Will Coaching make all your employees quit?

I was following a stress management train-the-trainer program in Paris when I met Marie. She was as a consultant and in the process of working for herself. When I introduced myself as a coach, Marie replied very casually: “Some companies I know don’t use coaching anymore because employees always quit after

She must have noticed the look on my face as she immediately rectified: “Well, maybe not always, but often

At that moment, I couldn’t think of a smart comeback because I was just stunned. I was picturing a director rushing into the CEO’s office and screaming:

-They are all gone!

- Calm down John, what happened?

- Coaching happened!

But as much as I was resisting Marie’s comment, I must admit, she had a point. Can an employee quit after being coached?

Absolutely! It can happen.

In fact, some of my clients did exactly that: they were stuck in their role, unhappy and craving for new opportunities aligned with their values.

So they quit.

They took the courageous decision to find something better for them, something they aspire to do.

Now, does it mean that I should rebrand myself and take a similar role as George Clooney in the movie Up in the Air? With a very cynical tagline: ”Do you want to get rid of someone? I can make any of your employees quit! Try me”

Absolutely not! Let’s be clear, coaching doesn’t influence or manipulate in any way.

At this point, it is probably good to restate the fundamentals of coaching: a coach doesn’t give advice and doesn’t tell you what to do (coaching is not mentoring or consulting). A coach mainly asks questions and use other awesome magical, advanced, mind blowing tools, techniques & competencies…such as listening (I am telling you, mind blowing stuff!) to support clients finding their own solutions/answers.

Through introspection, coaching brings clarity and allows you to take action with courage and purpose. It reveals and accelerates a decision seeded in the mind and in the heart. It brings new perspectives, energy and resources. It enables personal/professional growth and development. To summarize, it is awesome! (I know, I know, I am biased)

So, yes, sometimes, for some, the solution is to leave. Sure, for the others, there are other alternatives they are willing to explore and implement.

One thing is certain, coaching doesn’t really pair well with the existing status quo. In short, expect some changes!

But who cares how coaching works, right? Employees can still potentially leave!

So if there’s a possible risk of attrition, does it mean that companies shouldn’t hire coaches anymore because it might blow the sirens of exodus?

Should big signs be displayed at the entrance with ”Coaching is not welcome here!”written on them?

Intuitively, you may already feel what my answer will be (but remember, I am biased).

Of course, it may be discouraging for a company to receive an employee’s resignation letter after being offered coaching sessions. But pointing the finger at the profession/method seems rather extreme and counterproductive.

Somehow, it would be like blaming scientists for revealing Climate Change because it is too inconvenient, upsetting -and even terrifying-

And what’s cooking in the vacated company?

The employee’s departure may be a signal uncovering “something” disturbing happening inside the organization. An indicator that could be roughly summarized by: “something” is not right.

“Something” seems disconnected. “Something” is not inspirational. “Something” has to change. “Something” is not working.

A feeling of discouragement and detachment experienced at every levels. A misalignment between employees and the organization causing tensions and disengagement. Some employees may be physically present, but does it mean that they still feel part of the team?

They may show up at the office only because “they have to”, they perform their job mechanically, without passion, heart or creativity. Everything may seem fine from the outside (and from far away), but inside, employees have just given up.

In fact, they have already quit without notifying their employers (and coaching has eventually formalized the situation).

This observation has been consistently monitored and reported, year after year, by Gallup with its Engagement Survey since 2006.

We have all heard about the low level of engagement in businesses, a concerning level having a direct impact on company results. But the more perplexing fact is that despite the efforts to do something about it, this trend seems to hardly improve!

Despite the current war for talents, despite the digital transformation initiatives shaking the management practices, despite the desperate need for creative and invested employees…

Despite all that, the statistic seems stuck year on year.

So why is it not working?

Today, employees demand more from their companies than just a salary, benefits and the usual birthday cakes.

Employees want meaningful work, and managers who care about them as people. Employees expect to be inspired and feel proud of their workplace. They need to know that their contributions matter and makes a difference not only to the company and to the customers, but to the community, and even the world. They want to experience great relationships, authentic communication and well-being at work. They aspire to show up as they are and be part of something greater. More than anything, they crave for a different leadership style. They want to learn, to grow and have opportunities to advance…

And somehow, installing tread mill desks or organizing an away day in the countryside is simply not enough. Just like putting plastic cups in yellow bins won’t solve climate change: it can only be a start.

We must go way deeper. We must understand the scope & magnitude of the problem, and most of all, acknowledge it.

Developing employee experience and engagement requires introspection and courage to challenge the way we have always done things. It requires us to go beyond the “easy & safe” quick fixes involving a ping pong table, a slide or a colorful break out area with free candy.

It demands from the leadership team courageous questioning and the will to face unpleasant discoveries without shying away from them. It involves a hard look at the culture, the leadership style, the relationships, the processes, the communication…living in the company. It demands to acknowledge — honestly and openly — errors that could have been committed, and be ready to act accordingly with a systemic approach.

Albert Einstein sums it up perfectly for us:“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

And this is the paradox, to foster engagement and prevent employees from quitting, coaching is more needed than ever.

I know, I know, I am biased.