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Ask HN: What to do when people are leaving my company every week?

I’m a developer with quite a bit of experience in the field.

My company has gone through some hella changes, new owners and we pivoted our product to adapt to the market.

Problem ———————- These past 4 months, people have been resigning faster than we can refill their spots.

I’m not sure what to do, on paper things are going well and we have enough redundant staff to pick up the slack. But it's not sustainable.

Honestly, I'm a little worried

Has any of y’all experienced this?

What signs should I be on the lookout for?

16 pointsseniordevconfuz posted a month ago23 Comments
23 Comments:
rossdavidh said a month ago:

Possibilities: 1) they're all leaving for the same place, each one recruiting the next 2) they know something you don't about the company's future, under the new ownership 3) the fact of big changes made them look around at where they were for the first time in a while, and the things that had long been just annoyances became reasons to leave. 4) they were quietly asked to leave, but given time to find a new job elsewhere first, on the condition they stay quiet as well 5) there is always the possibility of random luck

Some of these are more worrisome than others, and it can be hard to know which. But...the fact that your company has new owners is the most interesting. Why is that? If you don't know, you should find out, and if you do know, it should help you guess which of the above scenarios is more or less likely.

anotheryou said a month ago:

I'd add: for some reason the pivot made them loose hope in the vision (unclear communication of new vision, frequent pivots, unattractive idea)

codingdave said a month ago:

New owners and a pivoted product means, in effect, that you all got unwillingly transferred to a new company with new bosses. People are deciding for themselves if they like the new reality or not, and it is not uncommon to have an exodus in such situations. It does not necessarily indicate that the new owners and products have inherent problems, it simply indicates that it is not what people signed up for.

You have two possible scenarios (in general):

1) The new owners are competent, the pivot was a good move, and the company is in a good place. If this is the scenario, it could be good for you to be someone who has been around through the changes, and are now a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

2) Those things are not true, the owners do not know what they are doing, and are flailing, still trying to find product/market fit, or have other problems. In this scenario, leave. They might work out the problems and succeed in the long run, but it won't be a pleasant ride.

taurath said a month ago:

I’ve been in this situation. Frequently it’s because new owners are acting quickly to turn the culture into what they want rather than what the previous owners or leadership set up, while trying to fix some perceived problem at the same time. This often means tearing down what others were trying to build up, and bringing down a culture that people had bought into. Thus, people leaving.

If this might be the case, then my advice is this - talk to the person as high up as possible that is making the changes, ask them what they want the future culture to look like. Then, decide for yourself if you want to work in that culture, whether you think they can actually get there without it all burning down, and whether you trust them to not lie to you.

If you want to be a part of that future, then you’re incredibly valuable as you can help course correct by communicating when things aren’t going in that direction. It’s great to be in that situation. In either of the other situations, know that you’re taking on a bunch of risk in terms of your work life balance, enjoyment of work, and probably sanity while the org you’re in contorts and buckles. If it’s still worth it, stay. If it’s not worth it, go.

cl42 said a month ago:

If this is a small enough company (say, <100 people), I suggest bringing this up with your CEO.

I've dealt with turnover as a CEO and it was stressful and painful for me as well. Whenever employees would approach me with concerns during such times, I'd be relieved to (a) know they care about the company, (b) want to do something to help it rather than quit with everyone else, and (c) trust me enough to actually discuss + fix things.

... and if you don't feel like you can do that with your CEO, then that's part of the reason people are quitting.

downerending said a month ago:

Generally, turnover is a very bad sign. But why are they leaving? Can you ask some of them?

If there's nothing really wrong with management, etc., it might actually be in your favor to stay, faster promotions, maybe a raise, etc.

seniordevconfuz said a month ago:

Very bad? Really! It was my understanding that companies account for that, they expect it even, since they make staff replaceable by nature.

In any case, it's a gamble. I fear that if too many people leave none of the original staff will remain and management will suck.

Good advice, I should ask some of them before they leave.

downerending said a month ago:

I meant a very bad sign for employees or potential employees when trying to guess whether it's a good place to work.

I once took a job with FAANG-level pay and realized too late that their annual turnover was 30%. It was extremely unpleasant to find out that it was that high for a reason. I left quickly.

tcbasche said a month ago:

This happened to me and the people interviewing me had left by the time I started!

mdorazio said a month ago:

Having some turnover is expected and accounted for. It varies by industry, but in tech it's pretty high at usually around 12-13%. The problem is when a company's turnover rate greatly exceeds the industry norm because it means 1) they're spending a lot on employee acquisition, training, and efficiency loss due to knowledge leak, and 2) there's probably one or more bad reasons why so many more people are leaving the company than is normal.

gwbas1c said a month ago:

> new owners and we pivoted our product to adapt to the market

There you go: A lot of people choose a job because they like the management and product.

That being said: If you like the job, and generally believe in the company, it's worth staying. A good job has its ups and downs.

I once took a job in San Francisco where, in the interview, they told me they were moving in 6 weeks to Menlo Park. Throughout the move, they lost a lot of people who lived in San Francisco and didn't want to commute to Menlo Park.

This job ended up having high turnover for the first few years because we went through a few bad managers. I was able to roll with it because I liked the job; but if I wasn't excited about the product and had better opportunities elsewhere...

kbrannigan said a month ago:

Companies usually go through cycles of turnover. This might be an instance of that - it's a very normal thing.

However do you notice a lot of senior level people leaving? That could be a bad sign.

Things are subject to the network effect, if my friends leave, so will I.

muzani said a month ago:

Often it's because a lot of them stuck around for each other, so when someone leaves, the others follow a friend.

It's often caused by conflict in culture. A lot of people often mistake this for bad management, but very often it can be caused by bad employees too.

I've entered companies that were bleeding employees (they're easy to interview for, lol).

Some are great. They bled out a lot of the fat and toxins and went on to become really good companies. Some places became a complete mess.

I think if you don't feel like it's gotten worse, it could just be getting better.

JohnFen said a month ago:

> A lot of people often mistake this for bad management, but very often it can be caused by bad employees too.

If a company is allowing poisonous employees to remain at the company, that is bad management in action.

muzani said a month ago:

It's not just poisonous ones. Sometimes they're just lazy, perfectionist, incompetent and so on. Large organizations face this problem a lot, where they scare away talent by not having the right culture.

nehagup said a month ago:

According to a recent research these are the few things that makes attrition rate high : 1. Political Culture (mostly depends on middle and upper managers). 2. Lack of motivation. 3. No growth and less salary. 4. No sense of ownership and flexibility. 5. People screwing up things for credits.

JohnFen said a month ago:

If I were in your shoes, I'd start asking people who are leaving or have left why they decided to do so.

They may know something about the company that you don't, or the company may be getting targeted by talent poachers, or any of a thousand other reasons. You need more information.

quickthrower2 said a month ago:

This sounds good - add them on linked in, go for a coffee outside of work once they have left.

DrNuke said a month ago:

It is your company, though, employees are just working passengers... if the car you own and drive stutters and moves awkwardly, passengers drop out and look for a steadier car?

sloaken said a month ago:

When someone puts in their notice, have you asked them why?

If you personally know someone who left, go ask them.

They would be a better indicator than those of us on Hacker News.

tropo said a month ago:

The change in ownership may have caused stock to vest. That could trigger departures that had been delayed.

animal531 said a month ago:

It can be both very negative as well as a case for rapid advancement for yourself.

elfexec said a month ago:

> These past 4 months, people have been resigning faster than we can refill their spots.

I'd be asking for a significant raise. Looks like you walked into a short term supply and demand issue in your favor, not to mention a bunch of freed up cash for the company. Strike while the iron is hot.