I worked in a company where the big boss frowned upon employees who leave the company. He never spoke negatively of them, but he made clear his policy of not welcoming anyone back into the company. It was his way of discouraging employees from leaving, by instilling a fear of leaving the certain for uncertainty. He perceived quitting as a sign of disloyalty to him, and he wasn’t keen to take back people who “betrayed” him. This is truly old-school management.
Let’s assume that we are only talking about a select group of employees who quit – people were good workers and were happy at the workplace. People quit for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they needed a break. Maybe they wanted to see the world outside. Maybe they wanted new challenges. Maybe they could not get the career trajectory or monetary rewards they wanted then. Maybe they had a bad direct supervisor they couldn’t get along with.
There are many reasons why employees leave a workplace, BUT if they were good workers and were mostly happy with the workplace, they might be keen to return someday. If they do, they bring back broadened worldview, cross-company experience, and a deeper appreciation for the original workplace. If you can look beyond seeing the resignation as a personal snub, you are gaining a worker who is much more valuable than when they left. On the flip side of the very same egoistical reason, ex-employees may be equally reluctant to return to their previous company for the fear of being seen as “failures”.
Where both parties might build on the old synergy and create new magic with a rekindled relationship, often such arrangements fail due to egos and perceived shaming. The only shame is not giving the relationship a second chance. Understand that curiosity is a basic attribute of being human. People leave because they wanted something better. They want to return because they realize how much they got going previously. If you can make it work again, and you don’t because of ego, you might be wasting a huge opportunity. Life is short and great relationships are rare. Great employees can lift you up if you let them. Or you can cut your nose to spite your face by never letting them back into your life.
Insecure bosses may feel that allowing ex-employees to return sends a signal to the rest that it is ok to leave. I see it differently. If people have the intention to leave, they may not be delivering their best work anyway already, even though they are held back by the “fear” instilled by the bosses. Instead, allowing ex-employees to come back sends a positive message to the rest of the team, that YOUR company is indeed the best place to stay. Your stance on returning employees says more about your confidence in your own workplace and leadership than anything else.
This also holds true for personal relationships. Will you accept someone back into your life after they left? It’s definitely a lot more difficult because this time it is personal – literally! I know a lot of people won’t, because of their pride and the concept of fidelity. It is definitely not a clear-cut issue, and it is your call. But like ex-employees, people leave your life because of several reasons. Have a good hard look at the why before you walk away from a possible rekindling of a relationship.
“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.”