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Quit & Stay vs. Stay & Thrive

It’s bad when employees quit and leave; but it’s even worse when they quit and stay. To quit and stay means to have an apathetic attitude and demeanor at work. In any organization, there is absolutely no room for apathy. Not towards one’s role, the customers or the business overall. When customers choose to patronize your business, it is everyone’s responsibility to reaffirm the customers’ decision to visit in the first place. The team’s collective spirit of gratitude, eagerness and hospitality must be pervasive throughout every interaction and touchpoint. Each customer should feel celebrated, not tolerated. Uplifted, not disappointed. Rejuvenated, not depleted. With the right mix of culture, relationships and leadership, even the most despondent team members can go from quitting & staying to staying & thriving.


What causes people to quit & stay?

Many variables impact people’s morale, and how vested they are at work. Some of the main culprits are:

  • Lack of a clear vision and mission
  • Apathetic  leadership
  • Apathetic co-workers
  • Not feeling heard
  • Feel like contributions are irrelevant
  • Their own subpar performance is accepted/tolerated

People who work hard crave being around other people who work hard. It is the leaders’ responsibility to be unapologetically selective about who they allow to work on the team. They must also be intolerant of any glimmer of apathy.  The good news is that apathy is fairly easy to spot.  Anyone can see it. In fact, if the customers can notice an apathetic employee, then the leaders can as well. And if an apathetic employee is allowed to quit and stay, then that says more about the leader than it does the employee.


Help people stay & thrive

Three words: Cultivate Positive Relationships. Period. In other words, get close to your people. Many leaders are taught, “Do not get too close to your people” and “You need to know where to draw the line.” This approach diminishes your ability to motivate and retain your top performers. Leaders who are close to their people can ask for more effort and better results. Takeaway: The closer your relationship is with someone, the easier it is to influence that person to change his/her behavior.


But, what if people accuse you of having favorites? Here is the reality: You have favorites now. It is human nature. You have better chemistry with some employees than others. Furthermore, your employees already know very well who your favorites are. Takeaway: People don’t lose respect for you because you become friends with some people. They lose respect when you decide not to do your job as a leader.


But, but…If you are too close to that employee, you might avoid giving discipline. Here’s a question: If you have spinach in your teeth, who is most likely to tell you? Someone you are close with or someone with whom you have a distant relationship? Exactly. Takeaway: The closer you are to someone, and the more you care about them, the more willing you are to have difficult and unpleasant conversations.


Sustain the momentum

Of all the responsibilities a leader must focus on, building a positive management culture is paramount. Specifically, promote a culture of recognition and appreciation. Our brain’s natural wiring tends to give more weight to negative information than to positive information. Dopamine (the pleasure hormone) wears off after only a couple of hours, but cortisol (stress hormone) can last up to 24 hours. That is also why it takes multiple positive experiences to make up for a negative one. Takeaway: Begin every meeting by asking each person to briefly mention a recent success or high point they’ve had. Make this a habit. No exceptions.


In fact, here are five easy and inexpensive ways to build an appreciative culture:

  • Give at least one handwritten note per week.
  • Say “thank you” more often.
  • Write a note and mail it to the employee’s home.
  • Take a top performer out for coffee/tea and explain why.
  • Send cards or text on important days (anniversaries, graduations, etc).


In the end, I am convinced that no one begins a job with the intent to quit and stay. People yearn to be a part of a successful team that is engaging and delivers a world-class service experience. However, it is also easy to unintentionally demotivate and snatch the zeal from your most engaged staff. Today, make a leadership commitment to expect, model and talk about excellence everyday. Then watch your team stay, thrive and soar to new heights.

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