Why You Should Let Your Favorite Employee Move to Another Team

Blocking employee advancement is a lose-lose proposition for organizations, employees, and managers themselves, new research shows.

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You have a superstar on your team. They never miss a deadline or fail to impress a client. They put out fires, support their colleagues, and mentor junior team members. You cannot imagine your work life without them.

And then they tell you that they are ready to grow and want to find their next opportunity at the company. Do you bury your disappointment, thank them for all they have done for you, and immediately help them chart their next step? Or do you act selfishly and suggest that they aren’t quite ready for a bigger job but might be in six months?

The latter is an example of internal talent hoarding, which refers to a host of manager behaviors that prevent subordinates from pursuing jobs elsewhere within the organization. The available data suggests that most managers have hoarded talent at one time or another. In a recent study, 75% of managers openly admitted to hoarding talent — and, given that this is not exactly a socially desirable behavior, you can bet that that percentage is actually much higher.

Over the past five years, we have spoken with managers from dozens of companies around the world about hoarding, and every single one of them has (often sheepishly) admitted to holding on to at least one employee longer than necessary. Those conversations led to a years-long search for a persuasive, data-backed argument that might convince managers that it is actually in their best interests to let their best employees go. We think we have found it. But first, it helps to understand what hoarding looks like in practice and why managers hoard talent.

What Hoarding Looks Like in Practice

Managers engage in a variety of hoarding behaviors. One set of behaviors aims to reduce the visibility of superstar employees to the rest of the organization.



1. T.M. Gardner, T.P. Munyon, P.W. Hom, et al., “When Territoriality Meets Agency: An Examination of Employee Guarding as a Territorial Strategy,” Journal of Management 44, no. 7 (September 2018): 2580-2610.

2. JR Keller and K. Dlugos, “Advance ’Em to Attract ’Em: How Promotions Influence Applications in Internal Talent Markets,” Academy of Management Journal 66, no. 6 (December 2023): 1831-1859.

3. D. Tan and C.I. Rider, “Let Them Go? How Losing Employees to Competitors Can Enhance Firm Status,” Strategic Management Journal 38, no. 9 (September 2017): 1848-1874.

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