The Far Side of Low Turnover

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2003-03-17 Print this article Print

Gibson: Can CIOs and other IT professionals handle a stable workplace?

A few years ago, as the dot-com bubble was still expanding, many an IT shop longed for the days of stability, when everyone wasnt leaving for the phony riches of stock options and workplace turnover was under control.

Now were getting to see what less or, in some cases, no turnover is like. Gartner analyst Ellen Kitzis, who has just completed her companys third annual CIO Agenda survey, said that among the reports many findings is that CIOs are staying put nowadays, in stark contrast to the former situation.

"Three years ago, there was incredible turnover in CIOs. But now there is considerable resilience in CIO tenures," said Kitzis.

In many shops, its not just the CIO whos not leaving. One CIO I spoke with described the situation in his 180-person shop this way: "There has been no turnover in 18 months. In the past 21 years, we never had no one quit in that length of time."

High turnover is blamed for many personal and workplace pathologies. But maybe the opposite, low turnover, is not such a good thing, either. Think, for example, of those Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoons: Two characters are stuck on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean with no food. After awhile, they get on each others nerves, and when hunger sets in, one guys nose begins to look like a sausage to the other guy.

On a more serious note, when the Navy selects crew members for submarine duty, it subjects them to a rigorous personality test to judge their suitability for service in close quarters with the same crew mates for long periods of time. Not everyone can handle the sub environment without developing problems or creating them for the rest of the crew.

Its a safe bet that neither you nor your co-workers underwent a similar evaluation. But now that your workplace may be feeling more like a submarine, you may be wishing they had.

So, how do you like low turnover? Tell me about it at

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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