I Will Pay You $2,000 to Quit Now!

Accountability Management Organizational culture


Key Point: Last week I offered every new hire (about 50 of them) $2,000 dollars if they wanted to quit. No questions asked. All they had to do at the end of the day was tell the leader running our “welcome session” that they changed their mind and wanted to leave the company. We would make it easy, without any kind of resentment on our part. Those of you who follow the work of Tony Hsieh, the CEO of the successful Internet retailer Zappos, know that this is not my idea. Tony, and likely a few others, have had this practice of paying reluctant new hires to quit in place for some time. The reason makes sense. The culture and mission of the company is totally in the hands, hearts and minds of every person. How could any leader afford to entrust someone not fully invested in the values and purpose of the company to stay? It is a huge investment for the company and new hire. Anything less than full commitment from both parties is wasteful.

While paying people to quit is somewhat novel, it may be a little too downstream to be sufficient in keeping the best people. I prefer to invest in the selection process BEFORE someone gains entry. Note the quote below from Claudio Fernandez-Araoz‘s Creating a Culture of Unconditional Love, about the importance of a very tight screening and selecting filter for hiring:

“So, how do you build a great culture? It starts with you, the leader, using it as a filter for hiring. My model is Egon Zehnder himself, who founded our firm and gave it his names. From the beginning, he vowed to consider only the strongest candidates to join him: People with double degrees from top schools, international experience, high emotional intelligence, and remarkable career trajectories. More important, he would never, ever, hire anyone who was not dying to work in a highly professional, ethical, collaborative firm. Before I joined, I was interviewed by some 35 partners, including all executive committee members, in five different countries, over a single week. Egon personally checked my references with McKinsey, my employer then. That’s the standard process, and it remains intact today. Until he retired as CEO, Egon met with and approved every single consultant who joined any of our 68 offices around the world – for 36 years. Today, his successor, Damien O’Brien, continues the practice, no exceptions allowed.”

The two examples of hiring filters extend from an online retailer employing a lot of call center people, to a high end consulting firm selecting mostly double degreed candidates. But the common premise for both companies is that people make the culture. Most leading organization pundits believe that culture trumps strategy. As a leader, I want a very diverse and inclusive culture… Except on character attributes. I want these values to be standard, commonly held, shared and developed. No exceptions.

Character Moves:

  1. Hire and get hired on character first. Use the most sophisticated filters you can find. Hire on evidence of character in action and previous results achieved… NOT well-positioned intent. If you’re applying, show up with stories and evidence of character and results. The interview process is only part of a deeper selection system.
  2. Not every organization, culture and person is a good match for obvious reasons. Be definitive in what attributes and character values you are looking for… Whether hiring or wanting to be hired.
  3. Be intentional about your character. My core framework of course revolves the Big Three in the Character Triangle… Accountability, Respect and Abundance . How about you? Be ready to passionately articulate them and give examples of how you put them to work to bring value to others.

Paying to stay in the Triangle,