HR Management & Compliance

How Should You Address Employees Who ‘Won’t Go Quietly’ When They Quit?

How you leave a job can make a huge impact on how you move forward, but it can also make a huge impact on the company you leave. Recent research conducted by Reflektive, a people management platform, revealed interesting insights concerning the connection between unfair performance reviews and how likely people are to quit. Additionally, its findings show that many employees would not go quietly if they quit. Instead, they would bad-mouth their organization via one of many increasingly available and public outlets.

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I recently sat down with Rachel Ernst, the VP of Employee Success at Reflektive, to discuss the results and their implications. First, let’s go over some of the relevant findings:

  • Eighty-five percent said they would consider leaving after they received an unfair performance review. Among those respondents, 25% said it was extremely likely, 27% said it was very likely, and 33% said it was somewhat likely.
  • Fourteen percent said they would like to quit their job immediately because they received an inaccurate performance review. Among those, 60% said they would leave a Glassdoor review, and 51% said they would not leave quietly.
  • Seventy-eight percent of those who said they would not leave quietly would create an “I quit” video for social media.

Unfair Performance Review

What is an unfair performance review? Ernst defines it as one that “wasn’t in alignment with what the employee expected.” That doesn’t mean that the review actually was unfair—just that those on the receiving end of the review had different expectations. Part of what this survey sought to understand was how the average employee handles what he or she thinks is an unfair review. With 85% saying they were somewhere between somewhat and very likely to quit over such a review, this can potentially have a large, negative impact on organizations. Ernst says that “85% is quite high, but also not surprising.”

I asked whether employees’ wanting to quit had to do solely with unfair reviews or if it had connections with potential financial gains or losses. Ernst believes it is a combination of both; other data from the survey showed that “24% of people wanted to quit their jobs, and the biggest reason they cited was lack of either a monetary increase or promotion.” So, although an unfair performance review clearly drives people away, their decision to leave is based on additional factors such as the lack of monetary increases and/or promotions.

Won’t Some People Always Want to Quit?

Despite the fact that there will always be people who aren’t content with their jobs and want to move on, these survey findings demonstrate why HR should be concerned. Ernst puts it best when she says that among those who are ready to quit, “78% said they wouldn’t go quietly.” As noted above, they would be willing to make an “I quit” video. These videos, which sometimes go viral, involve employees’ telling the world not only that they quit but also why they quit, and they almost always name their former employer. With massive, global consumption of social media, these videos can be very embarrassing and can damage an employer’s brand.

Don’t Dismiss Glassdoor

Among those who said they wanted to quit, 60% said they would leave a Glassdoor review. Ernst weighed in, saying, “that’s not specifying if the review would be positive or negative, but we can assume that if they are leaving their job, it wouldn’t be a super positive review.” Some might dismiss Glassdoor as largely an outlet for people’s complaints after leaving a company, but such a perspective might be too myopic. Afterall, even if an employer is suspicious of its ratings, potential candidates won’t be. It’s standard practice for jobseekers to read Glassdoor reviews and ratings for their potential new employer.

Ernst recommends responding to Glassdoor reviews, whether they are negative or not. She believes “those that do respond show they care about their brand and their people—regardless if those people are still there or not—and they are humble enough to say, ‘Hey, we are not perfect, but we aim to hold ourselves to this high standard’.” It may be challenging to eat a slice of humble pie and respond to your staunchest critics, but doing so helps you explain your side in what would otherwise be a one-sided review.

Company Secrets

The survey showed that among those who would not quit quietly, 12% said they would expose company secrets. Although that number may seem small, even one person exposing company secrets can be massively damaging. For example, Anthony Levandowski has just recently been charged with stealing self-driving car secrets from Google, forming his own company, and selling that company to Uber. You can read about the ongoing case here. The costs to Google of that theft are very challenging to calculate, but Levandowski sold his start-up to Uber for nearly $700 million!

Actively disengaged employees—those who aren’t just underperforming but are actively seeking to harm a company—can do some real damage. Ernst suggests that addressing this issue “goes back to the importance of ongoing conversations. If people are to the point where they are not only disgruntled but they are going to leave in a malicious way, it means that things were going negatively for quite a long period of time or something drastic happened that put them in that mind set.”

Ernst adds, “In my experience, those that are so disgruntled are also, a fair amount of the time, low performers.” That comment is not intended to be dismissive or harsh. Instead, she says that “it’s about how do you manage the low performers, and navigate those conversations.” Ernst believes that having a strategy for dealing with low performers—and, therefore, your most disengaged employees—can help you “manage low performers in a good way” or, if that’s not possible, “manage them out.”

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

HR managers don’t want to discover that employees are making gleeful “I quit” videos or leaving negative Glassdoor reviews, and they certainly don’t want employees to share vital company secrets. To avoid these situations, the best approach is to get ahead of them. Ernst suggests keeping a pulse on the organization. She explains that that “means sending out a survey on a regular basis, say once a year, and then doing small pulse surveys throughout the year.” She also says that the data need to be reviewed by executives and communicated to everyone in the organization.

Ernst says it’s critical for your organization to say, “you have a forum for having your voice heard, we heard you, and we are taking these steps or not taking these steps, but at least we are listening.”