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Navigating Uncomfortable Discussions When Employees Leave

Harsha Shekar

Senior Engineering Manager at Atlassian

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Navigating Uncomfortable Discussions When Employees Leave

In the fast-paced world of technology, employee turnover is a common occurrence. As a manager, it is essential to navigate uncomfortable discussions when employees leave and ensure that team dynamics are managed effectively. These discussions can be challenging, but with the right strategies, it is possible to maintain a positive work environment.

Understanding Flight Risks

One important aspect of managing employee turnover is identifying flight risks within the team. Flight risks are individuals who may be considering leaving the company. By understanding who these individuals are, managers can create buffers and ensure continuity in the team. As one manager in the discussion mentioned,

"As long as you keep having that chain link to everybody else, somehow or the other, I think you should be good."

Building Trust and Open Communication

Building trust with your team is crucial when it comes to handling uncomfortable discussions. As a manager, it is important to create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and discussing their career aspirations.

"You want them to come and talk to you about it, ask you about it."

Encouraging Internal Mobility

Internal mobility can be a valuable tool in managing employee turnover. By encouraging employees to explore opportunities within the organization, managers can foster growth and development. This can also help in identifying potential leaders within the team.

"You can always increase internal mobility. The more you encourage this, that is actually a stepping stone towards people opening up to opportunities outside your org."

Developing Soft Skills and Leadership Mentality

In the technology sector, technical skills are highly valued, but soft skills and leadership mentality are often overlooked. Developing these skills is crucial for both individual and organizational growth. Implementing programs or initiatives that focus on topics such as effective communication, active listening, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving can help employees develop these skills.

Identifying and Growing Leaders

As a manager, it is important to identify potential leaders within your team and provide them with opportunities to grow. This can involve assigning them leadership roles or responsibilities and providing mentorship and guidance.

"You need to find your leaders in the team. You need to find your own replacement and groom them towards that."

Being a Supportive Manager

Being a supportive manager involves being there for your team members and helping them navigate challenges. It is important to be transparent, provide feedback, and support their personal and professional growth.

"They need to believe that in you. That you will be there for them, come what may."

Practical Training and Enactments

While theoretical training and reading materials can be helpful, practical training and enactments can be more effective in developing skills. Enacting real-life scenarios and receiving feedback from experienced leaders can provide valuable insights and help employees apply their knowledge in real-world situations.

In conclusion, navigating uncomfortable discussions when employees leave requires a combination of trust, open communication, and effective leadership. By understanding flight risks, building trust, encouraging internal mobility, developing soft skills, identifying and growing leaders, and providing practical training, managers can create a positive work environment and ensure the success of their teams.


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Harsha Shekar

Senior Engineering Manager at Atlassian


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