There are numerous reasons that employees will decide to leave a company. Often the decision is financial, geographical or related to something you cannot control. Just as often, the prime factor in why an employee has chosen to leave a company is you – their manager. It’s a hard thing to hear, but a reality that we all must face as leaders.
In 2005 Gallup ran a comprehensive study titled The State of the American Manager and found that 50% of Americans left their job at some point in their career to get away from a manager. While you might look around your organization (as I have) and proudly not imagined yourself as the reason employees leave, it can be daunting to admit that perhaps sometimes, you are exactly that.
On the other hand, perhaps you are the reason they haven’t left. Unless you have a solid HR department that can collect detailed exit interviews, you may never know. I find that merely speaking to my employees on a regular basis to determine my own efficacy in the workplace goes a long way when it comes to retention. So what factors do employees consider when leaving a company because of management and how can you ensure you aren’t the one forcing that decision?
There are bad bosses. We can’t pretend that they don’t exist. While not the sole reason for employees leaving companies, often bad bosses are enough to make that decision easier. You could be this bad boss; I could be this bad boss. The only way you’ll know is by connecting with your employees on a personal level. If you manage a very large team, you don’t have to write a research paper on their life story, but just knowing their name and basic details go a long way toward building trust. Superiority complexes should be thrown out the window here, after all, your employees are the only reason you are where you are.
Employees need goals. From small to medium-sized and someday hopefully greater, I have always communicated goals to my employees. Not just on a broad company scope, but with each individual as well. Employees need goals to push harder and to achieve more. They need something to aim for. This isn’t just about paying the bills or putting gas in the car; this is about personal growth and achievement.
Your employees are your greatest asset, and as cliché as that sounds every time you read it, it remains true. They will leave your employ if you forget that and if you continue to treat them with indignation and ignore their goals and aspirations. Contributing to your success is one thing, but you, as a leader, contributing to theirs is something that keeps them smiling and functioning at a high level.
You should never be surprised when an employee leaves the company. If you are, or if their direct manager is then your leadership style might be a contributing factor. Are you communicating goals? Are you meeting with employees to gauge their morale? Are you accepting of feedback and providing adequate feedback? Continued interaction with your employees creates trust, transparency and a workplace that isn’t distraught with disdain.
I believe that the biggest factor contributing to employees looking for other opportunities is a negative company culture. You can’t always control the pace of the work, the day-to-day or the commute, but company culture is something that starts at the top. It starts with your vision and your ability to accept responsibility for the mistakes as well as the successes. It means setting a good example at every level of interaction; ethics, expectations of work, trust, organizational operations and trust.
I know that if you strive to be not just a competent manager, but an engaged and trustworthy manager, it’ll foster creative growth and a healthy work environment that will lead to greater employee retention. Don’t be the reason employees leave, be the reason they stay!