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People Are Still Quitting Jobs Because of Their Bosses; Here’s How to Fix Management Mistakes

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Erin Cushing
on June 15, 2016

Two summers ago on the PeopleFluent blog, we explored the concept behind the popular phrase “people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses” – in fact, stats back up this thinking, as 75% of workers who voluntarily leave a position do so due to their manager. In that post, we examined five reasons why an employee might become so fed up with a direct manager that they would leave the organization altogether. But now almost two years have passed; has anything changed?

Well, the updated Gallup poll shows that the numbers are improving – but we have a long way to go. Now 50% of survey takers left a job due to poor management or a bad boss,as opposed to 75%. But this is still a staggering number. What are managers doing that drives good talent away? Here are some hidden culprits – and how you can rectify these management mistakes before they become even more costly:

Problem: Managers Aren’t Recognizing Contributions or Rewarding Good Work

It’s maybe one of the most demoralizing things an employee can experience; they work especially hard on a critical project and deliver high quality work, with hardly any response from their manager even acknowledging they’ve seen the results. Managers often feel overwhelmed with their own work to recognize opportunities to praise their direct reports; worse, some managers simply underestimate or undervalue the power of recognition, especially for top performers who are intrinsically motivated. However, repeated lack of acknowledgment and praise will cause most good employees to look for another job elsewhere where they will receive tangible recognition for their work.

Solution: Prioritize Communication and Investigate Reward Structure

One of your responsibilities as a manager is to motivate and develop direct reports, and a part of that role is by recognizing when they perform well. A simple, documented instance of praise and a simple thank you can go a long way to motivating your employees – and keeping them engaged with their work and the organization. A strong performance management system should be able to enable this type of unscheduled feedback.

Problem: Managers Aren’t Helping Employees Grow and Develop Skills

It’s so easy to become focused on short term projects and goals and to completely forget about the long term needs of your employees in the process. In order to stay with an organization long term, employees need a career path, one that involves them identifying and having the opportunity to develop needed skills and to cultivate experiences. It’s up to managers to find areas and opportunities for talented employees to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s a manager’s job to keep it coming; otherwise, high performers will leave for opportunities with more growth potential.

Solution: Invest the Time into Talent Development Planning

Yes, it takes a little time and effort, but at the end of the day, you will be saving your organization by investing now in individual employee development; after all, North American organizations lose 11 billion dollars a year on employee turnover. Taking the time to develop a plan with an employee to identify and improve skill sets not only helps retention in the near term, but also allows you to develop today’s individual contributors into tomorrow’s leaders, putting the organization in a more successful position with its work force in the long term. To create these plans, you should tie your learning plans to your performance management system; make sure the skills and learning opportunities correspond to employees’ goals and objectives.

Problem: The Manager-Employee Communication Process is Broken

Really, this is one of the core causes of all the other issues that plague poor manager-employee relationships: communication. Either a manager is providing feedback to infrequently, or is micromanaging an employee without a good rationale and explanation; a manager makes a decision regarding pay or promotion, but doesn’t thoughtfully communicate it to an employee, causing resentment; poor feedback and communication skills and missed opportunities make an employee feel belittled, or ignored; the list stretches on and on.

Solution: Invest the Time and Resources into Facilitating Better Communication Across the Business

First of all, managers are never done learning, just like individual employees; make sure your managers are receiving the training and support they need to become better leaders. Communicating tough decisions and delivering feedback and evaluations is a learned skill; ensure that your organization’s leaders are given the opportunity to properly learn and practice these skills. Next, facilitate better manager-employee communication through technology. The right performance management partner should offer the ability to deliver continuous, “anytime, anywhere” feedback as well as formalized reviews.

Good employees will quit because of bad managers; protect your organization from this talent loss by empowering your managers with the skills and resources to provide motivation and engagement opportunities that will keep your best employees loyal to their supervisors – and your organization.

Learn more about the causes of employee disengagement, and what you and your managers can do to reverse the trend here

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