Momentum Podcast: 510

Why People Torch The Place On The Way Out

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

There’s a reason why people torch your business when they leave. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you screw up and make a mistake, causing someone to quit. But more times than not, people go because they found a new opportunity. To justify leaving, people often blame their employer as part of the problem, making it their fault. They know they have no integrity if they just up and go. When employees want to leave, they usually create separation, so they have a reason more significant than just walking away.

Having someone go sideways in your organization is a natural part of leading human beings. Know that if you’re going to lead people, you’re going to run into this issue. If this situation happens to you, don’t criticize the person who is leaving. Make sure you are transparent with your team and don’t let it affect how you treat the rest of your employees. As a leader, take responsibility, live above the line, care about the team you have left, move forward, and create massive momentum.

Full Transcript Below

Cadey's out at an appointment and she just called me and let me know she ran into a friend of ours that's experiencing some challenges in our business. In fact, she just had a valued team member leave out of the blue and tell her how she was mean and hard to work for and all kinds of other things and this happens all the time. I want you to understand something about being an entrepreneur and employing people. Sometimes it will absolutely be your fault and your responsibility when someone leaves, but other times people torch the place on the way out, and I want you to understand why.

I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real.

We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be. This is one of those lessons that is so hard to get perspective around as an entrepreneur and it is so difficult to understand that you're not alone. Here's the scenario. It's what I talked about in the intro. You have a team member that it's valued. Maybe you meet with them, you talk to them, you're helping coach them, helping grow them, maybe even develop them, and then all of a sudden one day they give you notice that they're leaving that day.

They're walking out and they're frustrated, and they're upset, and they tell you things about you that you didn't know that they felt and it feels like a Jekyll and Hyde situation because the day before, the week before you were working with them, great. It felt like you were collaborating as a team and then all of the sudden it feels like they're angry at you, it feels like the resentful of you, it feels like they're frustrated with you and here's what I want you to know about this scenario. It happens all the time across the board with entrepreneurs, but here's the issue, we don't talk about it.

We don't talk about when somebody leaves and tells us we're bad. We don't talk about when somebody tells us they're frustrated with us, we don't talk about it when somebody torches the place on the way out, and here's what I want you to know. After 25 years of working with entrepreneurs and hundreds of small businesses, we coach over 80 of them right now and this happens all the time and there's a reason. There's multiple reasons, but I want you to understand, as an entrepreneur we should always take responsibility when something like this happens in our business, but also there are reasons why people get aggressive, get frustrated, say terrible things, and have to create a separation when they leave your business.

Now here's the reality, is when people want to leave, sometimes they know they want to leave, they have had an opportunity, somebody offered them something better and here's what I want you to understand. When human beings leave a situation, often they have to create separation. They have to create a reason that's more significant than just walking away. They have to make you the bad guy in order to be able to leave without notice, in order to be able to walk away and get an another opportunity and I want you to know that this happens often.

I used to think that when I finally got everything right, this wouldn't happen anymore. I felt like, you know, when I finally learned how to lead people, when I finally built the right situation, when I finally built the right company, this would never happen to me and unfortunately it still does and it happens to my clients and I know they run incredible organizations and what happens is when someone... now it happens to me way less. It's rare. It's actually shocking when it happens these days, but then I have to remind myself that this is just how it is and typically it involves the team member having another opportunity. It typically involves them wanting to take it and wanting to get away and they have to figure out how they can make you part of the problem because they know they're out of integrity if they're just walking out and there's nothing that's really wrong with the business, there's nothing wrong with what you did. It happened to us recently.

We had of team member that I was developing. I worked with her directly. I was helping her uplevel her skills from administrative to doing a lot more and from one day to the next she called in and told us she wasn't going to work with us anymore and then she finally gave us an explanation and it was that I had made comments about another team member after they had left that had offended her and it had been months. We were to believe that she had worked with us for months. She had worked one on one with me. He had had multiple interactions with me, multiple interactions with our team like almost weekly and then after months had decided that that thing that happened months before had now compelled her to leave in a totally unintegral way and not give us two weeks notice, not give us any kind of notice and we just had to remind ourselves that this is what happens.

See if someone wants to leave, they're often going to have to make it your fault. That's just how normal people are. That's how a lot of people are. They can't make decisions for themselves, so they have to make a decision to make it that they are going to make it your fault. They're going to blame, they're not going to take responsibility and they're going to walk away. Now, I want you to understand there are situations where as an entrepreneur you screw up and somebody bails on you and it's your fault. You have to listen to those, but I want you to know that when you're scratching your head and trying to figure out what happened and you feel like somebody has turned on you one day to the next, this could be it.

You can take forever trying to figure out what happened with someone like this. Like when this happens, when somebody just bails on you, you can like pull your hair out trying to figure out what happened or you can take care of your team and understand that you have a team that's still there, that this is a person who's leaving. If they kicked away this hard, if they've told you that you're a bad person, if they've made it about you, my advice is to refocus on your team as quickly as you can, because when we look at childhood separation behavior, and yeah this is getting a little deep into psychology, but when we look at childhood separation behavior, it is a well known fact that in order for children to separate from their parents, they have to create space.

They have to create conflict, they have to test boundaries. They have to figure out how they can create that separation and for people who didn't have a healthy separation from their parents, they often won't understand how to have a healthy separation from their employer, because you take on that authority figure role, you take on a quasi-parental role, whether you want to or not, you're doing it, you already are and I want you to know that it's already there for you, and so what happens is this is natural human separation behavior to create conflict to be able to step away.

Now, here's what you need to know. When this happens, be prepared. Security, passwords, everything else. If somebody's kicking away, you never know just how destructive they're going to be and what they're going to do in order to let you know that they really meant that they were leaving, so lock everything down as fast as you possibly can. When this happens, don't criticize or get emotional with your team when somebody does this. This has happened to Cadey and I dozens of times. It's happened to our clients over and over again. When I was younger I used to go to my team and I would say, look at this person who just left and I would say things like, what a dirtbag. They left us with responsibility. What a jerk. I can't believe this. What I didn't realize and I should have known is that as I was talking negatively about this person, my team members were thinking, I wonder if he's going to do this about me, and it made it even worse.

It made it so that I took insult of having somebody leave and then added the injury of having my team feel insecure and vulnerable because of how I was talking about them, so don't criticize the person who was leaving. Let your team know that they left. Let them know you don't really understand why and then get right back to business as fast as you possibly can, and don't let this affect how you treat your team. Man, this is one of those times where I'm coaching you just as much as I'm coaching myself because when somebody leaves my team I'm hurt. When somebody doesn't give notice when they say mean things, when they criticize on the way out, you know, we do a ton to develop our people. We invest a ton in the individuals on our team. In fact, the person I was just talking about that left, we invested thousands of dollars in her training and when someone leaves it makes me feel vulnerable.

It makes me feel exposed. It makes me feel like maybe I'm doing something wrong. It makes me want to review and go look at everything, it makes me want to put my entire team under a microscope and say who's going to be next and what's going on here and what's going wrong and the challenge is, if you let that one person who leaves in a non integral way affect your team, it will affect you everywhere and I don't want to see that happen to you because when you let somebody leave and you let it affect the relationship you have with your team, you become suspicious about your team. You can again take a bad situation and make it much, much worse. When something like this happens, lean into your team, work with them more, connect with them more. Make sure you know what everybody's doing and create momentum like crazy.

Be present and ready and help them so that they can continue to move forward. Don't let one person leaving affect how you treat everyone else because for so many entrepreneurs when someone leaves like this, we immediately become skeptical of everyone. We don't want to be close to anyone. We start having less conversations with our team, less coaching, less leadership, and all of that is a cascading effect that will break your company apart if you let it.

When one person leaves, pull together with your team, let them know what happened and make sure that you are all doing what it takes to be a momentum. Make sure you have clear outcomes, you're measuring your success along the way. Everyone knows their role. Double down on those things and you will move forward and get past one person leaving. I want you to understand that once you understand that this is normal, once it's happened to you a few times and you see the pattern, it's going to get easier, but it's hard when it happens the first time, and I know the friend of ours that ran into Cadey is having a hard time right now and she's probably questioning everything and I'm going to reach out to her next and let her know that she shouldn't because this happens to every entrepreneur I know and it doesn't matter.

In fact, this happened to us in the same year that for the third year in a row, we won best places to work in Austin, first place as voted by teams we had this happening the same time that people were voting us the best place to work in all the culture and everything else that we had going on. We still had people leaving and torching the place on the way out. It doesn't matter what you do as a company, when you're an entrepreneurial business or a corporation this happens in big companies and small companies like natural human behavior causes people to create a massive separation on the way out and oftentimes they're going to light the curtains on fire just to let you know that they're creating that real separation that human beings sometimes need.

It's unfortunate to say, but having someone go sideways is a natural part of leading human beings. I've watched it for too many years. I've seen it over and over again in all different types of situations with different entrepreneurs. It's something you just can't avoid. If you're going to lead people, sooner or later you're going to run into this and I hope that this podcast will make it feel more normal and make it feel more expected and won't have you second guessing and judging yourself for weeks because I know the first time that happened to me, I certainly did. In fact, that's not true. It might've been months because I remember thinking, what could I have done? How could I affect this? How could I have made made it better, and the fact is somebody gets a phone call, they get an opportunity, they start thinking about that opportunity, in order to take the opportunity they have to separate from you, so they start figuring out everything that's ever bothered them about you and they create a scenario where they can leave with a clear conscious because they've made it your fault.

As a leader, take responsibility, live above the line, care about the team that you have left and move forward and create massive momentum. If you're ready to start building your team and you want to be able to recover from this type of stuff as quickly as possible and keep going forward, then we want to help you. If you want to connect with a member on my team to understand how we can help you create a strategic plan, hire the team that can execute that strategic plan and keep your company in momentum and moving forward fast, go to, answer a few questions for us. You can download a copy of our e-book, the Billionaire Code Decoded. This is a book you want to have. It'll show you exactly where you are as an entrepreneur, where you should be focused to create maximum momentum and what's coming next. It's like having a roadmap of the future of your entrepreneurial business.

Go to, answer a few questions and then if you're ready, set up a call with a member on my team and let us show you how we can help you grow and scale your business, and remember when somebody torches the place on the way out, understand where you may be responsible, but know that this is a natural human behavior. I don't want it to scare you, frustrate you, or make you want to close down your business because I know it normally does all three of those things. I want you to lean into the team that you still have. Create momentum and succeed past this challenge. Go to and connect with us. We look forward to hearing from you.

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