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Top 5 Reasons Why People Quit Bosses, Not Their Jobs

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Maren Hogan
on September 15, 2014

[Today’s guest blog post is from Maren Hogan, marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting space.]

Two stats from a recent Dale Carnegie study really drove home the disconnect between workers and their employers as it related to turnover issues. A Gallup study revealed that 89% of employers believe that workers leave their company for more money. In reality, a mere 12% of workers actually leave for more money. That’s a pretty big perception/reality miss and it may have to do with the theory that ignorance is bliss. 

It’s a whole lot easier to swallow when good talent walks out the door for a fatter check, but it’s a little more difficult to explore the possibility that it could be management. The difference between that 89% and 12% leaves room for a lot of other possibilities though…right? Wrong. That same study also revealed that 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. So conventional wisdom is in fact true – people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. 

This issue does not come standard with a one-size-fits-all solution, just as most people-problems do not. However, the employee/employer relationship does come with some standard or common obstacles. Here are five of the most common reasons an employee will quit their boss.

1. Lack of Communication

The trickle down of information will often stop pretty high up, leaving the majority of workers in the dark. Work without context or reason is not only frustrating, but it also lacks an end goal and is bad for cohesion. Lack of communication will quickly cause disengagement, but the presence of consistent communication does quite the opposite; a Celayix infographic reveals that 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback on a weekly basis. Having a consistent and continuous feedback process in place, and the right “recognition” performance platform in place that integrates with both learning and succession planning systems, are highly critical to improving workforce communications and engagement. 

2. Lack of Vision or Mission

People love to feel that their work is going toward a greater good. Workers who feel like they are part of an organization that contributes to society are far more likely to stick around, but that vision and mission have to be clearly and consistently communicated to the workforce. A Dale Carnegie survey of over 1,500 workers revealed that 54% of employees who were proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged and we all know that engaged employees are retained employees. This is why having a social collaboration platform in place allows management communicate real-time with their workforce and to share vision and mission information in a variety of powerful mediums, especially video (seeing is believing).

3. Lack of Confidence in Management

70% of employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership are not fully engaged. When a staff lacks confidence in their management, it can have some serious effects on productivity and fulfillment in the workplace. Keeping management in continued and cross-training programs gives them the tools to be confident in their position. Plus, effective leadership development includes not only business-centric programs, it also includes people-centric communications and mentoring programs that help leaders connect emotionally with their workforce and future leaders.

4. The Workforce is Not Empowered

“I love my boss’ micro-management techniques,” said no employee ever. Leadership does not equate to absolute control. The focus should be on guidance and support. When employees are empowered to take the initiative, they can be more productive, more creative and more excited about their role. Again, holistic leadership development programs that focus on motivating and encouraging an autonomous “risk-taking” workforce are what drive innovation and business outcomes today.

5. Lack of Empathy

Forbes contributor Louis Efron wrote a piece, “6 Reasons Your Best Employees Quit You” and cited “No Empathy” as one of them. Efron calls leaders to take the time to listen to their employees. The very simple action of creating an open door policy for employees to be able to come to management is a strong way to show employees that the organization values them, their opinions and feedback. Efron said,

“This is not just talk therapy – they should leave the conversation believing that you will take whatever action may be helpful and possible or at least logically explain why nothing can be done. But by leaving your door open to employee concerns and suggestions, leaders encourage them to feel that they have a stake in an organization that considers them important and cares enough to listen.”

Again, not enough can be said about leadership instilling reciprocal emotional commitment in their workforce today. Leadership programs and platforms that empower real-time communication, emotional intelligence exercises, mentoring programs and continuous development and feedback are how companies are winning today.

With 80% of disengaged employees claiming dissatisfaction with their direct employer, and the ridiculously high cost of turnover, this is a pretty huge issue in business today. Employees aren’t happy, and it’s a, “It’s not me, it’s you” situation we have here. For all anyone knows, that micro-manager, demoralizing, grump of a boss might actually think they are doing a great job. The recovery all starts with communication. Our reality is always changed when others’ perceptions are a part of it. 


Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. You can connect with Maren on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as read her latest posts on Marenated and

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