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My company recently announced return to office plans. We have 150 employees. Over 100 complaints flooded our suggestion box about the new policy.

Management dismissed the complaints with a lecture on people being too negative.

Now high levels of discontent are brewing in the company. One senior developer instant quit on Friday over the policy and a recruiting headhunter type sent out a mass email to our staff to their work emails about why this is a good time for them to abandon ship and choose remote and specifically mentioned the emails and called out the manager who made the announcement by name. I saw LinkedIn and Indeed being open for another developer during a screenshare.

Now I get making sure that no one person has all the knowledge, but what do you do when you might lose entire teams of people (including possibly me)?

I am the Software Development Manager but not part of leadership, so I oversee 5 dev teams.

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    Prioritize the work-in-progress. Shut down lower-priority work when enough people leave, and move the remaining people to higher-priority items. Communicate this to management / stakeholders. Ideally, get their take on priorities. – Peter K. Jun 12 at 17:38
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    @PhilipKendall the same person asked both questions. – Matthew Gaiser Jun 12 at 18:23
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    Look for a new job, preferably one that will allow you to work remotely. When found, give notice. No more problem. – jmoreno Jun 13 at 0:10
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    Prepare for departures either way. My company decided to go permanently remote, they're losing a ton of people who hate being remote. – Gabe Sechan Jun 13 at 2:44
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    Do you have any research or stats to back that up? – tddmonkey Jun 14 at 8:30
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  1. Stay in the loop. Keep your ears on the grape wine and talk privately to people in and outside your team that you trust and that trust you. Get an idea on how bad it is.

  2. Talk to your food chain. They apparently handled this really badly. Ask if they are worried about a mass exodus and what they are planning on doing about it. Gauge their competence and willingness in dealing with the situation. Can you still have faith in your leadership?

  3. Once you have an idea what the mood on the ground is and how functional or dysfunctional senior management is, figure out what the right course of action is for you. If mass resignations are likely and management is dysfunctional, than it's probably best for you to join the caravan: Polish your resume, fire up your network and go a-hunting. Anything else is not your problem anymore. If management demonstrates reason and you still genuinely like your job and the company align with management on what to do to minimize the damage and than go and do that.

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    Typo: it's grapevine – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 at 5:23
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    @Mari-LouA i dunno wine kinda wine you drink at work, but mine is definitely grape wine :) – morbo Jun 13 at 15:29
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    Could be both. Administering grape wine certainly helps with the grapevine :-) – Hilmar Jun 14 at 0:00
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How to prepare: Make sure your CV is up-to-date.

If your company doesn't take its employees seriously, then they will have a major exodus at their hands. Because every other potential employer who isn't so tone deaf has now a huge advantage, making them ten times more attractive. Which means when these employees leave, you will not be able to replace them except with massively increased salaries.

What you have at your hands will be major trouble, possibly fatal trouble. So when you want to be prepared, don't even try to prepare to save the company from self-inflicted damage, prepare to get out of this situation with the least possible damage to yourself.

And it seems like the sharks are circling the sinking ship already, if some recruiter emails everyone in the company with new remote jobs... They might have a job for you as well. And the whole problem goes away for you.

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So the problem is, anything you could do to stem something of this scale requires support from the upper management that’s already being idiotic and hostile so they are unlikely to see reason and take logical action, in my experience.

What to try:

  1. Stem the tide of losses. Advocate for hybrid remote at least, pay raises... if you can get info on offers for people leaving you can try to present it without emotion, “our devs are being offered 120 + remote, we have to be competitive or else we’ll have to hire new and be competitive anyway.”

  2. Reduce work in progress and commitments - you won’t be able to actually do it till the people leave but you can have a proposal ready to go of what to delay or cancel.

  3. Hire (or otherwise staff up, outsourcers, etc). Start this immediately so people can see 1) what competitive offers are like and 2) if they cheap out and go outsource then it’s remote anyway. At some point someone who is looking at the rational costs and outcomes not through a lens of intense hubris may see that they need to GOTO 1.

Or just find another job yourself and make it someone else’s problem. I personally have lost a couple jobs by being too proactive about trying to save upper management from themselves; there’s really no upside in it.

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    +1. That last point sounds like immensely important experience. – Daniel R. Collins Jun 12 at 20:29

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