I feel kind of silly writing on this particular topic today, given that we are currently buried under 2+ feet of snow from the Blizzard of ’15 and won’t be departing anywhere anytime soon. But, eventually, we will leave the house – just as parents and staff will eventually leave your center.
The ideal departures, of course, are those relationships that run their natural course – kids leaving your center to start kindergarten and teachers leaving you for the serene, Crayola-free world of retirement.
Running a close second are those departures that are simply unavoidable, such as a family relocating because a military spouse has been reassigned to Guam.
The third kind of departures, the avoidable ones, are the ones we’ll be discussing today. And those are the icky ones.
Even when everyone is very nice and very civil, there is often an awful lot of unhappiness, anger, and resentment simmering beneath the pleasant façade of these departures. As a center owner or director, it’s your job to get to the bottom of it.
This is no fun, of course. But especially if you’re noticing an uptick in your turnover levels among staff and/or current families – not everyone is getting reassigned to Guam – you need to assume you’re part of the problem.
Here are 7 tips for handling departures gracefully and unearthing the problems that drive good people away.
1. Don’t get defensive. Nothing will shut people down faster and make them more eager to beat a hasty retreat.
2. Ask why. You may not get the full answer, or a fully honest one, but even a partial explanation can help you identify trends (see #5, below).
3. Ask if there’s anything you can do to change the person’s mind. The answer may surprise you – and even if not, if you are sincere, simply asking this question will generate a lot of goodwill. (Of course, if it’s a family or teacher you’re secretly delighted to say farewell to, then skip this one.)
4. Wish the person well. Again, if even a teeny-tiny dark part of your heart wants the worst for this teacher or parent who’s moving on, skip the well-wishes – they will come across as insincere (because they are). But if you can honestly say you want nothing for the best for this person, and are happy to help out in any way you can going forward, you help pave the path for a possible boomerang return back to your center someday.
5. Look for trends. If you notice a lot of families leaving your center for one particular competitor, or if the departures seem to all have one particular teacher or classroom in common, pay attention. Bear in mind that if your center has recently changed owners or directors, some knee-jerk “it’s not the way it used to be” turnover is to be expected – but if it continues, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
6. Stay in touch. Keep departing teachers and families on any mailing or distribution lists you may have. This way, they remain part of your community.
7. Say something. Even if you’re not quite sure what to say when someone leaves, saying something is always better than saying nothing. Only ostriches can pull off that head-in-the-sand thing…and few of them are successful business owners.
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