When you oversee a team, certain things can start to feel pretty personal. Say you’ve got an employee who’s been with you for years. You enjoy working with them, they do great work, and you’re confident they’re happy with their job.

Then one day, they come into your office, and give you their two weeks notice.

Just like that — they’re going to leave. 

That feels personal! That certainly affects you personally — replacing such a stalwart employee will be difficult. But it also feels like a personal blow. Was it something you said? Something you didn’t say? Did they not like their job? What about everything you did for them?

This is a moment to step back, take a breath, and remember: chances are, this really, really isn’t about you. Sure, in some situations, it could be — but if you feel like you’ve had a good relationship, you have no reason to think they’d be upset at you, then the chances are high it’s about something else. So use the opportunity to be curious.

They never said you were a bad boss. They never said anything disparaging — except for the fact that they want to leave. So what’s the real question here? The real question is, what are they going to get elsewhere that they’re not getting here? Answer that question, and you can learn how to help the rest of your team. In some cases, you might even be able to prevent them from leaving.

We have a habit of making these things about us. But it’s an opportunity to learn: if it’s NOT personal, what could it be? How do we as leaders recognize these situations where people are feeling less than, looking elsewhere for something they should be looking for here? What can we give that we weren’t giving before? Not because we were a ‘bad boss,’ but because we recognize that we can always be growing. THEN, ask yourself, what can you be doing BEFORE someone wants to leave? This article alone can be a wake-up call to curiosity and connection. Could you be taking people for granted? Not maliciously, but unconsciously?

They very well might have the highest regard for you. But remember, when you’re a leader, the work you’re doing with your team is more than just you and them. It’s their lives; it affects their families; it’s a significant portion of their day. There are many more factors coming into play besides the Boss.

It’s your job to be curious and willing to learn.