on the answers, it’s worth defining a few long-term goals for the teams and standards of work for both the individual and the team as a whole. Beside this, the manager should be aware that they serve a personal example for the team in whatever they say, the way they say it, and also in whatever they don’t say. Think what indirect message you’re conveying to the employee, the staff and the organization when you keep an inefficient employee at any cost.

Let’s assume you’re dealing with a similar situation. There are several operational steps you can take:

1. Talk to the employee, show interest in their wellbeing, give them honest feedback, and ask how you can help them succeed.

2. Set expectations and make the raise conditioned upon successful accomplishment of goals over a period of a month or two.

3. Prepare a plan B for recruiting and sharing knowledge in case the employee refuses your offer or doesn’t meet your expectations

4. Empower your team by highlighting their purpose, shared goal, and the importance of their work for the company’s success.

Authenticity, honesty, and sincerity are some of the pillars of effective management. Especially during challenging times, when boundaries between work and home are blurred and there is much uncertainty, it’s important to go back to the basics, to our personal and organizational managerial compass.

This content was also published at GLOBES, Israel's leading business newspaper.

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