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HBR Case Study
BY EDWARD E. LAWLER III COMMENTARY BY ANNA PRINGLE, F. LEIGH BRANHAM, JIM CORNELIUS, AND JEAN MARTIN
Why Are We Losing All Our Good People?
Sambian Partners has prided itself on being a great place to work, but now talented employees are leaving. What’s going on?
MARY DONILLO, the head of human resources at Sambian Partners, motioned Tom Forsythe, Sambian’s assistant director of commercial design, to a comfortable chair in her ofﬁce. It was late on a Thursday afternoon, and the Chicago sky looked like slate. The darkness outside made the overhead ﬂuorescent lights in her ofﬁce seem even more glaring than usual. “Hey, Tom,” she said, adding an extra bit of warmth to her voice. “I was so sorry to hear that you’ve decided to leave. I know your mind is made up – everyone’s already tried to talk you out of it. But I do hope you can help us understand why.” She paused and offered a rueful smile. “It’s a huge loss, but maybe we can learn something from it.” Tom sat stifﬂy in his chair, one side of his face partially covered by a few strands of dark hair that had escaped his ponytail. The lights brought out the bags under his eyes, and his ﬁve o’clock shadow looked more like a seven. With a newborn at home, he probably hadn’t been getting enough sleep, Mary thought. “Well, I think you know that I wasn’t out looking,” Tom said. “Their headhunter came to me, and, what can I say? It’s an of-
fer I couldn’t refuse. I mean, a directadmit partnership to J&N? It really is an opportunity that doesn’t come along often.” Mary couldn’t help blinking at the mention of J&N, Sambian’s much larger competitor. In the past year, it had seemed to step up its raids on Sambian’s talent pool, luring some very capable people over to “the dark side,” as Sambian’s CEO, Helen Gasbarian, liked to call it. “I’m glad for you,” Mary managed to say. “Although I wish it were anywhere else.” “I know.” Mary studied Tom’s face for a moment, wondering how to...
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