When You Should Ask Your Best Employees to Leave

I am going to tell you about the time that I asked one of my best employees to leave the team.

I am going to tell you about the fallout and the surprise I got as a junior leader making a very hard decision.

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Holding Back One of My Best Employees

When I was junior in my leadership role, I managed a number of project teams located in London, New York and Singapore.

The projects were complex and difficult to manage with senior and demanding business stakeholders in all three locations.

One of the project managers had worked with me for many years. She was initially a senior tester and was now one of my most reliable project managers.

  • She had a great relationship with her business stakeholders.
  • Her project team would go to war and back for her.
  • She always delivered on time and to budget without any noise.
  • She was also my right hand and could trust her to help me with anything I needed her to.
  • I felt confident with anything she undertook.

Although one of my best employees, I felt I was holding her back.

She had more to give, but the projects I had were not allowing her to grow.

A role to grow

A programme manager role came up running a very complex front to back programme. This required managing many complex front to back stakeholders and dependent IT teams to detangle a multitude of systems and processes from a legacy system that we wanted to retire.

The role was working for a long term and trusted peer of mine.

When I suggested who I thought would be good for the role, my peer literally bit my hand off.

But at the same time, my peer could not believe it.

Are you crazy?

Why would you give up one of your best project managers and team members?

I explained that the projects I had would not allow her to grow much more and that this programme would really move her to the next stage in her career.

It was also the right thing to do for the company by growing our internal talent and not hiring externally.

The very hard discussion

I sat down with my star employee and explained about the role and how it would help her move her career to the next step.

She was a little shocked, she really enjoyed her current role and never thought about moving.

She spent many days talking to me, my peer and my boss about the role and finally decided that she wanted to take it as she could see the growth potential.

The fallout

When I explained to my business stakeholders about the role change, they would not too pleased.

Not too pleased, was probably an understatement. They chewed my ass off.

Even though they understood it was right for the company, they felt they had lost one of their own key team members.

My team and I also got a hit with an extra workload until we could find a replacement.

It was a very hard time, but I knew I had done the right thing.

An unknown reaction

There was a reaction to this decision, that I did not expect.

My boss and many of his peers began to see me in a different light. They began to see me now as a mature selfless leader that saw the big picture for the company.

This was the one of the catalysts to my next promotion journey.

Are Your Best Employees Growing?

Giving up one of my best employees was probably one of the hardest things I have done in my career. I have continued to do this more over the years when I felt it was right, but it is still hard to do.

It is always the right thing to do for the employee and for the company. Even though personally there may be some fallout.

So, think about your best employees who work for you today.

Can you offer them the growth needed to reach that next level?

Are you holding them back for selfish reasons?

Think hard about your next move. It could help your career.