Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Goose is Trapped

Attrition, the greatest challenge faced by the software industry. That too in a small or medium sized organization, it is a curse because of the inability or unwillingness to offer an appealing, alluring and authentic package as supposed to be offered by the biggies. Suddenly projects pour in and hope soars high, but when it comes to execution, there pops up the big question! Where is all these years of experience gone?

It is like placing a just born goose in a bottle and ignoring it with such a callousness that, it grows so big that the bottle could no longer contain the goose. The challenge is to get the grown-up goose out of the glass without breaking the glass and without killing the goose.

There are circumstances when attrition is encouraged by the organization to accommodate change, get rid of obsolete resources (assumed by the employer) and to board fresh minds. The Tide and the ebb, up and down, darkness and light, summer and winter, yin and yen, attrition and recruitment has become the two sides of the same coin in this damn industry.

A friend asked me, “How it feels to be managing a big team?

I said, “I feel like a pimp”.

His laughter suggested that he was able to understand the whole analogy.

Recently, I an article on the views of Azim Premji, CEO-Wipro on


Every company faces the problem of people leaving the company for better pay or profile. Early this year, Mark, a senior software designer, got an offer from a prestigious international firm to work in its India operations developing specialized software. He was thrilled by the offer. He had heard a lot about the CEO. The salary was great. The company had all the right systems in place employee-friendly human resources (HR) policies, a spanking new office, and the very best technology, even a canteen that served superb food.

Twice Mark was sent abroad for training. "My learning curve is the sharpest it's ever been," he said soon after he joined.

Last week, less than eight months after he joined, Mark walked out of the job.

Why did this talented employee leave?

Arun quit for the same reason that drives many good people away.

The answer lies in one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization. The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in a book called "First Break All The Rules". It came up with this surprising finding:

If you're losing good people, look to their immediate boss .Immediate boss is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And he’s the reason why people leave. When people leave they take knowledge, experience and contacts with them, straight to the competition. "People leave managers not companies," writes the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Mostly manager drives people away?

HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not leave, but a thought has been planted. The second time, that thought gets strengthened. The third time, he looks for another job.

When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss crucial information. Dev says: "If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don’t have your heart and soul in the job."

Different managers can stress out employees in different ways - by being too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, too critical, but they forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will quit - often over a trivial issue. Talented men leave. Dead wood doesn't.

Shiva : If talented men leave, how does an organization grow? I believe that everyone is capable of doing anything. The only difference is the willingness to take up responsibility and stick to commitment. I can never accept the myth that someone is less talented or capable than the other. If a dead wood is someone committed to an organization, what do you call a flip flop as? Managers are no longer authoritative, at least not in my experience though. As a manger, I have never been compelling or authoritative, but a little aggressive on projects to bring the resources upto speed in their learning. But there is always a 60% attrition rate and 40% still sticking to me for the past 3 years. Am I a jerk? I am not questioning the authenticity of the forward, but just wondering where I stand? , Why I have lost the 60% of the people? Am I a dead wood? !!!!!


Anonymous said...

Nice topic Shiva! I guess attrition is something that nothing can be done atleast for the present times :)
But from my personal experience, I believe in the article, Manager too may be a reason.

Vijay Mithra said...

I feel salary is the first reason, second if an experienced person feels neglected in an organization he may quit, third comes when a junior is appointed to a higher position than a senior person he may quit the job, fourth groupism and politics in the company will lead to attrition.

As said his or her immediate boss handles a person is very much a point.

Shiva said...

KK: I do agree with the article, but it is not the only reason. Though the manager is keeping you in the comfort zone and the oraganization is not, there comes the questions again. How about your manager?

Mithra: You are right. Nee innum jumpe pannalada! Manager thaan reasona?

Kavi said...

Nice piece Shiva ! It was a nice read. Here are a few thoughts.

a. Managers can create width and depth for their people. Providing depth is not through salary alone, although it is one main contributors.

b. If companies encourage attrition, it is extremely myopic. In the long run, this will only spell chaos. Hiring and retraining have its own costs associated with it.

c. I have, since long, found that there are people who are more or less talented in a sphere. For instnce, i dont have a 'talent' for math, but believe have one for writing. Similary, employees come with different talent meters.

Matching their profiles to thier inherrent talent is a big key !

Anonymous said...

I think this happens mainly because of SALARY, but salary alone is not the reason.

Many Companies just wanted to stick to their rules and never think the spirit behind it. Rules are just guidelines to help us do our work efficiently.


Many Companies just wanted to follow certain rules just for the sake to follow them, and never think of why it should be followed. At last they end up just creating rules and miss their ultimate goal.

Another important factor is EGO clash between the employees and the employer/manager.

As we know, always an employee shouldn't feel comfortable with his job, rather he should be happy, which fails in many cases. The employer in order to make sure that their employees are not kept in a comfort zone, implement certain hard rules which can be followed soft, where he fails to keep his employee happy. This leads to a lot of EGO clash between the two.

If this is happening too often - in most cases, the employee just wanted to to get rid of the company and move to another job where he is relieved (temporarily though) from all his mental pressures.

So I personally think that these are also some of the causes, in addition to all the above, that leads to higher attrition rate.

- Vijay :-)

Shiva said...

Kavi: You are right. Responsibilities matching the profile is great factor

Vijay: Thanks for such a detailed comment. Which Vijay? Vijay Kumar or Vijay Kumar man or Vijay Mithra or Vijay Ganesh OR Vijay John..Too many Vijays in my life!

Vijay Mithra said...

Hi Siva, that Vijay is working with me.

I asked to comment about this article because I thought bcoz he is thinking of quiting the company, he will be the best person to comment.

Kavi said...

Shiva, wish you a very happy new year !

Anonymous said...

Shiva, I agree to the fact that Manager's play a vital reason in one statying on or quitting a project/company! It might not be the vital factor always, but most often it does.

And what can you do about it? Here is what has worked consistently for me...

When you give controlled ownership to people (however big or small the task may be), the quality of the deliverable is also met + the individual's satisfaction levels are also high.

And this sense of ownership can be passed on from the Project Manager to the Project Lead to the Module leads to the lowest level of work force.

Jeeves said...

"But there is always a 60% attrition rate and 40% still sticking to me for the past 3 years. "

Probably some move out for salary, some for job profile , reponsbility, post, etc etc. Grass is always greener on the other side.

In the present scenario, when opportunities exist for every sphere, qualification, attrition has to be accepted as a normal phenomenon.

People do leave because of manager's , but there is life beyond manager and everyone has personal goals to fulfil and they do leave for achieving what they perceive as better job. It might be or not be the case, but then they do leave.

Also its is the scenario , with big or small organisations. Size does not matter. Wants are unlimited and resources are limited, however large the organisation is!!!!!

Shiva said...

Jeeves, I agree "but there is life beyond manager and everyone has personal goals to fulfil and they do leave for achieving what they perceive as better job" is very true.

Thanks for such a thoughful comment.

Zeeshan Hasan said...

If my manger is friend to me, know my family asks me how my parents are feeling, guid me, stand with me against the organization, a source of inspiration for me a person whom i look forward to dream about becoming him when i grow up in my carrier, i talk about him and how he inspires me to my friends, then i would never quit my Job and will always like to work under his supervision, that is what management is to me ! Gosh i am asking too much :)

priya said...

Talented men leave. Dead wood doesn't.

-I think both talented and dead wood leave when opportunity knocks. Working for a company is a growth for both the management and the employee itself. A growth in production and career go side by side. When it fails, people leave. Only few who feel they are committed or take it personal as its own, stay longer. If not some stay being less creative or lack of motivation doing the same over and over by not learning much.

priya said...

If talented men leave, how does an organization grow..

I can't say from my experience. But from others views , many people like to hop to different companis within a span of 3 years. Its more like climbing a ladder.

Instead of thinking how to grow the company better, we shud also think how to retain the employees or what makes them feel bad to leave?? I may be wrong too...

priya said...

I just wana go with Innoaton, Creativity and Recognition which plays a major role either in leadership or as an employee in what they do.

May be will comeback later. Nothing works in my mind now.