Rome, Death or Umbrage

Humorous novelist Barbara Pym, a High Anglican Christian, once remarked that most people left her church for one of three reasons: Rome, death or umbrage. Her comment’s also true for the reasons most people leave a business.

Rome (i.e. the Catholic church) was in many respects the “competition”. If your staff are leaving to go to a competitor, what is it that they offer that you don’t? Is it more money; better working conditions; more career opportunities? Or is it that they operate in a way that is more in tune with the individual’s values? Whatever it is that makes your competitors a more attractive proposition than you is something that you need to understand and address if you can.

Although death is still thankfully a fairly rare occurrence in work, the abolition of the default retirement age means that you don’t necessarily know when an employee might decide to leave. But although you may not know the day or the  hour, you can be certain that they won’t be with you for ever. Are you planning what you will do when loyal staff retire? I recently worked with a company who had recognised that 3 long-serving senior managers were intending to retire in the next 2 years. When they assessed the consequences of this, they realised that it had “knock on” implications for employees all the way down to shop floor level.

And finally umbrage – a falling out with a boss or colleagues. Barbara Pym thought this the most common reason, and it’s one of the HR cliches that “people join organisations but leave managers”.  Like most cliches however it probably contains a element of truth. Work is a relationship and if we don’t get on with the people we work with, then we’ll generally look elsewhere for a pleasanter atmosphere.  If your staff are leaving, it may be for reasons that seem trivial to you but are important to them (for example when a football manager banned chips from the canteen) Minor gripes and moans can – if left unchecked – become toxic and employees will vote with their feet, so creating a positive culture isn’t some “airy fairy” HR idea but sound business sense.

Do you know why staff leave your business? And what are you going to do about it?


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