Question: I am a Vice President of Sales & Marketing in a niche market with growth potential. I joined the company a little over a year ago. The CEO joined the company about three months ago.

Earlier this year, the organization decided to impose a 20% wage reduction by going to a four-day workweek instead of laying people off. Even though our financial outlook is improving, the organization is still under this constraint.

A few weeks ago, a junior employee on my sales team told me he is leaving the company to go to an indirect competitor. I accepted his resignation and two weeks’ notice. While I was on a trip, my boss (CEO) decided to cut him loose sooner without pay. It was a decision made without my input.

Last week, another employee told me he is leaving. This is an employee I would like to see stay with the company, he has long-term potential. I approached my boss about some options to keep him.

His response was, “It looks like he is giving us another opportunity to reorganize.”

I have now learned that a third person from my organization is planning to leave by the end of the year. How do I make a case to the CEO that there seems to be a systemic problem?

Jim R.


Answer: There are a number of themes in your question. I will try to address them succinctly.

  1. Employees often value a company who tries to save jobs. However, when the company is seeing signs of life, they will expect to return to the status quo. Your organization is failing to do this for them.
  2. If a company continues to have trouble, the more human approach is to make the employee cuts, otherwise good people will leave. You are seeing results of not addressing #1.
  3. There are leaders who make an effort to develop people and then there are bosses who believe anyone is replaceable. I think your boss sits in the later camp.
  4. The best case you can make is to show how losing people will affect sales and profitability. Bottom line numbers usually get the CEO’s attention.

To be truthful, I do not know if you will be successful in making a case to the CEO. A better course of action – see if he is willing to share his plan with you. My hunch is he has one and he is following it. Then you can decide if you want to be a player, rather than being a pawn in the organization.