Talent optimization and the agile leader

Do you know the real reason employees quit?

June 25, 2019
4 minute read

Once upon a time, people believed employees quit because of bad bosses.

And while that’s still true to an extent, recent research showed the most common reason people quit is the organization itself. Of the top 10 drivers of turnover intent, nine relate to the organization. 

top 10 drivers of turnover intent

If people are leaving bad companies, why were you led to believe they leave bad managers?

The short of it is: Bad companies produce bad managers.

The employees have spoken.

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Here are a few ways this happens:

Bad companies promote managers prematurely.

According to research from Udemy, 60% of employees think managers need more management training.

It’s common for top performers to be promoted based on performance and quality of work. But are these people truly ready for a management position? While competency is a component of leadership capacity, it’s not the only factor to consider when making someone a people manager.

Companies that don’t consider the leadership and interpersonal components of management will promote the wrong people into management positions—leading us to believe the manager is the problem, not the organization.

Bad companies don’t invest in leadership development.

Even people who possess natural leadership ability need to learn and grow. When organizations don’t invest in leadership development for their people managers, bad management is the result. 

It’s not that these managers are bad people, but everyone has blind spots. Without an awareness of these blind spots and a plan to develop areas of weakness, poor management is the only outcome.

What’s more, companies that don’t promote a growth mindset end up with managers who have a fixed mindset—and that benefits no one.

unhappy employee

Bad companies cultivate distrust.

The second most impactful driver of turnover intent, according to the report, is trust in senior leadership. Distrust forms when leaders:

  • Don’t disclose information about strategic changes
  • Aren’t open to feedback
  • Lack self-awareness
  • Don’t trust others
  • Talk about employees (or other leaders) behind their back

Trust is the foundation of teamwork. Without it, it can be difficult to commit to decisions and collaborate.

When senior leadership doesn’t create an environment of trust, this trickles down into middle management—whether that’s by asking managers to withhold information from their teams or creating a conflict of interest when employees speak up about goings-on in the organization. While the manager may be blamed for the result, the directive is coming down from the top.

Bad companies create toxic cultures managers can’t fix.

Even the strongest, most empathetic leader can’t overcome a toxic culture. Cultivating a positive experience for employees within a toxic work environment is a Sisyphean challenge. 

If your organization isn’t intentionally and strategically designed to execute your business strategy or uphold a set of core values, no amount of raw leadership potential or people skills can surmount it. 

Organizational limitations may prohibit a manager from promoting, rewarding, or helping an employee. And while this can come across as the manager being unsupportive, the reality is the manager may be limited in what they can actually offer employees.

Bad companies don’t nip bad managers in the bud.

Let’s be honest: Not every manager is a good manager. Good companies, however, recognize when a manager is engaging in unhealthy—or even toxic—behavior and nip it in the bud.

In organizations with toxic cultures, bad management often goes unaddressed. When employees raise concerns, they’re dismissed or ignored. Senior leadership doesn’t give critical feedback that would allow the manager to improve, continuing the cycle of inefficiency and toxicity. Consequently, employees quit

While employees might be pointing a finger at the boss, the data doesn’t lie: The problem probably lies further up the food chain. Collecting and analyzing people data can help you determine if you truly have a bad manager on your hands or if the issue stems from an organizational source and requires a top-down approach to change management.

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