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If They Aren’t the Right Fit, Let Them Quit

One-on-one
Career Path
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

19 December, 2018

Cliff Chang, growth engineering lead, at Asana, discusses the unexpected way in which he dealt with a high performing, yet under-motivated employee looking to terminate his contract.

Problem

There are very few concrete results that are good or bad. Somebody quitting is generally a bad result, because your job is to grow the team. I had a report who although smart, wasn't motivated by the work we were doing here at Asana. I began to think it wasn't a good company fit for him based on what he thought was interesting or difficult. I had a hunch that he wanted to quit, but I didn't allow myself to believe it because it was considered a bad sign and I didn't want it to be true. Sooner than later, I was approached with the line, "I am thinking of applying for other jobs."

Actions taken

When the report reached out to me concerning his discontent with the job, my response was very on the spot and not at all how I thought I was going to originally handle it. I expressed my opinion, which was that I believed his desire to search for other jobs, was a suitable choice for him. I furthermore extended my assistance in the way of introductions to other, more fitting jobs in the industry. I am proud of how I handled the situation at the moment by not trying to convince him why Asana was the right choice, with intentions of having him stay with us. After describing the circumstances to my manager and the head of engineering, I was further assured that it was the correct decision to make. It felt good because even though it was negative in the short term, it was going to be positive in the long term for the company.

Lessons learned

  • Despite the negative connotation of having someone quit, do not be afraid to let people do so if you do not think they should work there.
  • There are very few absolute rules in engineering management and 'don't let your people quit' is not one of them.
  • A strong, positive relationship still matters. The report really appreciated the easy, sympathetic, and essentially unconfrontational transition.
  • To catch the early signs of an employee considering quitting, it is important to tackle tricky underlying issues and not be afraid to call people out. One on ones are the bread and butter of a managers job and rather than seeking out if the other person is happy, make it a priority to confront concerning issues.

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