Talking about a branch manager who gets great pipeline and conversions, the numbers all look right, but employee turnover is very high.

His high standard for his staff, requiring high work ethic and commitment to work over personal life, was getting great results when the branch opened, but now it threatens to be a major issue.

Employee Satisfaction surveys from that branch are the lowest companywide and the risk is we'll lose good people.

I want to approach this in person.

Previously he has disregarded employee satisfaction as just the complainers rather than the producers.

If possible, I would prefer he adjust his attitude rather than firing him, because his industry knowledge and understanding of the market is awesome, but we may be past that point.

How should I approach this?

  • 2
    What are your goals here? Keeping the BM and the employees seems what you aim at, can you clarify? Have you talked to him about that issue, in one way or another? What was his reaction? What has your board discussed so far?
    – OldPadawan
    Mar 22 at 11:43
  • Is turnover a problem, if so how?
    – Helena
    Mar 22 at 17:48
  • OK, there has been some AWESOME answers to this post, and I will reply to them all, but first I should probably give some context: This questions came from a conversation a few of us were having about our own experiences, either as the Director, as another BM, or as one of the staff. The question is a combination of the worst parts of what we each experienced, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it because I would prefer to be ready BEFORE the worst case scenario happens. Thank you everyone for your input!
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 21:37

9 Answers 9


Since there are already many great answers covering different aspects of the question, I will just focus mine on what could be your first steps with the BM for him to adjust his attitude toward this issue.

First, bring the issue to the BM's attention. The BM seems to be a very valuable resource, very invested in his work. If he is aware that the issue is important and that you expect him to tackle it, there is a chance that he will adjust.

I would address the issue as a high turnover issue and NOT as a employee low satisfaction one. It's a much less ambiguous metric (he can argue that reviews are biased/irrational, but he can't deny that employee are leaving), it's easy to measure, it has a cost that can be estimated, and it doesn't make things personal. You are not telling him that he is the issue, you just ask him to solve the problem. He is in control to investigate the cause and act accordingly.

Second, give him data and resource to investigate. Employee satisfaction survey is one of them. You could also produce an internal report about the cost of turnover, knowledge lost, time for new employees to be operational, hiring cost, and other costs induced by the departure and arrival of employees.

Finally, let him come back to you with a plan of action and check periodically the results with him. He may adjust, or he might find another solution you didn't think of (who knows, maybe he won't adjust as much as you wanted but he will find a way to attract employees looking for jobs with a high level of commitment and you will end up with a compromise that answers your worries).

And if he can't solve the problem, you will be both facing the fact that he is currently unable to solve this, and whatever the course of action you would like to take, he will probably be more inclined to agree and go along with your decision.

That's just my thoughts with the context you gave.

  • Thank you very much @codingfish, really appreciate your input! This is a great outline on how to tackle a very difficult situation.
    – gstea96
    Mar 24 at 20:12

I suspect you're not going to like this answer.

This is a problem you, the directors, have created. To me, there are very few red flags in a company bigger than this:

His high standard for his staff requiring [...] commitment to work over personal life

If you think of that as a positive, of course you are going to have low employee satisfaction, because you're not treating them as people.

To solve this, you need to take a look at the incentives you're putting in place for your managers, and work out if they are aligned with your goals. At the moment, you're putting in place incentives designed to create low employee satisfaction - don't complain when that happens.

  • 6
    they have already lost good people, they just haven't cared until now & are still on the fence about it.
    – Tiger Guy
    Mar 22 at 14:21
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    Thank you for your perspective @Phillip Kendall. I've also added a comment to the post with some context. The problem stems from starting a Branch, allowing the BM some autonomy and just focusing on the initial Revenue from the Branch as it grew rapidly. Your answer is the absolute most important thing that should have been in place from the start. On the other hand, once the problem has occurred, how should I approach the BM in order to turn the situation around?
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 21:42
  • 1
    @gstea96 The first thing you need to do is to work out what your goal is, remembering that increasing staff satisfaction probably means giving up revenue (or at least profits), at least in the short term. As leaders, what is your goal for the business? Mar 23 at 12:59
  • 1
    I think a redirect is unavoidable. The focus is going to have to change to be more employee focused. My concern is what happens to the BM, and how do we approach him?
    – gstea96
    Mar 23 at 21:19
  • 3
    You approach him by saying "Our priorities for your branch are now X, Y, and Z in that order. You've been doing a great job on X and Z, but we need to work on improving Y even if it means losing a bit of ground on the others. Let's discuss how we're going to do that."
    – keshlam
    Mar 25 at 1:21

As the other answers spell out you have an issue with different performance metrics being at odds with each other. On revenue and related metrics this manager is doing great but on employee satisfaction and retention he is doing badly. The other answers suggest to prioritize your metrics and then hope that the manager will adjust. But changing people is hard so here is an idea how you as a company can just play to his strength as they are.

The key question is whether in your company you can move employees around branches relatively easily. If so you could use this in two ways.

Either you move him and use him as the guy to build up new branches. In the first two or three years of a new branch his management style works great and once it is more established you turn this branch over to a more employee focused manager and give this guy a new branch to build up from scratch.

Alternatively you could move the employees of the branch. Communicate that this is the branch for people who want to work hard and make a quick career. Employees who are not willing to work that way can move to a different branch with a hopefully more employee friendly manager.

  • 5
    this honestly did not occur to me. That is exactly why it worked initially, and the idea of reusing his talent is far better than the more complicated redirection and severance. I know it's not as good as us having our act together from the start, but your answer is very diplomatically balanced.
    – gstea96
    Mar 23 at 10:09
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    @gstea96 - At the end of the day, you want to use employees strengths where you can and then let other people pick up the slack for their weaknesses, nobody is going to be good at everything, so I think this answer is good for reasons that go beyond diplomacy Mar 23 at 11:37
  • 1
    But be careful of unintended consequences: (1) the manager may not like to potentially relocate (living arrangements) every 2-3 years (so negotiate); (2) people moving out of "his" branch to other branches may unintentionally/undeservedly get stigmatized as "slackers" as a counterpoint to the "want to work hard and make a quick career" message. But in general the "you are very good at ... so we want you to do more of it" message is better than "can you lay off of ...?".
    – frIT
    Mar 24 at 10:28

It's YOUR job to set metric and goals for the branch manager. Make sure that the goals reflect what you actually want. If you just set financial metrics, your branch manager will optimize for that, because that is what you told them to do.

Set some measurable goals around turnover and employee satisfaction. Explain to the branch manager why you feel this is important. Check in on you weekly or bi-weekly 1:1s. Reflect the metrics in your performance review and the associated rewards for your branch manager.

  • 36
    "this is just management 101" That seems to be unnecessarily condescending (even to me, and I'm not a big fan of SE's welcoming initiative). I mean, every second answer on SO would deserve to be prefixed with "this is just software development 101", but we don't do that (and rightfully so).
    – Heinzi
    Mar 22 at 19:14
  • Thanks for your input @Hilmar! (I've also added some context to a comment on the original post) I think your reply is a blueprint for what we should be doing from the beginning with each new Branch. However I guess the real question at this point is how to approach the BM now to pull the situation up?
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 21:45
  • 3
    To be fair @Heinzi, I would probably have worded it like that as well :)
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 21:45
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    @Heinzi I think the difference is most of them do not manage to become the leading software developer at a company without knowing what the difference between ints and strings. Most of the questions are appropriate to the level of the person asking them. But here, we have a company director...
    – user253751
    Mar 23 at 0:39
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    @gstea96 Just giving my two cents on how to approach this with the BM : Since he seems to be an effective resource so far, I would try to start by focusing on the turnover metrics, putting it in his mind as a variable to optimize. You can even try to mesure the cost of this turnover. He may dismiss employee feedbacks as non rationnal complains but if he is aware of the turnover issue, his investigation on this issue should make him realize that employee feedbacks are actually a valuable information on how to tackle the increasing turnover of his branch.
    – codingfish
    Mar 23 at 14:50

To date, the signal you've sent your manager is that you're focusing on these KPIs and not these other things.

What you've indicated you care about are:

  • Great pipeline
  • Great conversions

What you've indicated you don't care about are:

  • High turnover
  • Low rate of satisfaction

So you as a director have this unenviable task. You have to make clear to your branch manager what it is you value. Abruptly firing someone who has, to date, satisfied your requirements and provided you value seemingly "out of the blue" would be baffling at best and hypocritical at worst.

If you're focused on performance, then that comes at the cost of high turnover or high dissatisfaction. If you're focused on just the people, then that comes at the cost of performance. There's a middle ground you have to strike and you have to coach your manager to get them to see that.

  • thank you for defining it like that, your comment isolates some key point! That middle ground could be made of gold - the problem also being that it needs to be measurable. Any thoughts on that?
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 21:50
  • None in particular; I'm not a manager and haven't been in a position like this before. I think the sentiment is that it's really up to what you are looking for. Frankly, if I were in this position, I would value people over results, but I don't know what KPIs y'all need to hit in order to survive. But more importantly, if there's a sentiment that working for this manager is scary/oppressive/difficult, you're going to want to start there. People don't like working for the person who cracks the whip, y'know.
    – Makoto
    Mar 22 at 22:12
  • (By the way @gstea96, you can't make "get people to like you more" something measured. That's always going to be subjective.)
    – Makoto
    Mar 22 at 22:13
  • 4
    @gstea96: Again, I reiterate - firing someone or removing someone from a position because they didn't meet your unspoken requirements is not a good look for you, either. This would also foment dissatisfaction and confusion among your subordinates, and that path doesn't offer the manager in question an opportunity to grow or improve. Sure, it might not be possible. But that doesn't mean "don't try".
    – Makoto
    Mar 22 at 22:29
  • 2
    Don't forget the coaching part. Just because you set the directive doesn't mean that they necessarily know how to reach that directive. You want to put whomever is in this position in the best spot possible for them to succeed. This ain't happening in a quarter; maybe a year. But that's just me.
    – Makoto
    Mar 22 at 22:38

I'm going to challenge a few of the premises behind the original question:

...the numbers all look right, but Employee Turnover is very high.

If employee turnover is high, then clearly the numbers do not "all look right."

His high standard for his staff requiring high work ethic and commitment to work over personal life was getting great results...

I'm a little confused as to how this is a "great result".

...but now it threatens to be a major issue.

Was it not an issue in the past? Or is it just becoming harder to ignore now that talented people are threatening to quit?

Employee Satisfaction surveys from that branch are the lowest companywide and the risk is we'll lose good people.

Well, management made it abundantly clear that financial results are far more important than employee well-being, so why would people want to work there? Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

If possible, I would prefer he adjust his attitude rather than firing him, because his industry knowledge and understanding of the market is awesome...

Is the main problem his attitude, or was management giving him an incentive to act that way? It seems like management liked his financial results and were willing to look the other way on the low employee morale until they realized how much turnover was costing the company.

...but we may be past that point.

Where's the evidence for that? Have there been previous discussions with him that didn't go well? Is he actively refusing to change?

  • Appreciate your breakdown, thank you! Essentially whats come to light at this point is a combination of negligence, indifference, and focus on the wrong objectives. If we look at where the scenario is right now, we have spoken with the BM previously, he has dismissed turnover as being the unproductive people leaving, and he has made it clear that Revenue is more important to him than employee satisfaction. How could we pivot the priorities of the branch? And is there any way to do that without losing the otherwise talented BM?
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 21:54
  • @gstea96 So, there have been previous discussions with the BM and he's actively resisting making the requested changes? Mar 22 at 21:57
  • Yes, although it can be assumed that our focus as directors hasn't been 100% on employee turnover prior to this either. This requires a major change, and apart from requiring diplomacy, I don't know how to approach it. (I've added a comment to the original post with some context - sorry, should have had that there before)
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 22:04

I'm going to answer this tangentially:

Imagine you aren't a Business Manager, but the head of a Special Forces training centre - now run the same conversation:

High drop-out rate and lots of complaining, but the Manager insists on and produces high standards.

There comes a point - where we have to decide what is more important to us:

Making people happy or getting results.

In a perfect world these would always be linked and there would be no need to choose - but we aren't in a perfect world.

As I was writing this answer, something kept nagging me:

There's a certain type of person who doesn't mind high standards and hard work... so long as they feel rewarded and recognized for it

Have you sat down with some of the staff and talked (and I mean really talked) to them about exactly what it is that they are unhappy about?

Something tells me that it will be closer along the lines of 'I never get recognition for when I hit a target and the goal post is always moved'.

  • 1
    @StephenG-HelpUkraine - You miss my point: There is a type of person who is more than happy to live for work. They expect to be recognized and compensated for it. If what the company cares about is results (and to be clear - that's perfectly acceptable) then they have to adjust their hiring and their compensation practices so as to entice and retain that type of person. Something tells me though it's more than just 'The Boss expects high standards' Mar 22 at 20:03
  • 1
    While some managers dream of these magic employees, it's not normal for employees to live for work. Most psychologists would actually describe that as a sign of an unhealthy life-work balance that stores up problems. This is why simply paying more does not motivate the vast majority of staff beyond a certain point. Experienced staff are the least likely to tolerate these conditions and the most likely to leave, and the last ones management should want to leave. High staff turnover is a classic sign of this problem. Mar 22 at 20:26
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    @StephenG-HelpUkraine, I'm with TheDemonLord on this. Some people do get fulfillment from being challenged and exceptional output. However they still have needs and will become unhappy if they have to put up with micromanagement, bullying, lack of records or reporting, poor communication, lack of recognition or reward. Most people however are as you say - their personal life-work balance and flexibility for personal needs comes first. Both need to be allowed for, and in this situation we could lose both. But it starts with management. Is there any way we can turn this situation around?
    – gstea96
    Mar 22 at 22:01
  • 1
    @gstea96 I think the people who live for work tend to be managers. You get people who are starting out in jobs and trying to climb the greasy pole, but for the vast majority that stops as they acquire personal interests and needs. It's up to you to give direction to managers to respect that live-work balance (or not). I think the problem is that you're looking at this as black-and-white. You need to find the middle ground between the "happy at the office and home" and "live for work" types. It's not a one size fits all. A mix of types is possible and effective. Mar 22 at 22:13
  • 3
    "Making people happy or getting results." -- High turnover can be really, really expensive. The desired result usually isn't really sales go up, but is actually closer to profit goes up. If your sales are up but you're spending all that money training new people constantly then it doesn't help your business at all. Mar 23 at 18:05

It seems this manager fully meets his goals, and you are not happy with the result. The reason you are not happy is that you set the wrong goals.

Change the goals in such a way that you will be happy if the goals are achieved. So you will ask for a combination of financial results and employee retain rates. Explain to the manager why the change. Make sure they know they met their goals fully and it was your fault for being careless setting the goals. And make sure to not blame the manager next year if sales go down but the employees are happy and stay.

Probably needs repeating: if the manager meets his goals and you’re not happy, it’s the goals that are wrong, not the manager.

  • Exactly. When you set KPIs, don't be surprised when you get what you measure!
    – brhans
    Mar 28 at 3:11

Your manager is not unusual. Your problem isn't so much the manager as the staff turnover. So you analyze the issue from that perspective and there are simple and effective remedies.

In this case I recommend staff training for the manager and also rewards of some sort that the manager can distribute to staff to boost morale and keep it high But you don't pose it as a management issue, you pose it as a remedy for the staff turnover.

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