workplace

Good employees leave bad managers who do these 4 things.

August 28, 2018
5 minute read
Last updated April 1, 2020

Being a manager means having the power to influence others. Great managers inspire their teams to greatness and lead by example. Terrible managers frustrate their employees—and frustrated employees don’t stick around for the long haul. On average, 47% of high-performing employees left their company last year.

To reduce your company’s turnover problem:

  • Identify manager actions that cause people to quit their jobs (via an employee experience survey).
  • Teach your managers to lead in a way that promotes employee engagement and retention.
  • Use management tools to coach and communicate according to employee behavioral needs.

If you don’t yet have access to an employee experience survey or management tools, that’s OK! Read on to discover four reasons why good employees leave bad managers. If you observe any of the following, take action as soon as possible!

1. Bad managers give feedback too often (or not at all).

The Predictive Index® conducted a people management study in which 5,103 people told us about their managers. Our research showed us that great bosses give just the right amount of feedback.

As you can see (below), managers who gave “just the right amount of feedback” were rated—on average—an 8.6 on a scale of 1-10. Managers who gave no feedback at all scored an average rating of 4.2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, managers who gave “way too much” feedback earned a 4.5.

Chart showing manager ratings and employee feedback

If you’re unsure whether your managers give the appropriate amount of feedback, have them ask their employees during 1:1s. Or, if you don’t think employees will tell the truth, consider sending a quick survey they can answer anonymously.

Key takeaway: When in doubt, it’s better to give more feedback than less. Take a look at how the numbers stack up when you compare “I get some feedback, but not as much as I’d like” (6.5) to “I get a little more feedback than I’d like” (7.1).  

44% of managers don’t give enough feedback.

Learn how to give feedback that inspires.

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2. Bad managers don’t invest in their people.

As part of the same People Management Study, respondents selected from a list of 105 traits to describe their managers. One of the 10 most common traits of bad managers was “Doesn’t show concern for my career and professional development.”

Full-time employees spend approximately one-quarter of their lives at work. It’s no wonder, then, that career and personal development is a top priority for so many.

Facebook found that learning and development was a top motivator for employees ages 54 and younger. Learning and development were most important to people in the 25-34 age bracket.

Key takeaway: To retain top performers—particularly early- to mid-career employees—managers need to provide ample opportunity for on-the-job development. Your company could bring in expert trainers on a regular basis. Or you might allow employees to attend professional conferences during normal working hours. Top talent thrives on gaining industry knowledge and developing specialized skills. Leadership must support and nurture those desires.

3. Bad managers don’t make expectations clear.

Good people want to do a good job. However, when the people in charge don’t set clear expectations, they set employees up to fail. And that failure leads to employee unhappiness and a high turnover rate.

Gallup studied 7,272 adults and found that one-half had quit a job because of a bad manager. They also learned that clarity of expectations is vital to employee performance.

It’s not enough to hand someone a job description or give a quick overview of responsibilities. Instead, managers should help employees set goals then talk about expectations and progress regularly. Gallup found that this dynamic boosts employee engagement:

Chart showing employee engagement and manager goal setting

Key takeaway: Managers should set clear expectations for employee behavior to minimize friction. Be sure to instruct people managers to communicate their preferences early on so everyone knows where they stand.

4. Bad managers play favorites.

High-performing employees are easy to like. They close huge deals, always hit deadlines, and are a pleasure to work with. While good managers are able to treat everyone on the team equally, bad managers give preferential treatment to a favorite few. Favoritism is demotivating and has a negative impact on team morale and company culture.

Key takeaway: Managers need to recognize that when they play favorites, they play with fire. Remind your managers to be mindful of how others may perceive the things they do and take meaningful steps to create an atmosphere of inclusivity. For example, managers could keep track of each time they recognize an employee for doing good work. They should be sure everyone gets celebrated at least once per quarter so nobody feels unappreciated. 

Great managers are self-aware.

In conducting our People Management Study we found that most problems boil down to a lack of self-awareness. Leaders who lack self-awareness don’t realize the impact their actions have on their employees. This shortcoming manifests in a variety of ways—none of which are good for company health.

Pie chart showing the importance of self-awareness as a manager trait

Managers rated a 9 or 10 were described as “communicative, respectful, transparent, fair, compassionate, inspiring, and supportive.” These adjectives indicate self-awareness. If you want to be the kind of manager people don’t leave, self-awareness should be a top priority.

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