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Building Culture & Morale in the Face of Turnover


Keeping morale and finding ways to prevent your culture from significantly degrading during periods of turnover are really important – I speak from experience.   

A few years back, we made a commitment as a company to grow beyond a lifestyle business to a truly scalable business model with a vision and strategy for significant growth. This required us to move on from employees that no longer fit where we were headed, shared our values, or believed in our vision. There were 6 months of pretty intense turnover, some caused by us by design, and some a byproduct of what we’d set in motion.

Ultimately, here are a few net takeaways we’ve learned from our own experiences and observations from working with many companies through the years - some with great culture and morale, and others that blow it completely.

Transparency & Honest Communication

Be clear about the reasons a change was made. You don’t have to go into every sordid detail of interpersonal conflicts and dysfunction that occurred, but keep things honest and simple.

Something like, “While we shared the same vision for what the company can be, our approaches and styles are different enough that more negatives existed, preventing us from achieving what we needed to,” can work well.  

The reality is in nearly any small company; your team will know why the turnover is occurring.  

Articulate a Vision and Inspire

If you want your team to follow you, you have to lead by inspiring them to do what needs to be done.   

Make sure they understand you fully believe in and support the same vision for the company that you always have, and that their individual and collective roles are integral to its success.   

Let them know this is part of the journey of any successful business. While you don’t plan to make turnover in key roles a habit, it may be necessary to ensure the team stays on the right course and maximizes its potential.  

Share the Plan

One of the biggest ways we’ve seen teams and employees become disaffected, ultimately causing morale, and therefore, culture, to suffer, is when ‘the plan’ is developed behind closed doors and subsequently poorly articulated to everyone.  

The number one thing to building culture and morale is making people feel purposeful in doing their jobs together, such that they feel their daily actions are connected to and in support of a mission and vision they understand and believe in.  

If this doesn’t exist, no amount of beer, coffee, good press, ping pong, or perks will save you.

No Badmouthing

You may have plenty of differences with the person or people you’re letting go, but keep it professional and simple. There’s no problem with saying you have different approaches, stylistic differences, that you didn’t work well together, or that someone is being terminated because they weren’t doing a good job at what they were hired to do.

But there’s NO need to destroy someone’s reputation, personally or professionally, on their way out the door.  Be direct and honest, but strike a simple, diplomatic tone.

Empower Your Team

It’s very important when key turnover occurs to empower your team.  The instinct of many business owners/leaders is to dig in and try to wrap their arms around everything that is going on, and in some cases, a good dose of this is likely needed.  

However, you still have a high performing team passionate about doing a good job and contributing every day. Be mindful you’re not coming in like a bull in a china shop with little context, suddenly micromanaging their every move.  

Rely upon your managers and other leaders at the company to do their jobs, but create a context for appropriate transition of responsibilities and knowledge.

CTA How to Improve or Develop Company Culture Guide


Surprise your team with some time off to do something fun together.  

 Segment off a 3-hour block of time together at the end of the day on a Friday under the guise of “Company Wide Meeting”, only to pull everyone into a conference room and let them know you’re going bowling, to a movie, a museum, or ice skating together to blow off some steam.  

Let them know they’ve got 15 minutes to wrap up any critical pending items, and then you’re all hitting the road for some fun and maybe a good interactive meal afterward. This will go a long way.

Here are a couple of our blogs that may help you in this context as well, talking about successful leaders, and building culture.  

Employee Turnover isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Whether it is good or bad will be dependent on how it’s handled by company leaders. During periods of both intended or unintended turnover, there’s significant organizational risk, but also opportunity to catalyze your team around the company’s mission and vision.

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