Stay at a company long enough and you’ll either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

I kid, I kid! (Sorry for bombarding this blog with more Christian Bale Batman references.)

Churn

What’s been on my mind lately? Churn.

Coming up on year three at a small startup that has been going through some pretty pivotal times means that I’ve seen my fair share of churn. Most people who stay at a company for a few years, especially a growing one, will see similar patterns. Nearly every team, including my own, has had some sort of turnover during the past few months. Some teams have faced more than others.

What’s really hard about churn is that there isn’t always a clear guidebook for navigating the holes some employees leave. Sometimes those holes are welcome holes, holes that you’re thankful to finally have on your team, holes that feel like space to finally breathe into. But sometimes those holes mean habit-changing and hangups, sometimes even hurt and heartbreak.

(And honestly, most managers are busy with other things and it’s not really their job to handhold through those times while we try to process in the wake of the storm.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately – how can you truly experience and learn the most out of a personnel turnover? 

1. Feelings check.

Processing is important and the only way to deal with something in a way that’s guaranteed to be healthy. I even believe that this process needs to be a lot more systematic than a lot of people realize, especially if the transition leans towards toxic or less-than-happy. 

I’ve seen people attempt to brush all the negative feelings under the rug and not deal with it. I’ve been tempted to do the same thing. Why deal with something when you can just… not? 😉

The why is quickly revealed: those pushed-down feelings later bubble into passive-aggressive comments.

It’s a lot easier to deal with your emotions in a healthy way when those emotions are recognized and labeled. If you’re really being honest with yourself, what are you really feeling in the core of your heart about this transition? Relief. Sadness. Gratitude. Frustration. Calmness. Dejection. Happiness. Anger. Positivity. Disappointment.

(Maybe all 10?)

2. Everything is a learning experience.

One really easy, really great way to really combat any feelings of negativity (whether it’s just being sad that someone’s gone or pure rage from the mess they left lol) is to treat everything like a learning experience. Because I promise, you learned something! I learned something in every transition. Sometimes they’re new lessons and sometimes it’s a repeat, but it’s always useful.

What were the biggest lessons this person taught you? What was the best thing about them? The worst? What did you admire? 

What did you learn from their entire stay at your company and what did you learn from their leaving? What do you want to recreate or not recreate in your relationship with this person? What did you appreciate about them?

As an exercise, I normally start with the negative and move into the positive so that I end in some sort of semblance of positivity. Some examples I can think of from churn over the years:

  • I learned that I do want to be this type of manager.
  • I learned that I don’t want to emulate this trait in the future.
  • I learned that I do want this in my next company’s culture.
  • I learned to do this earlier or endure more of this.
  • I learned that my positivity has limits and I need to be more observant in spotting the warning signs of those limits.
  • I learned to trust my instincts when encountering this situation.
  • I learned about this weakness in myself.

3. Time heals all — be productive in the meantime.

At the end of the day, sometimes all the processing and healthy coping mechanisms in the world simply won’t help you as much as time will. Sometimes, you need time to heal.

I’ve found that I have to make myself get back into the groove of work again, taking breaks when I need to in order to observe the way I’m responding to things. 

But also, churn is a great time to hit the reset button and reevaluate how you spend your time. It’s the best time to assess your habits and push towards increased productivity. It’s a forced fresh start that can kickstart your work ethic, efficacy, and enthusiasm.


So what about you? What are your best tips for dealing with churn?

til next time,

Sarah