What Causes the Mass Exodus?

(Photo credit: Office Space, 1999, Fox Studios)

How do companies get to the point of having somewhat sustained terms of mass exodus, and don’t understand WHY?

At a lower level, how does management not catch on that a SINGLE manager can have that effect? One of my employers had a VERY high turnover rate – somewhere on the order of 50%, depending on how you calculate it. We lost a LOT of people, both internally and externally. It took a LONG time for anyone to realize that the cause was one boss – one person who couldn’t understand that people are not just AA batteries in a remote control. You can’t swap people out and expect the system to run right. Even if someone has a “backup” (and when you were told you needed to get a backup for your unique roll… it was time to go find another job), the alternate is NOT going to perform the same way!

At a higher level, I’ve seen this on larger scales – multiple larger companies seem to be taking the approach that we can use people up until they burn out, and then just trade them around or replace them. When one of our competitors won a major contract, they offered HUGE sign-on bonuses to get people, and they took a HUGE chunk of the workforce form the other companies in the industry. 2 years later, there’s been quite an influx of those people coming back either to their old jobs, or similar roles in other teams – coming BACK where they came from. The stories seem to be the same – “they were working us to the point of burnout”.

The days are gone of a young person graduating college, starting work with a company right out of school, and having mutual loyalty between the company and employee, until that person retires as an expert at what they do. I’ve heard some engineering managers in other industries say that until ~40, they almost expect to see an engineer’s resume reflect movement (either between companies or departments) every 5 years. This movement really is a reflection of lack of loyalty. The companies DO take care of employees by providing insurance (at a cost to the employee), I suppose – but there also seems to be an increase in health-related issues due to stress on the job. Just last week, I heard about an employee being taken to the hospital from work due to heart issues due to stress.

Then our upper management tells us “It’s important to balance work and family”. Middle management responds with “Ummm…yeah… I’m going to need you to come in…. SATURDAY….” I get it, we’re doing things that we’ve never done before, but we still need the appropriate staff to get them done, and those people need sleep.

Let’s face it, “Office Space” wasn’t a comedy, it was a documentary about the way the corporate world works.

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