From attrition to action

In the final days at work last month, many people told me that the attrition rate at the company was quite high. Employees who have been there for more than a year are considered veterans.

I wondered about the reasons for the high attrition rate. It seems like it has been somewhat steady – not necessarily driven by developments within the company, but by an ever-present sense of dissatisfaction among the employees. It seems like they don’t feel as if they can trust the senior leaders in the company.

I thought about other times in my life when I’ve witnessed attrition. I think the first episode was what happened to our high school drill team when I was a senior.

When officer tryouts were held, some assumptions were made about who would be chosen for the top three. Certainly the girl who would be captain was a shoo-in.

Consequently, we were all floored when the results were announced. Not only was the expected captain not selected as captain, but a JUNIOR was selected for a top three position. Needless to say, these results caused a great deal of heartburn and divisiveness.

Our drill team – with more than 50 members – was extremely close-knit, and we worked hard all summer, fall, and winter – until the culmination of competition season around Spring Break. In August, we would practice together for 30 hours a week. During football season and competition season, we would practice together 15 hours a week.

Practices were led by the officers. Our director – a woman in her mid-twenties who had been a member of the same drill team when she attended our high school – was always present, but she typically issued directions to the officers, not to the entire team.

Leadership was key. Without the leadership of the officers, it was a free-for-all.

Appointing a captain who didn’t have the respect of the team and who didn’t function as a leader (harsh, but true) led to an attrition rate I never could have imagined. We held mid-year tryouts and allowed freshmen to participate (both completely without precedent) in order to get our numbers back up to a respectable range for competition.

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