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Context: the technical development staff stands at 31 individuals, of which I am the ScrumMaster/Development manager responsible 3 cross functional teams of 5 people in each team. Over the last year the business has been turning over (averaged out) 4-5 developers per month, of which I am now one of them as I have given my weeks notice. From my understanding it is attributable to a mid level manager who joined just over a year ago. I've given notice because this individual is too difficult to work with. Staff prior to his arrival say that the company was different. No one post his arrival has stayed longer than six months.

Some of the turnover is down to individuals resigning, like my self. Other situations are down to sackings because the developers didn't "deliver" the user stories acceptably.

SideBar 1: User stories often are in the from of; New Product Database, 2 days work. What that actually translates to; Re-factoring the existing database, creating new relational structures and ETL-ing from old to new. Re-factor all sprocs and sql statements for applications and place into production. I sat in the meeting where it was decided to dismiss him (the DBA) for being obstructionist, argumentative, not capable of delivering (my first warning signal something was wrong - given I was defending his (the DBA's) position).

SideBar 2: The Mid Level Manager is on the business side rather than technical. He has shown some very unsavoury behaviour sexist, racist, Anti-Semitic, physically manhandling people out of meetings: generally obnoxious. What amazes me is that this individual has a huge list of "reputations" on linkedin, gushing about his marvellous skills and great to work with.

I would like to exit the company gracefully, but I face with an "ethical" conundrum on two levels. A competency based one as I view his managements skills to be exceptionally poor and then the one about his disgraceful behaviour in the modern workplace towards colleagues (peers and direct reports).

I do not, in my last week, want to raise a grievance, but as this company is a highly respected British organisation, who prides itself on it even-handedness to its consumers. I feel that this is a very toxic environment and it should be brought to light.

So given I have five working days to go (as of 8 April 13), How do I;

  1. Bring to light this problem to Senior Management or the Board.
  2. Raise a grievance, post my termination date.
  3. Not appear to have "Sour Grapes" if 1 & 2 come about
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    Will you be doing an exit interview? With such a high-turnover, you can't be the first to point to the source of the problem. To prevent burning down a bridge, let them know you would consider returning if this person were no longer with the company. – user8365 Apr 8 '13 at 2:05
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    "People don't leave bad companies, they leave bad managers" seems to apply here. – enderland Apr 8 '13 at 16:50
  • BTW If you finally decide to have the conversation not anonimously, you might want to point to this post. – Jan Doggen Apr 9 '13 at 7:25
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    @JanDoggen not sure an employer will appreciate a reference to laundry aired, such as this. This is the interweb, post as anonymously as you can – kolossus Apr 10 '13 at 2:08
  • What makes you think management could possibly not be aware of a 13% attrition rate? – keshlam Sep 9 '14 at 18:32
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I know we do not get into legal issues but I am an experienced representative of a British TU that covers the ICT/TMT industries so I do know enough to give some valid advice here.

  1. You are already resigning and will be gone in 5 days. Raising a grievance will probably do you no good as by the time of the hearing you will no longer work for them.

  2. You could take the approach of writing a polite anonymous letter from a “friend” to the board members. Sending a copy to Gawker or The Register is another option.

  3. The sacking for alleged poor performance of several people seems to have been done so quickly and counter to procedure that those individuals would have a claim for unfair dismissal – did the DBA even have any process applied to his sacking?

Re: the sour grapes you should take the line that you are doing this in sadness rather than anger.

  • Thank you @Neuro, your advice is sound and solid. Leave quietly with a professionally reference and nothing out of the ordinary to be remembered by other than professional competency. – Ourjamie Apr 6 '13 at 12:57
  • Sending a copy of a letter containing information about internal matters to someone who might publish it could result in legal trouble. – Blrfl Apr 6 '13 at 13:22
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    Blfrl you woudl send it anonymously of course it is a nuclear option but the manger in question has made his bed and will have to sleep in it. – Neuro Apr 6 '13 at 16:04
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There is always the possibility that the employer does not care about the attrition rate, and is willing to accept it, or actively encouraging it. Once you leave, it is the employer's problem and not yours. Don't dwell on it, but use it as a learning experience and move on. As for the exit interview, it is a formality, and they don't really care what you have to say, unless they ask you if it's because of this manager.

At the first exit interview I went to, after I answered the question 'why was I leaving' with some of the same reasons you gave, the VP doing the interview told me, "You need to concentrate on enjoying life, and don't worry about work so much." 20 years ago I was shocked by that answer, but now I realize that it was good advice.

In any case, most of the exit interviews I've had were to make sure I turned my badge in, and signed some papers.

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    +1 - They don't care what you have to say unless they already have an agenda in mind. If they do have an agenda then you'll be asked explicitly if you don't bring it up yourself. The only impact you can have in an exit interview is getting that "eligible for rehire" box unchecked and changed to "Do Not Rehire". You would be surprised how many people discover that the grass isn't greener on the other side and end up returning to previous places of employment. Companies love those employees because they know they aren't going anywhere for quite some time. – Dunk Apr 9 '13 at 22:10
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...I face with an "ethical" conundrum on two levels.

Your conundrum isn't ethical, it's business. Your relationship with your employer is a business arrangement: you do their work and they give you things in return (e.g., financial compensation and intangibles like experience, the work environment and free coffee). When what you get out of it is no longer worth what you're putting in, as it appears to be in your case, you leave. Employers do the same thing: when they think (rightly or wrongly) an employee isn't giving them good value for the compensation, the employee is sacked. Either way, the relationship ends, you go your separate ways and neither of you has any further obligation to look out for the other's interests.

In that context:

Bring to light this problem to Senior Management or the Board.

If you have a good enough relationship with anyone in that position where you can sit down and lay out the situation, then by all means, do it before you leave. If you don't, you can try it if you think they're receptive to that sort of thing or write the CEO a letter dated your last day of work. Chances are you'll be seen as disgruntled or the issue being some low-level, internal squabble that's beneath them to deal with. Management will avoid rocking the boat if the company is doing well financially. (A colleague once observed that you can hide a lot of mistakes in a billion-dollar revenue stream. As it happened, we were at a company which was doing just that.)

Raise a grievance, post my termination date.

Do not, under any circumstances, do anything with the word grievance in it unless you fully understand the implications. Depending on where you live, an employee grievance may have specific legal ramifications.

Good companies understand that your resignation means you found something about your position is unsatisfactory. Truly good companies are introspective enough to understand that what brought about your resignation may lie with them and not you.

Your company's reaction to your departure is good feedback about whether or not you did the right thing. If they don't want to know why you're leaving or what they could have done to prevent it, your decision was a good one. If they ask for an honest assessment of why you're leaving and, if you're valuable enough, offer you some incentive to stay on while they try to correct the problem, it may be worth reconsidering.

If I understand your numbers correctly, ignoring annual turnover of 48-60 in a group of 31 (~175%) doesn't bode well for your company having that level of clue.

Not appear to have "Sour Grapes" if 1 & 2 come about

If the environment is so toxic that you've already resigned and wouldn't be inclined to go back, are those who might see this as sour grapes on your list of people you feel the need to impress? Your like-minded peers who have left or are considering it already understand the situation. As long as you've looked at your decisions and actions from all sides and are satisfied that your judgement was sound, don't sweat it.

... this company is a highly respected British organisation, who prides itself on it even-handedness to its consumers. I feel that this is a very toxic environment and it should be brought to light.

Most companies pride themselves on something like that. My experience has been that on the inside, very few live up to how they're seen (or would like to be seen) from the outside.

  • actually you do have to deal with ethical concerns at work the OP is working as a professional in software development and professionals in engineering disciplines do have to be aware of the ethical dimension of their work just as doctors and lawyers do – Neuro Apr 6 '13 at 16:07
  • @Neuro: Of course, but this question isn't about the work. The OP has already made the decision to leave, probably because he doesn't think the situation can be or will be improved. Going to management about a problem that's been under their noses for almost a year is one thing if you're going to stay on and see if anything happens with it. Doing it on the way out the door unless asked doesn't benefit the employee in any way. – Blrfl Apr 6 '13 at 17:30
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Most companies I've worked for have an exit interview. If they do that, then this is the time to bring it up. I would do it in as dispassionate a way as possible. The last thing you want if for them to have the impression that you are angry. Just bring the numbers to the attention of senior management may be the strongest argument you have. They may not have realized exactly how bad the problem has gotten and how much this person is costing them. You may also point out that with this number of disgruntled ex-employees, it is going to become impossible to find good new employees as the place will have reputation as a place to avoid. Then you can bring up any incidents of unprofessional behavior on the part of the person you are talking about if you have specifics, like date and time and who else was present so they can check out your story. If you can show project delays due to the number of new personnel or any other costs of this continual hiring, show that as well.

Try not to sound like you have a vendetta against this guy but show the problem though data not just your opinion.

If they don't offer an exit interview and you have prepped a solid case from the data about the problem, then ask for an appointment with the person you think most likely to be able to deal with the problem on your last day there.

An exit interview can be risky in that it may feel like you are burning your bridges. But if this guy is not your immediate boss and if you have other people who have worked there for references, it may not be as risky as you think.

If you don't feel comfortable doing it through the exit interview, then feel free to send an anonymous letter; with this level of turnover, they won't know exactly who it was from. However, an anonymous letter may get less attention than an exit interview.

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    While I agree in some way, I think once you have decided to leave AND if you have a good reputation then leave it at that and leave in good standing. You never know about the job market and having the option of working for the lousy manager is still preferable to living in your car. If the OP really thought there was a need to raise this issue then they should have done it while they were a full employee. If nothing was done at that time then it would be quite obvious why they left and it would have probably had far greater impact than run-n-gunning out the door. – Dunk Apr 9 '13 at 22:06
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There is no point in bringing this up. Such a high attrition rate is an obvious problem. Upper management may already be dealing with the issue or they may be careless or simply incompetent. Either way, your input will not make a difference.

If you want to truly make a difference, you should do two things:

  1. Consider how to be the best possible employee at your next position.
  2. Put the situation in the back of your mind and say: "I will never repeat their mistake. If I am ever in senior management, I will know this situation when I see it."
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    The assumption that someone is aware of or dealing with a known problem could leave to no one dealing with it, if everyone makes that assumption... – yochannah Sep 8 '14 at 19:48
  • I see your point but I disagree in this case. Senior management has all the information they need to know that a serious problem exists (extreme attrition). If they decide to do nothing they are incompetent, at best. In some other cases management might not have the necessary information to act, or the issue might require technical knowledge. – Jørgen Fogh Sep 8 '14 at 20:54
  • For a software development job, I'd estimate that replacing an employee costs about three to six monthly salaries (time wasted on the hiring process + HR and all the formalities + time it takes for the employee to get to speed). Four or five of 31 developers leaving in a month is awfully expensive. – gnasher729 Sep 9 '14 at 16:00
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First, normally the best way to effect change in your company is to make your grievances known to your employer BEFORE you put in your notice. Note, there is always a certain level of risk with such interactions, however; since you ultimately decided this issue was sufficient justification to leave, that risk is fairly minimal.

In your case though...

Making your grievance know

Who you take your grievances to and how depends on your company structure and is often outlined in your company policy. In this case since your manager is the issue most likely the "proper" procedure will be something like take you complaint to HR and/or your manager's manager.

Generally speaking you want to do this before hand and in "non-negative terms" by this I mean if I have serious concerns about my manager's incompetence I would snag the appropriate person and say "Hey , mind if we chat for a moment?" then explain you're personally struggling with the constant turn over and lack of direction, and ask for help in mitigating this issue to improve things. That person is probably thinking "Bob's department seems to be having issues, I better figure out what's going on" instead of if you just declared Bob an idiot they'd thing "This guy's got some kind of problem with Bob, is it worth fixing?"

Also note this is really only effective BEFORE you put in your notice, at this point they've written you off as a loss and it's unlikely they will act as they probably don't believe they can retain you. (If I know I'm losing someone and I probably can't prevent it, why would I risk losing more people?)

Should you make your grievance known?

At this point the ideal window for this has past and is gone, so should you still make it known... That depends on what's more important to you... If your financial well being and thereby your good reference with this company is more important then you probably should just let this go and move on without a complaint.

If making things better for those behind you is more important then I would make this known at the exit interview. (Most companies have these before the end of your notice in the event you choose to resign vs are terminated) Again, just express disappointment in working conditions in your department without specifically calling the manager out as the problem. Showing there is a problem will automatically put the manager in the hotseat while not necessarily appearing vindictive.

How should you tell them (assuming you do)

This is something you want to keep in the company. Do not write out to the media, or third parties, etc. That is the Nuclear option you really should only consider in extreme cases where their are serious ethical concerns such companies allowing for dangerous or illegal working conditions, etc.

If there is an exit interview that will involve HR and / or your manager's manager. Then that would be the ideal time, if not then it depends on your relationship with your manager's manager... If you two are on good terms generally speaking I'd ask to have a nice 15 - 20 minute chat to express your concerns and that the company is hemorrhaging talent over this. If you really don't have a connection take this to HR instead.

Expected results

At this point sadly, it's unlikely any real change will happen. You're already a casualty in their books. I doubt they'll make any changes they weren't already planning to do based on your input after the fact. (It COULD happen, but odds are against it)

If you are REALLY lucky your bosses boss might ask, "If it was different would you stay?". This would be an extremely good indicator that you're valuable enough they're willing to go above and beyond to retain you, and likely that they are already trying to improve things. If this is the case they might offer you a raise to try and retain you, but I'll be direct in saying this is highly unlikely. If it does happen it would happen around the same time as the exit interview.

Summary

In my opinion it's too little too late. The opportunity to effect change realistically has sailed, at this point your better off watching out for your own interests. Your soon to be former coworkers are adults themselves and can speak for them selves. At which point the company will either effect changes to improve things or continue to grow more toxic. Either case, this is no longer your battle one you walk out that door the last time.

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