Please, Please Release Me


If you believe in the saying ‘happy people, are productive people’, then why would you want to hold on to someone, who clearly no longer wants to work for you.

If there heart is no longer in it, then they will not deliver the performance that you are looking for or need, and often they will become a disruptive influence bringing the performance of the entire team down further.

I always find it strange when people try to cling on to staff who have decided they want to move on. I can understand the frustration of potentially losing a star performer, but in reality, as soon as they say they want to go, more often than not you have already lost them.

You may be able to keep them a little longer, but if their heart is not in it, then you should just let them go. Keeping them will just build resentment and damage your long term relationship.

We also need to look at the bigger picture too, if as leaders our role is to help people achieve their full potential, then if they have an opportunity to leave for a better role, if we stand in their way then we are now no longer being true to our thoughts of what a leaders role is.

Look at football, if you’re the manage a smaller club and one of players has a chance to play for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, and he really wants to go, then we shouldn’t look to stand in their way.

We should look to be supportive, and ensure that we maintain a good relationship, who know’s it might not work out, and they might want to look to return.

However, a return is highly unlikely if the split has been acrimonious.

Imagine how you would feel if your dream job became available, and your boss tried to stop you from being able to take it. Well, they feel exactly the same.

There is nothing wrong with us trying to persuade them to stay, selling the benefits of finishing what they have started with us, but if they truly want to leave, then we should happily set them free.

I know this is tough, and can often cause us problems, but hoping we can resolve it by refusing to let some one go is only prolonging the problem. In fact it could be making it worse, as it might deter other people from joining our teams if they see how difficult it is for them to move onto a bigger role, if one becomes available.

People are much more likely to join us if they see how supportive we are, and they are more likely to spread positive messages about us.

Who knows, it might then be us who gets the dream move to manage the equivalent of Real Madrid, etc., where we may then end up leading the same people with whom we now have an acrimonious relationship.

Imagine the negative perception that they will have already spread about us before we get there.

When I worked in the US, one of my best architects got an offer from a very large company as lead of their architecture team, it was a great move for him, but this was a bad time for us, we were right in the middle of a go live.

As it was a move to an external company there was nothing I could have done, even if I had wanted to. So I accepted his departure with good grace, I even helped him with the plan for what he would do in his first 100 days in the job.

We not only parted on good terms, but he also agreed that if needed to, we could call him for support or advice if we got into problems. Fortunately things went smoothly, and we didn’t need to call.

About a month or two after his departure I got a call from the HR department of his new firm, which I thought was strange as I had already given the reference and passed over all his details.

To my surprise the call was not about him, it was about me. They were looking for a new CIO, and and my former architect had given such glowing feedback about me, that they wanted to interview me for the role.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, I still had some unfinished business that I needed to complete where I was, so the timing wasn’t good for me.

I often think back to that, and I am sure that if I had made his departure difficult, then I would never have gotten that call.

Have you ever tried to hold onto someone, or even worse have you had a boss who wouldn’t let you take your dream job?

If so let me know, how did it make you feel, how did it end up, and how do you feel about that boss/company now?

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles