The Manager’s Dilemma

If you supervise people long enough you will eventually be faced with a dilemma on when to allow people to leave your team for other opportunities within the company. This situation is very different than when someone informs you they are leaving the company because in that case you really have no ability to stop the person from leaving. You might make a counter-offer, but your options are usually quite limited and everything is up to the person making the decision to leave. When someone wants to leave your team for another position in the company, you generally have a lot more ability to influence the move.

That creates the dilemma.

Having a hole in your group will make your job as a manager a lot harder. First, you have to make sure the work gets covered until the position is filled. Then, you have to go through the whole effort of obtaining candidates, interviewing and finally teaching someone who takes the job all of the specifics about the job. It would be a lot easier on you if the person just stayed. So as a manager you are torn between what makes you and your team’s life easier, and what may be best for the person moving to the new job and the company overall.

In my career, I have seen some managers block moves by their team members to other positions in the company, but that almost always backfires. The manager may mollify themselves saying the move was “just a lateral” and there was no increase in pay that blocking the move cost their team member. But if the person wants to move there are probably other reasons besides pay driving that desire. Maybe the person wanted to grow their skills in order to make themselves more valuable, and therefore more promotable in the future. Maybe the person was just bored in their current job and wanted a new challenge. Whatever the reason, blocking an internal move just drives the person to look externally. Then, when the person leaves they are not only leaving your team, but they are leaving the company altogether.

Instead of making your and your team’s life easier, you just have just deferred the inevitable and cost the company a good employee in the process. And I know they are a good employee because you would not have blocked their move and they would not have been offered two different jobs if they weren’t. The alternative way through the dilemma is to negotiate the move date for the employee within the company. Of course the new manager will want their person as soon as possible, but if there is a big project that is important to the company that will be done in six weeks, they will probably be willing to wait. You could also negotiate letting the person go earlier, but getting them back for the week of close or helping train the new person when you backfill their old position.

The key is as managers it is always more important to think about what is good for your employees and the company, not just what is good for you personally. As CPAs we are already inclined to do that because we take an oath that says we will put the public interest ahead of our own personal interest. All we need to do is translate that to taking the same care for our employees and the company we work for.

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