Ask them respectfully to tell the honest truth and that you need to know in order to address the issues.
When somebody says that they want to quit, of course, ask them, “Why do you want to quit? What’s going on? You’re a top performer, we really value you here. I don’t want you to leave, but I want to respect your wishes.” But also ask them respectfully to tell the honest truth and that you need to know in order to address the issues. You can’t fix something that you don’t know. You’ll want to speak it in a way which inspires confidence in them, and gives them some level of safety and security so they actually provide you with the correct feedback. Now that you know what is holding them back, Here’s what you do: Ask them if they have another job lined up. They’re going to more than likely have something else, since this person is a high performing high achiever, they are most likely responsible. People don’t typically just quit a job on a whim. Which means that they have been looking for some time or maybe they were headhunted and recruited into a different situation. What was the first thing I said? The grass is not always greener on the other side, the grass is greener where you water it.
So you tell them this: “Go and take the other position, but if it is not everything that they promised you, if you are not absolutely happy like a pig in shit inside of ninety days, you can come back.” When you do that, you have now reframed the conversation. You have told them that they are a valued member, and you respect and admire their input. You’ve also told them to go on, go ahead and scratch that itch. But if it’s not what they want or what they think it is, they can always come back. I see countless people leave a situation for another one that they think will be better, and it turns out that it isn’t. But then they can’t come back. This creates the expectation that this person will come back but you don’t just leave it there, remember? What’s the first rule of sales? Always make sure you have next steps. So what you do is you say, “OK, today is the first, you’re going to serve out your two weeks so on the fourteenth you will be done here. Ninety days from the fourteenth, let’s put a meeting on the calendar.” You put a meeting on the calendar and you meet that person face to face, outside of the office.
This prevents you from overpaying to keep someone that is going to be a diminishing asset. When you overpay, you tell them that they have something over you, that you need them that much more and again, this person cannot help themselves. It’s human nature for them to continue to look over the fence. So the most important thing and the best thing you can do is sit down with a top performer, get them to take their guard down, let them open up and tell you exactly why they’re leaving. But also, create an opportunity for them to return. When you do this you shift the power dynamic in your favor. You are not beholden to them and if and when they come back, you maintain the good will and loyalty of a top performer.