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Turnover: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Turnover is inevitable. Recently, we passed the one-year mark since Searchspring was purchased by Scaleworks and I was brought in as CEO. While putting together a quick presentation, I came to the realization that we had less than 10% turnover from the original Searchspring employees. Since then, a few more have left, which got me thinking about turnover and assuming management of people you didn’t hire.

When you take over a company, you are presented with many challenges. I gave a rundown on how I approached those in my blog about my first year as the CEO of Searchspring. But really, the greatest challenge is the humans. We are very difficult and unique creatures, each one of us has very specific needs and contributes in varying ways, which makes managing difficult. Knowing all the challenges, I’m aware that turnover can be good, bad, and ugly.

But as humans, we tend to not classify turnover in this way, and oftentimes managers or leaders will react negatively. Some will try to justify every bit of the turnover as good – this is definitely incorrect. We can take it personally or maybe we are just mad at the impact. What happens if we classify the turnover before we act with our emotions? Maybe it is good turnover.


This is anything that is good for either the organization or for the employee. I get excited when an employee leaves to do something great, like start their own business or accept a promotion that, quite frankly, would be impossible at our company unless their boss left. I love to see employees growing and I am wise enough to know that I cannot harness all their growth, and at some point they need to move on to a different company. Then there is the good for the company turnover. This can be an employee that is causing issues, or maybe someone that has been checked out from the organization, and seeing them move on is a good thing. No one needs dead weight. 


This turnover is bad. This is avoidable turnover that you should have seen coming and you should have prevented. This rears its ugly head as a result of things like under-paying employees, under-appreciating employees, skipping them over for promotions, etc. You have no one but yourself to blame here, and it likely will cause the company some level of harm. This isn’t to say that the company is completely at fault for not knowing. I cannot stress enough to employees: you own your own destiny and you are the only one in control. Too often, employees don’t speak up about their growth in the company and they don’t force their managers to build growth plans. Sure, the manager should be doing it but the employee should be the driver if the manager is not. Most of the bad turnover is those who quit.


You do not want this turnover, avoid it at all costs. This is typically avoidable turnover that is going to cause a lot of pain. Usually, it is a HR issue or someone blatantly breaking a company policy so you are forced to fire them quickly. The other side of ugly turnover is when it should have just been good or bad turnover but you failed to manage the transition and you caused further fall out.

How you manage the turnover and how you deal with the messaging around it can make all the difference. Offboarding someone is just as important as onboarding. Great offboarding means you can transition things easily and mitigate a giant risk, even though you might’ve lost a great employee.

Since turnover is both unforced and forced, and I really focused mostly on unforced in this article, you should consider the same things when letting someone go. I’ll write about why it is more terrible to not fire someone than it is to fire someone in my next blog.