Everybody knows that the most common reason for quitting is that an employee doesn't like the boss. Lots of people take this to mean that bosses whose employees quit are horrible people who yell and scream and micro-manage everything from font size to the type of fingernail polish allowed in the office. Those bosses absolutely exist, but there are other types of bosses that are generally good bosses—even generally great bosses—that still do little things that drive good employees insane.
These little things grate on the nerves of the best employees, while mediocre employees don't even necessarily notice. If you have a superstar employee, take note, and avoid the following:
1) Expect Greatness and Reward Mediocrity
One thing about great employees—they consistently produce great work. So much so that the boss comes to expect it. So, when Jane does another fantastic presentation, everyone yawns, but when Shelly—who is generally a slacker—pulls together a half decent presentation, everyone cheers. It's okay to encourage Shelly, but don't forget to reward Jane for her fabulous performance.
2) Salary Caps
Most companies have these for each job. They make sense—you don't want to pay someone above market rate. The problem is, fantastic employees often max out pretty early. And then what? They work hard, they bring in great business, and the clients love them, and their reward at the end of the year? "Uhhh, good job, Jane. You're already at a company-ratio of 105 percent and we just can't go any higher." If you had to replace Jane, you wouldn't get near the productivity Jane has from the new person, so it may be worth it to break your rules, or give her a growth promotion with a higher salary.
3) Treating All Employees the Same
At first glance, that seems like a great management practice. After all, you don't want to play favorites. The problem is, not all employees need the same guidance and direction. If you have an outstanding employee who wants to work from home one day a week, move heaven and earth to make that happen. Otherwise, she'll find somewhere that will let her work from home three days a week, and you'll be stuck recruiting.
4) Preventing Promotions
You can't get along without Jane—she does a great job at everything. So, when she says she wants to move into a vacancy in the neighboring department because it's a promotion, you refuse to sign off (if your company requires a current manager to sign off), or you tell your peer, "You can't have Jane!" Either one means that Jane is now looking externally. Remember, your obligation is not just to your own department, but the company as a whole. While you have to replace Jane, either way, all her knowledge and skill stays in the company, and you'll still benefit from her fabulous work.
5) Ignoring Ideas
Your employees see a different side of the business than you do. It's just how it works. So, when you ignore suggestions from them you may be accidentally ignoring something that would really make a positive difference.
Star employees get frustrated when they can see solutions but managers don't allow them to present those solutions. Take the time to listen and implement when you can. If Jane has always produced great work, why wouldn't you think this would be a great suggestion? And if it turns out that it falls flat, that doesn't mean you're always right; it simply means Jane made a mistake this time around. It's called learning and it's essential for growth.
Photo: Creative Commons