3 Steps to Getting Rid of Your Best Employees

Posted September 6, 2017

If you have a team member you’d like to get rid of (but you lack the courage or ability to just let him go), then I have three steps you can take to make his life so miserable he will want to quit.  Consider this information an early Christmas present.

  1. Abolish Autonomy. This is easy.  First, track every move your employee makes.  The best way to do this is by having the employee track his time and report it to you.  Then, randomly ask him to account for something in his activity log.  Next, create a policy for every decision that could occur so that the employee cannot make a decision, but merely carry out the policy.  And if something should slip through the policy labyrinth, make sure at least three people need to sign off on the decision before it can move forward (it helps if he knows who only one of these people is).
  2. Remove Mastery. Mastery is the desire to get better and better at something that matters – and it must be eliminated from your employee’s work life if you want him to leave.  Again, this is easy.  You have two options: you can assign the employee to projects that severely outpace his ability so that he is in a near constant state of strain, anxiety, and uncertainty; or, you can keep him doing things that are so remedial that his higher level skills are never engaged.  Never, ever let the challenge of the project be a near match for his level of skill, otherwise he will engage fully, and move toward mastery.
  3. Purge Purpose. I know this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but if you can make money the only reason your employee stays, he will find the exit door.  So be sure you never mention anything about how his job or the company makes a difference in the world, in the community, or in anything.  In fact, keep the big picture out of sight for him unless the big picture is de-motivating (for instance, selling cancer sticks or Velveeta cheese).

There is a saying in business: “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”  I think that’s mostly true.  I hear lots of supporting evidence from those I coach – both in business and in non-profit organizations.  How a manager manages can make or break the job for his or her team.

The sign of a poor manager is that they make their team miserable.  They do this so well at times that their people leave.

On the flip side, great managers don’t just prevent their team members from leaving; they allow employees to thrive.  When a person is thriving in a job, they will not just stay, but they will perform at a high level and make life better for everyone around them.  The three ingredients for thriving are (you guessed it): autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Want to keep a great employee (or help any employee improve)?  I can help you with that in only two steps:

  1. Take two hours to read Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. It’s an easy read and he has a chapter dedicated to each of the three ingredients for thriving.
  2. Find simple and systematic ways to increase the levels of autonomy, mastery and purpose each of your employees experiences.