Camille’s Story

I recently spoke with a business professional who had been lured away from one company to another. Camille was in a sales position, and she was a relatively high producer. As often happens in these instances, her old company said “thanks but no thanks” when Camille offered to work out the traditional two-week’s notice – or longer if they needed her to. They were eager to get hold of her rolodex, her files, and her computer before she would have any more time to make a copy of, or otherwise maintain any of the valuable information contained within them.

It’s a scenario that probably sounds all too familiar to many among us; the last ditch effort to save the remnants of what that employee will potentially walk away with.

And they are but remnants. Remnants of far lesser value.

Data without the knowledgeable processor.

Rudimentary elements without the skillful alchemist.

When a company loses an employee, what walks out the door with them is an extremely valuable investment of intellectual capital. Months or years of company-specific, market-specific knowledge. The knowledge of how things work, why they work, and when they work well and not so well. When you recruit and hire to replace them, what you face, is the long road of starting over.

As a manager, what can you do to prevent this?

In this particular instance, Camille didn’t leave for a better position or for better pay. She didn’t leave for better benefits or for a better workplace environment. She left because she was bored.
Her job had become routine, tiresome, and uneventful. She’d found that one day followed another without any discernable difference between them. Her days were simply “blah, blah, blah.”

Camille loved her clients, but she realized she could keep them and serve them just as well, if not better, at another company which helped her keep things interesting for those clients. At the same time, perhaps that new company could help her get her own spark back too. To Camille, it was worth a shot.

Other than her boredom, Camille didn’t have a single complaint with her old company. They treated her pretty well, and she believed she offered her customers a good product at a good value. She knew the ropes, she worked them well, and she was comfortable there. But darn it, she was so bored. She would have stayed if she felt she was still learning, and still challenged. She would have stayed if she felt she was still engaged and intellectually stimulated. But she wasn’t.

She needed some inspiration from her manager in setting some new objectives and reaching for them. She needed some help in seeing what the possibilities of new learning in her position would be. But instead, she was left to her own devices, and so she turned to another company for those answers.

Such a pity.

To a business, cash flow always appears to be the king of assets. However I’d argue that there is a far more important one in the long term view, and that is “renewable knowledge” as the asset of intellectual capital. It comes in the form of the people who have it – your people. After all, you need those people to produce the cash flow. When they walk out the door, critical shortages can happen in very short periods of time.

Great managers have intellectual capital in good supply, alive and well in the minds of the people who work for them. Those great managers work at refreshing it and keeping it well stocked.

If you are a manager, is that what you do? Are you always on the lookout for the new learning possibilities you can make available to your Camilles? Do you groom, coach and mentor lifelong learners? Do you seek out the slightest traces of apathy, complacency, routine and monotony so those spirit-killers never grab hold of your people, sapping their energy and stifling their creativity?

You’d better. Boredom is just no fun, and it comes at a very high price.


  1. says

    Great post, Rosa. Companies spend time and energy making sure their financial capital and resources are kept moving and working for them all the time. They forget intellectual capital needs to be treated in the same way or it loses its value.
    Some organizations also fear people’s intellect. After all, lively minds ask questions and probe the answers. Minds dulled by routine obedience are way less trouble. Lapdogs are easier to handle than sharp-witted coyotes!
    If a company isn’t interested in keeping the minds of its people sharp and engaged, maybe we should ask what the folk at the top have to hide?

  2. says

    Ah Adrian, I feel you have read my mind and jumped into the draft of my next post! A new mantra for the workplace, “Respect me, respect my intelligence.”
    When I wrote Managing with Aloha I went back and forth in deciding whether to put a section called “Respect intelligence in everyone” in the chapter on ‘Ike loa, learning, or in Ho’ohanohano, respect and honoring dignity, for it applies to both things. (It ended up on page 164 in Ho’ohanohano.)
    And Adrian, wait until you see what I have written for my new Thursday column on day after tomorow: a hint —
    “lively minds ask questions and probe the answers.” Well said.