When Employee Turnover is Actually Good

Raffa Financial ServicesRaffa Financial Services on 05/07/2018

We spend a lot of time cursing the ill effects of turnover. It’s disruptive. It’s expensive. It’s a sign of poor company culture and/or leadership. And while all of these things are generally true, there are certain times when turnover can be a blessing in disguise.

If you need a new perspective

Most of us have probably worked in stable, yet stifling, workplaces. You know, the kind where everyone has been there for 20 or 30 years and nobody has much interest in embracing new technologies, roles, or processes. You can tell you’re in an organization or department like this if the first answer to any new idea is an automatic and immediate “No!”

There may have been a time when companies could survive and perhaps even thrive in this sort of culture, but not now. Today’s business pace is super-fast and ever changing. In order to keep up, you may actually need some of your naysayers to hit the road.

As changes make their way into your organization, some of your “No!” folks will naturally opt out. And that’s okay. Don’t fret too much about turnover in this scenario. Concentrate on looking for replacements who are flexible and like a good challenge.

If you’re hanging on to dead weight

Underperformers can be tricky. Often, these are fantastic people that you genuinely like! But deep down inside you know they just aren’t pulling their weight.

Looking the other way may keep you from having some difficult conversations, but ultimately you’ll be undermining your organizational goals and efforts, and risking the health of your business.

No matter how much fun your underperformers may be, their co-workers are eventually going to recognize their behavior patterns and stop laughing. This is a slippery slope that can take you from a couple of underperforming individuals to a team full of resentful, disengaged employees. And that’s an even bigger problem.

Keep in mind that difficult conversations don’t necessarily involve termination. It could be that you’ve got a round peg stuck in a square hole. Sit down with your lackluster employees and see if there are ways to get them motivated again. If so, great! If not, well…

This isn’t the kind of turnover you should lose a ton of sleep over.   

If you have some bad seeds

Some employers like to treat their employees like family. And this can be a great thing! Being supportive and making sure everyone feels like a valued and contributing member of the team is critical to building confidence and setting a foundation for success.

But if you’ve got a cousin who shows up late for Thanksgiving, forgets to bring the cranberries, drinks all the wine, and breaks a serving dish every single year, maybe it’s time to rescind that standing invitation.

The truth is, bad seeds know when they’ve got it good. They’ve tested the boundaries. They know what they can get away with. They probably also know that their behavior would never fly in any other setting. So they hang around. Because you let them.

Family can provide a warm, safe place that allows people to thrive. But as many therapists will tell you, family can also be the source of a variety of unhealthy baggage that takes a long time (and a considerable amount of money) to get rid of.

If there are members in your organizational family who are doing more harm than good, don’t tolerate their behavior in the name of low turnover. Help them gather up all of that baggage and hit the road.

If you have growing pains

It’s been said that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. This seems to be particularly true for businesses. Growth is an exciting time, but also a volatile one. It involves hiring, change, flexibility, and increased responsibility.

While this would seem like a terrible time to lose people, it can happen. Likely, it will be the risk-adverse who are first to jump ship; those who fear uncertainty or don’t fully buy into the mission. Again, this is a self-selection process that should not necessarily be feared.

Growth is not for the faint of heart. You need all hands on deck. This is not the time to try to hang onto people who are feeling squeamish. If they want out, leave the door open. Besides, you never know what amazing new person may come walking in.

What kind of turnover are you looking at?

Yes, turnover can be expensive, disruptive, damaging, and disappointing. But that doesn’t mean that all turnover is inherently bad.

If you’ve ever been to a fancy bakery, you know it can also be a sweet treat filled with hidden treasures. Mmmmmm.


At Raffa, we work with businesses in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area to implement strategic employee benefits plans designed to position them as coveted employers of choice. Whether you’re looking to build a healthy team, lower employee turnover, or recruit and reward executive talent, we can help. 


Photo by Gianluca Pisano

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