I Quit But Forgot to Tell You

I quit, but forgot to tell you. That’s the title of Lee Colan’s second chapter in his book, Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all Your Employees. Colan says:

As a leader, the challenge is that an employee departure is only the most visible and final phase of disengagement. It’s a gradual process. It’s more like a dimmer switch than an on-off switch that regulates our engagement. The danger in this gradual process is the interim phases–the ones I call, “I quit but forgot to tell you.” It’s there where disengagement is a silent killer, a cancer that is growing under the skin of your team.

Whether you work with volunteers or employees, the “I quit but forgot to tell you” scenario is very real. In fact, Gallup has found that only 26% of U.S. employees are fully engaged at any time while 19% are actively disengaged–costing more than $300 billion per year.

I believe an organization’s culture has extraordinary impact on employee engagement. So how do you create a culture that significantly reduces the disease of “I quit but forgot to tell you?” In their book, Follow This Path, Curt Coffman and Gabriel Gonzalez-Molina have identified twelve courses to follow to create a great workplace environment. In great organizational cultures, employees can emphatically say:

1. I know what is expected of me.

2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

7. At work my opinions seem to count.

8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

10. I have a best friend at work.

11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

12. This last year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow at work.

What are the employees in your church or organization saying? What about your volunteers? Colan observes that, “Disengagement is simply the result of unfulfilled needs.” And the symptoms of disengagement include:

  • Increased turnover
  • Missed deadlines
  • Low morale
  • High burnout rates
  • Complacency
  • Finger-pointing and name-calling
  • Lack of accountability and responsibility
  • Increased absenteeism

As leaders, it is our responsibility to keep our finger on the pulse of employee or volunteer engagement. Are you seeing any of the symptoms of disengagement? How would your team respond to the twelve statements above? Rather than speculating, why not set up a system that will help you capture feedback to each of these “conditions of a great workplace.”