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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

When You’re Losing Fight For Your People


This awful feeling somewhere in the stomach.

Yes, exactly the same you experienced last time when you got email announcing that one of your team leads was leaving. The same which kicks you every time you hear “we must talk now” from one of your team members.

You haven’t seen it coming.

Now, you suddenly are all motivated to get a raise for the guy. Everyone is. Hold on. It won’t change anything. You screwed it in far more places than just with salary. People almost never leave only because they want to earn more. Well, at least it is so in our industry.

My question is: do you even know why the guy is leaving? Yes, “they offered him better salary” and “he was looking for a new challenge” but you know, he sent them his resume in the first place. Do you know why?

And no, not because there was a better salary or a new challenge as there were nothing at that point of time. Nothing but frustration with your organization, that is. And you know, people don’t get frustrated only because the grass on the neighbor’s lawn is greener.

So do you know the answer?

Hint: people don’t get frustrated in a minute. It takes time. Months. Sometimes even years. Yes, you should have seen it coming.

This feeling in your stomach means two things: you’re losing fight for your people and you don’t even know why.

Now, you can do more of the same thing you already are doing (throwing money at people, anyone?) and you will be failing as you are already failing. But maybe, just maybe, it is good time to try different approach to people? Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to what they’re trying to tell you over and over again for at least a year already. Maybe it’s time to start keeping your promises.

Of course you can’t please everyone. Of course it will happen on occasions that you won’t be willing to give people what they want. But at least make it your own conscious decision. Then, if nothing else, you will see it coming.

If you’re losing a fight for your best people don’t blame economy, CEO, new competitor or anything else. It’s your fault in the first place.

And what does it tell you about a manager if he can’t keep his team and he is surprised every time his team member gives him a notice?

in: recruitment, software business, team management

7 comments… add one

  • Piotr Leszczynski November 16, 2010, 3:10 am

    Great post!
    As you said – you can’t please everyone. But what if company strategy generates frustration? What if it is less about programming and more about drag&drop? What if it is less about thinking and more about doing? And hell – you probably won’t like it, but this is how this company is earning many – people are buying it that way.
    And one more thing – sometimes people in our industry are just looking for a change.

  • Pawel Brodzinski November 16, 2010, 1:37 pm

    This is a discussion I have over and over again – I believe you can reach many, the only thing you need to do is to talk with them.

    I could refer to the specific situation you mention (and we both know it pretty well) but I think the general answer works here as well. The point of maintaining software development company (well, any company) is earning money. If clients pay for something you won’t be building something else just because this is cool stuff. Companies which were doing that are out of business.

    Now the question is: if builders consider something as crap and salespeople consider the very same thing as pure gold where is the truth? Probably somewhere in between. But after all, we don’t build software just for the sake of building it so I tend to keep more a sales side in this discussion.

  • Wiktor Żołnowski November 17, 2010, 7:48 am

    I need to show this post to my boss :)

    Great words, money isn’t everything especially for ambitious people/programmers who are looking for challenges.

  • Marcin Wierzbicki November 17, 2010, 1:15 pm

    I think it’s almost never about the money.

    We lost a great talent this year and everybody was talking “he got more money” but I’m quite sure it was the other way around.
    Then I started studying the subject of, in general, employee satisfaction. There are so many factors which drive individuals that it’s almost impossible to anticipate all of them.
    That’s why a leader’s job is a full-time job :-)
    I can recommend a great book on the subject by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan – Evans “Love’em or Lose’em”.

  • Pawel Brodzinski November 19, 2010, 7:17 am


    You exactly get the point. What drives us is an individual thing. When 3 guys leave each of them is pushed away by different factors. And in neither case money is the most important one. As long as we don’t learn, day after day, what is important for each person in our team we have no control over the moment and reasons which push people away from the organization.

  • Vukoje November 20, 2010, 10:39 am


    Reason team leads are leaving is simple, it is because we can’t go to our bosses and say: “F**k you, you have messed up again although we have explained to you why not to do it and how horrible it will affect us. You are fired!” … so… we leave…

  • Pawel Brodzinski November 20, 2010, 11:32 am


    Well, I wouldn’t go that far – best engineers are rarely best candidates to manage a team, let alone a company.

    Yet, we should always be able to go to bosses and say “You totally screwed this one up again, although we have explained to you why not to do it and horribly it will affect us. Now, do you freaking job, and help us to clear the mess. And by the way: it would be nice if you took the responsibility for that shit we have here.”

    Unfortunately most of people can’t go even that far.

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