I Quit!!! Fitting-in

At dinner few weeks ago, a friend announced she was leaving her job. Quitting. After years of dedicated leadership, innovative partnership, exceptional performance and managers hailing her as a “high potential” employee, she voted with her feet. She left. Gave her 2 weeks’ notice and was gone. Her leaders were stunned. Upon receiving the resignation notice, one manager told her she “couldn’t do that”.


Her superiors were surprised, her colleagues were not. She’d been devoted to delivering her best to her work, her boss and her team. So, what happened? Why did she decide to leave now? Simply put; She was tired of “fitting in”.  After chasing between the published values and the turbulent environment, she was unable reconcile the difference. It was a defining moment.  She was exhausted from the mental gymnastics. We could see it in her expression.

How was anybody surprised? Leaders are human. Anyone in leadership knows the job can quickly morph into a mountain of deliverables, meetings and answering to their bosses. It’s easy to overlook the value of connection when you are spread thin. Work relationships evolve into a transactions, checklists and power struggles. However, the best leaders squeeze in time to meet with the employee, followed by buzzwords and rhetoric, that can leave the employee feeling like a task or burden. After years of this, and employees eventually end up in the middle of a defining moment. . . and high performers quit. Ouch!

Feelings influence our thoughts and contributions. Like it or not, emotions and moods fuel the energy of every team, big or small. If they’re positive – so is the experience. If they are not the result is often frustration or dissatisfaction. Moods are not tidy and tough to fit on a scorecard. Without some metric tied directly to the leader, many try not to get too involved.

Avoiding emotions doesn’t serve the individual, the team or the organization. When the glossy well-crafted strategic message is out of sync with common behaviors, a breakdown begins. Left untended, the message loses credibility and authenticity begins to wane. Leaders spread thin and frustrated, remain unaware that their highest performing employee prepares to leave.

We want our high potential employees to stay. They account for 5% of most teams They add value and often give more than they take. They generally help the team and fill in where a leader cannot.

These are a some of the high-value characteristics of High Potential Employees:

  • Respond well to feedback
  • Don’t buckle under pressure
  • Take initiative
  • Help colleagues and do more than their “job description” requires
  • Work well autonomously and in groups/teams

People want to believe company Mission/Vision Statement and their leader’s inspiring message. So much that many overlook discrepancies and try to adapt or fit in. To fit in, they relinquish their authenticity/their best self.  When what the leaders say and what they do are out of balance, our best people leave.

Today’s Leadership Tip: Take Heart & Connect

  • Stop Talking & Listen Deeply
  • Allow space and connect with the power of emotions in the moment
  • Check your self-awareness. Are you the leader who believes their high-potential employee can’t or won’t quit?     Are you sure?