Should Companies Pay Employees to Leave?

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Businesspeople Holding CheckHow many of us have ever wished that we could voluntarily leave our job? But once the truth sinks in, most of us don’t, because our responsibilities outweigh our wants. This is usually the case for most of our daily occurrences, but for some organizations, they boldly encourage the discouraged to leave. Believe it or not, it only takes a little cash incentive to give these people a little nudge out the door. Still, that’s not the kicker; it’s becoming increasingly tempting to consider the reality that paying disengaged employees to quit may actually be beneficial for both parties in the long-run. In theory, employees gain the opportunity to move onto greener pastures. Organizations get to cycle out the talent that was going to cost them serious money in the long-run. The way these organizations see it is why wait around for the costs of decreased productivity and turnover  to spillover into their workplace culture? It’s a unique approach to keeping the fire (engagement and productivity) from going out. Although, it kind of makes you wonder about the kind of message it sends or may be sending to employees that live constantly on the border of engagement and disengagement.

Some of the bold organizations that encourage their employees to leave if they are disengaged include Riot Games, Zappos, and Amazon. Awkward pause here, but I thought Zappos is known for its high levels of employee engagement? I wonder if paying employees to leave actually factors into this? If so, then how much? Here’s something wild that you don’t hear every day: Riot Games pays employees 10 percent of their salary, up to $25,000, to get up and quit their jobs, and in case if you were wondering, they’ll even do it if you’ve only worked for them for one day. But no worries; they don’t actively discourage employees to call it a day: “…we don’t want to actively push people out or dare them to leave, but we do want to provide a well-lit, safe exit path,” says anonymous source.

Are Companies Playing With Fire?

Big organizations like Zappos pay their employees $2,000 to hit the road if they want. Amazon will offer $3,000 to its warehouse workers to leave and up to $5,000 for their experienced people. Again, it makes me wonder about the kind of message it sends to workers that live on the edge of engagement and disengagement. Is this economic filtering process of keeping the engaged talent around a fire hazardous approach or just plain good business for the times that we live in? Amazon’s Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, believes that, “In the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.” That’s a pretty reasonable statement to make. Of course, people can always retort back with the questioning of what were the circumstances that caused employees to get up and cash out.

Wildly enough, Jeff came under some pressure last year when 40,000 signatures signed a petition that called for better working standards in the UK, within 48 hours. Apparently, reports stated that workers were averaging 11 walking miles per shift, and they are forced to work overtime. They even time employees’ bathroom breaks, and taking more than three sick days earns you a one-way trip out the door. It’s easy to understand why an organization wouldn’t want disengaged employees hanging around and costing it hours of productivity, especially in this case. Think about it: Why would any organization want its disengaged employees hanging around the engaged ones? It’s probably one of the reasons why Amazon offers its employees an annual opportunity to decide if they want to continue sticking around.

Staying or Going?

It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to be placed in a situation that allows its employees to hit an opt-out button. It sends a message to employees. How you decide to interpret this is up to you, but it’s a friendly reminder that business is supposedly not personal. Yet, I’ve never agreed with this statement. When people dedicate their time and effort for an organization’s clause, it does become personal. Organizations want us to be engaged and fully committed to their visions, right? Yet, it’s better to pay us to leave or send us on our way with the understanding that it’s just business. Still, it’s not just business; work becomes a part of our lives. We build connections and relationships with our colleagues. Others have families to think about that keeps them from leaving jobs they hate.

Whatever the case, organizations need to realize that employees are a part of their business strategy, whether engaged or disengaged, employees are people that need nurturing. If employees are unhappy it’s because leadership is not doing their job. According to Kristen Lewis, Equifax Workforce Solutions director of product, 44 percent of employees who leave voluntarily take a paycut or for the same salary to switch positions. Lewis says, “It supports the concept that culture and opportunity play a big role.”

Culture is right, and it’s a reflection of leadership, management tactics, and an organization’s personality. Paying disengaged employees to leave is one solution for hiding poor company culture, but it’s also a smart business tactic to keep productivity flowing. However, it’s not the right approach to employee engagement and helping people find their niche within an organization.

By Fernando Ramirez