How to Make Them Want to Leave

The human resource management literature abounds with articles, reports, opinions and systems promoting strategies to improve staff retention (Allen, 2008) (Kramar, et al., 2014) (Pfeffer, 1997).  Their underlying premise is that staff retention is a worthwhile goal, the benefits of which may include reduced turnover costs, return on training investment, productivity gains and continuity of supply (Allen, 2008).  There are fewer (if any) on strategies to make staff members want to leave. In an effort to redress a perceived imbalance this article is a primer on how to create an environment that creates voluntary staff turnover through dissatisfaction and demotivation.

Firstly, at no time should you provide them with a clear explanation of their actual job. Far better to provide a vague job description that outlines the essentials (arrival time, departure time and how many sugars in your coffee) but omits any details of what you might actually expect them to do. This strategy must be combined with an inadequate workplace orientation and a rigorous performance appraisal process to maximise the employee’s insecurity and perceptions of being under-valued.

If you are pressed to provide job instructions, ensure you fail to provide sufficient resources to accomplish the expected tasks. This is also an excellent exercise in cost control as you extend the utility of all computer products by running well beyond any service agreement, upgrade availability and/or warranty. Similar savings will be found in using mismatched furniture, shared office supplies and complex systems of ordering. To compound this, ensure the employee is equally under-resourced in terms of space and time to complete their expected tasks – a tiny shared desk and unrealistic deadlines on multiple tasks of unknown priority will accomplish this.

Always appear to be busy. Too busy be interrupted by people seeking instruction, assistance, inspiration, reassurance or (worst of all) a chance to discuss any difficulties they are experiencing in the workplace. You of course don’t need to actually be busy, but the impression of always being importantly occupied can be achieved by walking around purposefully with a fist full or papers (or the digital equivalent: an open laptop or tablet), avoiding eye contact with any underlings and leaving a trail of ‘lack of inclusion’ in your wake.

Insist on a cake when it is your birthday, but ignore all others.

Shift the goal posts often and unpredictably. Performance appraisals are a tremendous opportunity to surprise your team members (sorry, never refer to them as your ‘team’, stay with ‘staff’ or ‘people’) with new expectations of their contribution on which they are now going to be rated. And you mean ‘now’, not at the next appraisal (or more likely the exit interview, see below).  If you have tied the surprise performance appraisal to their remuneration review, and in the interests of managing your time efficiently why wouldn’t you (?), the shifting targets ensure any increases in pay, conditions or other performance linked rewards are kept to a minimum.

Exit Interview (noun) – definition – an opportunity for disgruntled employees to vent their spleen about a soon-to-be ex-employer who failed to fulfil some, many or all of the formal and informal expectations stated or inferred at the time of hiring. Can occasionally provide useful feedback, but sometimes ends in tears.

If you have a business strategy, keep it a secret. It is your company and really no business of others why or how you go about it.  If your people believe they are part of the strategy to improve service quality, performance output or a means to deliver valuable products or services to benefit society, they may develop feelings of pride and accomplishment in a job well done. They may even want to continue their involvement.

Delegate blame. Intercept and accept praise.

Invest in an efficient recruitment and selection procedure; this will be more beneficial than spending funds on training and developing staff. There is little point in up-skilling people who are not likely to stay and contribute to the ongoing grand vision for your business. When you take a new person on board, make them feel very welcome and special. Celebrate the new hire with a fancy morning tea. Spend time helping them settle in and tell them they are important to your business (but not why or how). This imbalance of attention will unsettle and disgruntle current staff who will recall being made feel special when they arrived but are now feeling taken for granted.

So there you have it – a concise primer on how to drive your staff out of the door by adopting the time-honoured approaches of top-down management, one-way communication, a revolving-door staffing policy and centralised retention of power.

There is a different path for those of you who prefer to invest in your ‘team’. For those who want to develop each of them as a person and an employee and retain them in your business. That path is the reverse: ignore all the previous advice and simply do the opposite. Put in place policies, procedures and practices that take the contrarian view and you may find your team keen to extend their time and effort in your organisation. More often than not, this is a ‘win-win-win’ for you, your team and your clients.

Of course this would only be of interest if you are seeking to improve your business.


Many of the examples of human resource mismanagement used in this article have been observed by the author in his role as a practice surveyor within the ‘Quality In Practice’ program for physiotherapy practices in Australia. Some examples may have even come from his personal experience as an employer during his more than 30 years of practice.

If any of these ‘strategies’ resonate with your approach to HR management, then the underlying message of ‘do the opposite’ should be obvious. Do not read this as a way of ‘managing out’ employees, there are protections in place under the Fair Work Act (Dismissal Code) to discourage and penalise such practices.  Being a small business may offer some legal protection against unfair dismissal claims, but you remain responsible for the health, safety and welfare of your employees in regard to bullying, sexual or other harassment, discrimination and victimisation. This article is to draw attention to the areas in your practice where you could do better in terms of managing and developing your team members.

The resources listed below can provide some certainty around this complex and emotive area of human and performance management in your Australian workplace. Readers from other jurisdictions will need to check local requirements.

Fair Work Commission Australia

Fair Work Commission Small Business Dismissal Code (inc. legislation & regulations)

Unfair Dismissal Checklist:

Web article from


Allen, D., 2008. Retaining Talent, Alexandria, VA: Society of Human Resource Management.

Allingham, C., 2014. Why do they leave? This is a good place to work.. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 2 April 2014].

Kramar, R. et al., 2014. Human Resource Management in Australia. 5 ed. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.

Pfeffer, J., 1997. Seven practices of Successful Organisations. In: The Human Equation. Boston: Harvard Business Schol Press, pp. 64-98.

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