Let people switch projects

Your Wednesday is going swimmingly until you get a ping from Claire, your direct report, asking to discuss her moving to another project. You probably groan and start to think up reasons why that can’t happen. For example:

“We really need her on the project she’s on!” No you don’t. If Claire walked out and quit, would the project explode? Of course not. You’d figure out a solution. So how about doing that while also keeping her at the company?

“Other projects will be just like the one Claire is on, so it won’t help her!” Maybe you think that because you don’t understand what specifically is bothering her. Maybe it’s a personality conflict with a coworker, or a boring technology, or a moral disagreement with the problem space. Ask her.

“Other projects don’t have any need for more people!” Then find someone on a different project who is ready for a change, and swap them. In any company with more than 5 people, I can guarantee you that someone would happily switch with Claire if given an opportunity.

“She’s only been on this project for 3 months! That’s not long enough to be tired of it!” Who are you to tell her when she’s allowed to want something?

“Claire isn’t good enough to be worth the hassle!” If you really believe that, then why does she still work there? Or maybe the reason you don’t think she’s good is that she’s been stuck on a project that is burning her out?

So just shut up and take it seriously, because you can be sure that Claire is. Otherwise she wouldn’t have worked up the nerve to ask you to discuss it.

If you respect your people, believe them when they say they need a change, and make that change happen.

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