Keeping Suzanne Chalmers

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Suzanne Chalmers, one of API’s top software engineers, asked Thomas Chan, the vice-president of software engineering at Advanced Photonics, Inc. (API), for a private meeting.

Thomas Chan has seen this before, when good and valued employees asked for private meetings with him, to end by announcing that they wanted to quit. Reasons for leaving the company were anything from long hours, stressful deadlines, time needed to decompress or time needed to spend more time with their families.

Thomas Chan assumes that the real reasons for the staff leaving was making too much money too fast, giving employees financial independence and less motivation for hard and prolonged work.

During the meeting, after Suzanne Chalmers announced that she decided to leave the company, Thomas Chan tried to persuade Suzanne Chalmers to remain with API by offering her one of the following: - Giving her up to three months unpaid leave, with full paid benefits, so that she will have time to recharge batteries; - Workplace improvements – newest computer technology or a larger workspace with better park view; - 25 per cent pay increase and more stock options.

Thomas Chan even tried to appeal to Suzanne Chalmers’ loyalty feelings, by telling her that she was one of API’s valued employees and the company would suffer if she left now.

Suzanne Chalmers responded by saying she did not have problems with her workplace or working in API. Suzanne Chalmers admitted that she received calls from other companies, and some of them offered more money. Other companies who offered a lower salary, tried to lure her with the promise of higher potential gains in stock options. Suzanne Chalmers promised Thomas Chan that she would consider the salary revision and the increased stock options offer.

Two days later, Suzanne Chalmers tendered her resignation.

Thomas Chan learned later that after several months of travelling with her husband, Suzanne Chalmers joined a new start up software firm within the area.


• Good employees leave the company after only a few years worked • Employees who benefited from generous stock options leave the company after selling their options and becoming millionaires • When such employees ask for a private meeting with their manager, it is most likely that they announce their upcoming resignation


• API is not able to motivate good employees after a few years of employment • API is not able to build loyalty with the most valuable employees • API does not have a strategy to retain the most valuable employees after they reach a certain level of compensation • API does not seem able to fight with start-up companies where the former employees “migrate”. • API cannot prevent good employees from leaving, as, during the exit interview, it cannot get the real reason for their departure.


Answers to the “Discussion Questions”.

1. Why didn’t money motivate Suzanne Chalmers to stay with API?

Suzanne Chalmers became millionaire by doing her job, in only four years, due to selling her stock options. Suzanne Chalmers’ basic needs (physiological, safety, belongingness, and esteem) were fulfilled by her money, so she is looking now for self-actualization. This need could be fulfilled by taking a job at a start-up firm where she will probably become a vice-president of software engineering (position occupied in API by Thomas Chan).

2. Do financial rewards have any value in situations such as this, where employees are relatively wealthy?

Yes, money is important in such situations, although the amount that will make an employee think twice about leaving must be considerable (i.e. a special bonus or a big number of stock options for completing a special project).

3. What innate drives seem to be motivating Suzanne Chalmers?

It looks like the drive to learn is the most important one...
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