Losing a Teammate

Welcome to episode 95 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss losing a teammate.

Original Recording Date: 09-27-2020

Topics – Losing a Teammate / Team Transitions

0:57 – Scenarios for Losing a Teammate

  • Positive attrition
    • Think of this as an internal transfer. This happens frequently in organizations that encourage progression.
  • Negative attrition
    • This is someone leaving the company (an outside offer, unexpected termination).
  • Neutral case / re-organization
    • For example, Nick moved to a new team last year because of some shuffling of resources within the company. This seems to be more frequent in large organizations or as companies change their focus.

4:11 – Effects on the Team

  • Will the person be backfilled?
    • This is going to affect morale. What can you do to take increased ownership of higher morale?
      • This is a necessary step as part of your growth within an organization.
      • This may be challenging of the team suffered from a sudden loss of a teammate.
    • Many team members are going to wonder if someone leaving will be looked at as a cost cutting opportunity for the company.
  • Workload
    • Who will carry the workload and cover what the former teammate was doing, or how would it be distributed to everyone on the team?
      • Replacing someone does not happen instantly, and covering someone’s workload does not imply you are immediately an expert in what they were doing. Factor in the ramp time.
    • What about vacations when the team is short staffed?
      • This is worse on smaller teams.
    • Perhaps this is a chance to take on additional / more advanced work and gain experience.
      • This could be a chance for you to step into a more senior role while the gap in the team shifts to needing a more junior role instead.
    • There is a special case for smaller teams in regard to workload. What if there were only 2 or 3 people and you lose someone?
      • This speaks to the need for good communication, documentation, and cross training on the team.

12:08 – Effects on the Manager

  • Disclaimer – Nick and John have not had experience in a people management / leadership role (i.e. responsible for hiring / firing, compensation, career path for employees).
    • Go back and listen to Episode 93 to hear Paul Green’s description of what a leader is.
  • Have empathy for the manager and what may be going on in their life. The manager has to focus on hiring / filling the gap or perhaps having to justify the need for the role.
    • Team morale will need attention, but they may have less 1-1 time for employee relationships.
    • Does the manager have a bench of good candidates to pull from, or do they need to start working with a recruiter or possibly recruiting on their own?
    • The manager must also be con
  • This is a time to review job descriptions carefully if you’re the manager. Maybe the team needs something different now for strategic reasons. This will take more time, however.
  • The workload of the manager will undoubtedly increase temporarily.
    • Some of this may be filling in operational gaps from the loss of a team member or helping the rest of the team understand how their responsibilities have changed for the time being.
    • It can be a rough job in times of transition.
    • How can you jump in to help in the interview process? Ask your manager!
    • Another career focused idea is to help review the onboarding processes for your manager. There may be nothing written down or a process that has not been updated in a while.
  • If the head count cannot be replaced, the manager has to try to prevent greater morale dip / attrition.

20:15 – How You Can Help

  • Provide good candidates for the opening on the team.
    • Be candid about what you know of candidates you are recommending and their work. If you have not worked with them directly, be up front about it. Have you read the person’s blog and found it helpful, for example?
    • Having a valuable network of candidates can be part of your value to the organization. Make sure you think it’s actually a fit.
      • Check to see if your company has a referral bonus!
  • How can you support your teammates?
  • Welcoming a new teammate
    • Take a new member under your wing, share knowledge, and make the person feel welcome.
    • We can all take ownership of team culture.
    • Learn about a new team member’s strengths. They have fresh eyes to analyze the organization’s processes.
      • When someone asks about the why behind something and you cannot answer, maybe your documentation needs improvement or processes need to change.

31:26 – Keeping in Touch with Former Teammates

  • Maintain your network, and keep the line of communication open.
    • Schedule time to catch up now and then.
    • You never know when the two of you may be working together again.
    • Don’t make every interaction you asking for help. Ask what you can do to help.
    • Curating your network is another series of tasks you can schedule.
  • All of the things we have discussed are above and beyond our day-to-day tasks. It’s not something you will find in your job description.
  • Look at what you are doing. How can you change it to further your career?

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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