10 Ways to Get Rid of Talented People

Yotsuba & The Apprentice

Image by Manic* via Flickr

Leaders have the option of attracting talent or repelling talented people. There is no “status quo“. Here’s a list of the top 10 things that repel talent.

1. Try to Control Them

It’s a fact. Revolutionaries cannot be controlled. You can only hope that they’re on your side when the battle begins. Want to push them to the other side? Try to control their creative outlets, use of online tools like Twitter or LinkedIn, idea generation, or unique approach to a problem. At first, you’ll experience some subtle refusal, which eventually morphs into backlash, which eventually morphs into spite, which eventually morphs into them leaving you for your competition. You can’t control them with an iron fist, but rather you must guide them with a vision cast.

2. Tell Them They Can’t Do Something

This is control with a different head on it. If there’s a problem that they’re tackling head-on, don’t tell them they can’t do it the way they’re attempting to go about it. If they really want a creative outlet that truly doesn’t hurt the company or distract from the company’s mission and vision, don’t restrict them from it. Rather than putting talent in a box, put it in a flower pot, with room to grow. There’s still walls and guidelines, but also freedom.

3. Don’t Allocate Resources for Them

When they have a great idea (as talented people are wont to do), deny them access to time, money, and people that could help them in their investment. Proof that the opposite of this works? If you’re reading this, it’s because CEO Joe here at DataGroup has allocated server space, time (in my daily schedule), and money (in my salary) in order to make this happen. And it’s paying off. Want to starve your talented people? Cut their projects off from any nutrients needed for them to flourish.

4. Give Them All of Your Most Difficult Projects

This seems counter-intuitive. It seems as if your most talented people deserve the most difficult projects. A few things come to mind when you do this: 1) it burns them out, 2) it bogs them down from exhibiting their talent, 3) it cuts off “less talented” people from being challenged and growing, 4) it makes your talent feel used, not accepted, and 5) they’re fallible people too. Even the most talented of people eventually break. So go ahead, give them the budget report presentation due in an hour, right after they finish that 6-week project for your most important client along with typing those 9 quotes for potential customers. After all, they’re talented. They can handle it.

5. Never give them anything challenging.

Completely opposite from above, but with the same result, this method of getting rid of talent deprives them of challenge. If they don’t feel appreciated, they won’t stick around. Guaranteed. If you want to keep them, keep them challenged by giving them a healthy helping of difficult projects to go along with their creative outlet project and daily workload. If not, pretend as if they don’t exist, and hand all of the most mundane work to them.

6. Don’t affirm or encourage them. Ever.

Talented people, like most people, need to feel appreciated. This includes not just by giving them challenging projects, but through verbal affirmation as well. If you want your talent to leave, don’t ever encourage them. Don’t tell them how appreciative you are of their hard work and loyalty. In fact, never ever talk about giving them a raise or benefits because of their hard work. It’s off the table, and they’re out the door in a matter of days.

7. Never engage them in conversation.

Don’t ask them what they’ve been thinking about, what they’ve learned lately, or what they’re working on. Just say “Good morning” and “Good bye”. Talented people need to be engaged, stimulated, in conversation. Their mind needs to work, their gears need to process information. If you want them to leave, then ignore them.

8. Don’t let them lead.

Talented people, by nature, are leaders. In fact, that’s part of what separates talented people from others: talented people can self-replicate through leadership. Want your talented people to leave? Don’t let them lead anyone. Not even the janitor or office dog. Ensure that they are a follower as long as they are in your work environment, and you’ve ensured that they won’t stick around long. Good job.

9. Don’t give them any direction.

Wait a minute! I thought we said that control leads them out the door! If we release them, won’t that keep them around? We want these people out! If you want them out, you can be overbearing or you can be completely hands-off. Don’t give them any tasks, or feedback, or assignments. Just let them do what they want to do. They’ll eventually go crazy, out of their mind with figuring out what to do. This step to getting rid of your creative people could also be called “How to Short Circuit a Human Being”. Talented people have so much going on in their head that they often need direction in order to be of any use. Otherwise, they’ll just sit their wondering how to sort through all of their ideas.

10. Never let them read Smarter Biz.

I couldn’t resist.

Are you a talented person? Manage talented people? How would you get rid of talent?

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