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Resolving Morale Issues When a Key Member Leaves the Company

Limor Bergman Gross

Executive Coach at LBG Consulting Service Ltd

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Problem

"While on vacation, one of my managers informed me that he was leaving the company. I did not receive his email until I returned, and by that time he, himself, had taken some time off- a total of 1 ½ weeks. By the time he returned, we only had two days remaining to sync up before he exited the organization. The team morale was already low due to a tech lead leaving several months prior, and because this manager was well respected by the team it did not help matters."

Actions taken

  • First, I gathered the team and notified them of the news. They were shocked and very discouraged. In fact, a majority of the team members told me they were seriously considering leaving the company themselves.
  • I asked the CEO to speak with the team so that they could ask him any questions they had. The team really appreciated this time with the CEO.
  • Next, I identified the person I trusted the most in that team and nominated him to be a tech lead, effectively immediately. I focused my attention on this person and made sure that he was getting my full support. I also made a significant salary increase to the position (as he was unhappy with his compensation for some time before all this had happened).
  • I, myself, took on the management role on the team until I could find a new manager. I opened a replacement REQ and immediately started looking for someone to take over this position.
  • I hired two engineers that were already in the pipeline and then stopped hiring additional engineers after that, focusing solely on hiring a new manager.
  • Later, I sat with the new tech lead as well as the product manager and defined the roadmap for the next 6 months. After we had done that we shared it with the team and also got buy-in from the VP of product.
  • Two months after the previous manager left, I hired a new manager. This person had been interviewed and chosen by the tech lead, product manager, and other managers in my team.
  • About a month after the new manager started, I brought the entire team to our HQ office in NYC. This one week off site gave our fully remote team a chance to meet the manager and spend quality time together as a team. I also made sure that during this week the team met with the VP of product so they could introduce themselves and ask him any questions they might have had. During this transition period only one engineer left the company while the rest remained with the organization. The team morale slowly increased and is now very high.

Lessons learned

  • "In every situation when a key employee leaves, identify people you can trust and work closely with them."
  • "Take action immediately to recover from a difficult situation."
  • "Make sure the team has a clear roadmap and that they are focused on execution."
  • "Ally with company executives to make sure they give you the support you need. Request that they spend time with the team to ensure that the team feels valued."

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Limor Bergman Gross

Executive Coach at LBG Consulting Service Ltd


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