We have all had them, flat tires that is, and too often, at the most inopportune times. Not that there is a good time to have a flat tire, but there are some bad times. Usually when one is in a hurry, or on the highway, or late at night – all very bad. Not too long ago it occurred to me that flat tires might be an analogy for when (well performing) employees quit. For a business owner or manager, that employees quit is not a surprise. It is when it is unexpected and when the business is very busy that it hurts like a tire blow out. Some employees are thoughtful and provide ample warning that they are looking for another job and/or have found one but are giving plenty of notice to rehire/train, etc.; this is akin to a slow leak which gives you warning before the flat tire. However, some employees are not so courteous and professional and it is like finding a nail in a tire as you try to head to a job or meeting, in a suit, maybe in the rain or 100◦ heat. Flat tires are a fact of life, just like it is a fact of business life that there will be turnover. But, as an employer, it is never easy to have someone quit on short notice at a busy time. We know it is likely to happen sooner or later, but I always hope employees will be professional and take the high road to explain where they are in their career and give us time to prepare and be ready for the transition. Employees should keep this in mind, especially given that a prior employer’s reference can be helpful with the job search and beyond; leaving the employer with a bad taste, or flat tire feeling at the end, is likely to result in less enthusiastic recommendations or none at all.
My least favorite job duties are those pertaining to supervising and managing employees. I wish I could be self contained and do everything that needs to be done for my clients myself, however, that has never been the case. Every time an employee resigns, I wistfully daydream about not having to replace him or her, knowing full well how painful (for me, at least) it is to recruit, hire, and train a replacement, who will, of course, eventually resign or be terminated, leading the cycle to repeat itself. Having supervised employees for 35 years, I have experienced many resignations and terminations. I have worked in academia, for large corporations, for mid sized companies, and for small companies before co-owning Magnus with my spouse. Based on my varied experiences, the smaller the organization, the more difficult it is to react when a well performing employees resigns, particularly without notice. The worst experience I have had in this regard is the emailed resignation of an employee who had worked for my company 14 years, received just hours before he was due to arrive for a large research project that was scheduled the following day. In David’s flat tire analogy, this employee, who was my “right hand man,” resigned like a tire on my old Corvette, containing no known defects, had exploded, while I was driving (alone) 90 miles per hour in the middle of nowhere, with the spare tire located under the chassis, accessible only by a strong person jacking up the car. As exasperated as I would have been if this had ever happened to me while I was driving my Corvette (thankfully, it didn’t!), it was more troublesome having to react quickly to the employee’s surprise, not to mention unprofessional, resignation, including ensuring our client’s research project was staffed properly so that the work my company had been retained to perform could be done. Employees’ resignations have been difficult to deal with, but just as I eventually had to replace my beloved Corvette, my partner and I always find replacements for employees who resign.