The Hard Truth: People Quit Their Bosses, Not Their Jobs

British business consultant Marcus Buckingham said during one of his powerful, motivational talks: “People leave managers, not companies.”

Whether or not this is true for the majority of unhappy workers is still an active discussion among leaders in various industries across the globe. And while data is being collected to come to more of a conclusion, one thing is for sure: there are a significant number of employed workers who claim they are quitting their bosses, not their jobs.

The Hard Truth: People Quit Their Bosses, Not Their JobsWhy People Quit

In companies that require regular communication between a manager and an employee, the kind of communication they have plays a crucial role. Too often that communication is unclear.

It seems the communication breakdown happens when the manager or leader isn’t entirely sure how to be a leader. Instead of creating a team, these “leaders” create a hierarchy, placing themselves at the top of the food chain. With this antiquated and broken model (that is, unfortunately, still put into practice), the natural inclination of the leader is to deliver orders to employees and put ramifications in place if those orders aren’t executed.

This is not a process that is well received.

What’s more, when something goes wrong within an organization, a non-communicative leader tends to lay blame with the employees. But good leaders knows the blame starts with them.

Other than the belief system of a hierarchy, there are other factors that contribute to why people quit:

  • Frequent layoffs within the company.
  • Uncertainty during a company streamline or reorganization.
  • Pressure to output more work with fewer employees.
  • Lack of appreciation.

As soon as a job becomes unenjoyable and without merit, employees walk out the door. When there is no growth, no appreciation, and no signs of possible advancement, it’s time to go.

If your business or organization is suffering from a revolving door of disgruntled workers, it might be time to take a closer look at why people quit, and what you can do differently to retain them.

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1. Create Entry Interviews

It’s troubling to learn that managers often don’t discover what kind of work their employees enjoy until they leave. Many large companies put in place an exit interview, which is a process where the employee is met with a series of questions from the employer to help the company determine why he or she is leaving and expand on the experience they’ve had working with the company.

While this information is valuable, it’s also delivered too late. The employee is done. They’re leaving. However, in hindsight, if the employer knew early on what kind of experience the employee would like to have in the workplace, his or her desire to stay and work with earnest would be palpable, and the employer could respond in kind.

This can all be accomplished with an entry interview. Within the first week of being hired, leaders should sit down with the new hire and ask the following:

  • What are some favorite projects you’ve done at your previous job that you can tell me about?
  • Tell me about some moments at work when you felt the most energized and driven to deliver?
  • Let’s talk about a time when you were so immersed in what you were doing, that you lost track of time because you were in the flow.
  • What kinds of passions do you like to fulfill outside of work?

When managers have this kind of information on hand, it allows them to create opportunities that speak to the strengths of the employee. They learn what people really enjoy and are able to put them in situations that engage them from the start.

The Hard Truth: People Quit Their Bosses, Not Their Jobs

2. Redesign Their Work

As it stands now, the majority of businesses and organizations tend to create jobs and then drop “ideal candidates” into them. But evolved leaders and managers do just the opposite: they find ideal candidates, determine their talent, and then create jobs around their talent.

Think about that for a moment.

The manager creates the job around the talent of the employee. When a leader can actively participate in aligning a job with the talents and passions of the employee, everything changes, and the employee will go out of the way to deliver. The very best managers will continue to do this, even if it requires moving employees out of their redesigned roles when they’ve hit the proverbial “glass ceiling” and move them into new, more engaging and challenging roles.

Redesigning or creating roles that cater to the talents and passions of employees allows them to not only do work that is meaningful but enables them to strengthen their talents while blazing a career path that caters to their personal passions and priorities.

3. Engage Your Employees

The numbers are in and there’s no denying it: statistics show 60 to 70% of employees are merely skimming the surface when it comes to work because they are completely disengaged. They aren’t working hard, and they don’t intend to. What’s more, they aren’t emotionally committed to the organization, which means they won’t ever suddenly become motivated or more productive.

Too many leaders bank on hope at this phase.

  • They hope that the employee becomes interested.
  • They hope that bringing in a new employee will change the disengaged culture.
  • They hope that the “things-will-get-better” fairy will fly in and fix everything.

You can’t run a business on hope.

If your organization isn’t in a position to redesign roles to engage employees, finding other ways to make them feel valuable is crucial. If there is lack of motivation, it’s clear there is a failure at the management level to keep individuals interested, invested, and feeling good about who they work for.

To turn this around, consider the following:

  • Get to know your team. Their names, their hobbies, their family. Address them regularly by name and compliment them when they finish a task.
  • Discover their needs and fill them. There are various tests you can offer employees that will tell you what they need and what you can do as a leader to fill those needs.
  • Review and implement your mission statement. Is your current mission statement oppressive? Does it make employees feel like they can’t be trusted? Update or create a mission statement that is positive and energetic.

4. Become a Leader, Not a Micromanager

We mentioned earlier that many leaders tend to create a hierarchy instead of a team. True leaders don’t create a culture where they are deemed more important or “better” than others. Instead, they create a culture where they work on the same level as their employees, accept responsibility for errors instead of placing blame, and give credit to those who genuinely deserve it.

The Hard Truth: People Quit Their Bosses, Not Their JobsIf there is a struggle in the workplace with disengaged employees, it might be because the manager in place is micromanaging with a series of mundane tasks that she feels should be executed her way only. Instead of trusting her team to do the work, she is showing mistrust by telling them how to do their jobs. This can cause retention issues.

If this is happening, consider implementing development opportunities that offer employees growth and promotion opportunities. Once an employee arrives at a place where he or she is no longer challenged with work, the employee will stop trying so hard. Become cognizant of these shifts and sit down with the employee to discover what you can do better to challenge and retain each person.

Are You Ready to Make a Change?

If a good leader creates the right environment, employee retention is guaranteed to improve. We, as leaders, have to give our workers a reason to show up to work every day and do their personal best. We have to give them an outlet to use their talents and play on their passions. We also have to allow any mistakes they make (or we make) to become valuable learning opportunities.

Leaders inspire. They encourage. They listen.

Are you ready to turn the stigma around that people quit their bosses, not their jobs? How will you begin changing the culture of your organization?

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Becca Borawski Jenkins
Becca is a bit like a cat — she’s gone through a few “lives” to get to her current one (with which she’s quite pleased). She earned her MFA in Cinema-Television Production at USC’s famed film school, and her first career was as a music editor (if you’ve watched Scrubs, you’ve likely heard her work).

Becca found her way to career number two through martial arts. She began training in BJJ and muay Thai and started working with professional MMA fighters, building websites, working on fight promotions, and producing videos.

As a competitor in BJJ herself, Becca wanted to get stronger and fitter. In 2005, she became a student at CrossFit Los Angeles where she met WLC co-founders Andy Petranek and Michael Stanwyck. In only a couple years, she became CrossFit Level III Certified, left her entertainment career, and dedicated herself full time to coaching, serving as the Program Director of CFLA and founder of the CFLA CrossFit Kids program.

After seven years as a music editor and then eight years as fitness instructor, Becca segued to her current career — full-time editor and writer. She and her husband are full-time RVers and have a first-hand comprehension of the pros and cons of remote work.

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