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Vets don’t generally leave jobs because someone offered them more money or the recruitment agents managed to convince them that another job would be better with a few lines in an ad. Generally, what happens is they had already made the decision to leave in their minds many weeks, months or years before actually taking the plunge and handing in their resignation. They had walked up to the line many times before stepping over.

Walking up to the line – will they step over?

They may have no idea of what the future now holds for them but all they know is the current situation is not working and shows no sign of improving. It is not working out NOT because they needed to stay late to deal with an emergency case, but because it happens too often that they are expected to do this. It is not because their boss didn’t thank them for going above and beyond, but because they feel they never get any thanks for what they do. It is not because they received negative feedback, but because it was giving in a non-helpful way, they only ever received negatives with no positives in the bank to draw against or because the feedback feels unjust. It is not because they give an idea for the business that is not acknowledged or discussed but because they never feel like they are involved in the business, that they are just a cog. It is not because they asked for help with a case but you were too busy to give that help, but because you are always too busy to help and there is a lack of real support. Now it might also be that they are so badly paid that they are struggling to make ends meet (I hear you nurses), that they experience bullying or discrimination or it might even be factors outside your business, but on the whole there is a long timeline of walking towards that line and backing off before the final moment of stepping over. It is likely to be different for every individual.

And so for these employees, the grass starts to look greener elsewhere. They start to imagine what their life would be like if they weren’t working for you. At this point, standing at the line and looking over it something will either temporarily draw them back or something will push them over the line and that something may seem minor and trivial but it is the culmination of what lead up to this point that made them finally step over. At this time a flick through the job ads and seeing an enticing prospective job, a call from a head hunter so say that they are wanted by another employer or a talk with some colleagues about how it is different elsewhere, then you cannot get this employee off the line without getting to the bottom of why they want to leave and fixing it.

I have been through this process myself and talked to others that have done the same standing at the line. It can also be a great relief once over that line, the decision made and the future to plan for. For the employers reading this, the bottom line is you need to talk to your staff regularly and listen to them properly; listen to feedback on a regular basis and find out why your staff are really leaving and fix it before more step over that line.

Footnote added 18/4/21. This is also a good place to discuss if it really is a good idea to have such long notice periods for your staff. Yes, it is difficult to recruit and it will take many months to find their replacement, but in reality it is likely to take significantly longer than the 3 months notice period and during the time that the staff member who has clearly signalled their intent to leave is made to continue to work somewhere they don’t feel is working for them. In their mind they have already walked over the line and left. It is likely to be counter productive for the business to make them work out the extra long notice periods required by some businesses. If the member of staff is leaving for reasons outside your control such as their partner is moving across the country, then these are the cases where you can negotiate them to stay longer. Have a think if your standard 3 month notice period is doing your business any favours.