You’ve heard the adage, “Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.” You may wonder just how much of that is true. Of course, people are more likely to quit a job where the boss is obviously horrible. But what about less obvious cases? Are employees quitting their jobs because of company leaders who ‘aren’t that bad?’
A Gallup poll of more than one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. More and more people are voluntarily leaving seemingly good jobs. 75% of workers polled by Gallup stated doing so because their relationship with their boss was not healthy.
Company leaders can’t be expected to be everything for everybody. It is near impossible to please everyone. However, company leaders can do more to ensure that their behavior isn’t actively encouraging workers to leave their jobs. Here are some common reasons employees are leaving their bosses and a few tips on how to improve, so that employee turnover isn’t because of you.
Poorly Communicated Goals and Objectives
Employees want to do their jobs. They want to be part of meaningful work that makes a difference in the organization and the lives of others. They want to be part of the goal-setting process and have regular check-ins that help benchmark achievements. What they don’t want is to have lofty, unreachable goals set for them. And they certainly don’t want to sit through meeting after meeting talking in circles about how to reach those goals.
Too often, company leaders get excited about an end goal without thinking of breaking it into smaller, more attainable pieces. Employees begin to feel forced into working towards visions and ideas they don’t support. When company leaders set impossible standards for their employees and provide no set path on how to meet those expectations, employees get lost on what their objectives are. If employees don’t understand exactly what’s expected of them, they’ll have a hard time completing their tasks. And when they don’t feel like they're successful at work, they’ll leave.
How to Solve It: Good leaders are clear communicators about the company’s mission and goals. They offer feedback and check in on employees regularly to see how they are doing. They provide continuous interaction that includes praise, thanks, and recognition for the work employees are doing. Clear communication and encouragement can go a long way when it comes to performance, job loyalty, and engagement.
Under-utilizing Employee Strengths
Company leaders hire employees because of the skills and experience they bring to the workplace. Leaders look for a variety of skills that are transferable over many operations within the company. In the beginning, employees are excited to use their skills and experience to lend to innovative changes and solve problems for the company while also moving up the corporate ladder.
Sadly, many employees find themselves pigeonholed by narrow job descriptions and feel stifled by the inability to use all of their skills. The monotony causes disengagement and employees begin to look for new opportunities where their strengths are better utilized.
How to Solve It: Company leaders wanting to retain skilled talent need to be proactive in creating opportunities for people to use their strengths. This can be done by creating new job roles or assigning employees to tasks and projects that are new and challenging. Giving employees the opportunity to learn additional skills and teach others is also a great way to utilize employees for all of their strengths.
Leading with Bias
Lack of trust from employees can lead to low morale. Workers want to be treated fairly by their employers. They want leaders who are fair and trustworthy. Connecting with employees on a personal level can be so important to creating an engaged workplace. However, when a leader’s relationships are perceived as biased or showing favoritism to a select few, it can be detrimental to work relationships.
The connection employers have with their employees is more important than it would seem. Employees often look to company leaders to feel connected to their jobs. Loyalty to the company feigns when employees feel singled out or left out as a result of seemingly biased leadership.
How to Solve It: Leaders should make it their goal to connect with their employees daily. Having friendly, casual conversations with employees and showing interest in them as individuals can break the stigmas surrounding bias perceptions. It’s important to support diversity and raise awareness about inclusion and fairness in the workplace. Leaders should find unique ways to recognize each employee regularly. Taking time to thank individuals and showing them appreciation for their work can make employees feel valued and encouraged to align their goals with the goals of the company.
Asking Employees to Trade Their Home Life for Work
Employees often feel pressured to give up something in their personal lives to advance their careers. When leaders ask them to stay late for meetings or ask them to work weekends, it takes employees from their families, friends, and hobbies. The Mental Health Foundation reports that when working more or longer hours, 27% of employees feel depressed, 34% feel anxious and 58% feel irritable.
Having a balance between work and their personal lives is something all employees value. They want a boss that supports them and appreciates the work they can do during regular working hours. They want a leader that helps them prioritize and get tasks done without asking them to miss out on their children’s school play, or going to the gym in the evenings, or simply curling up on the couch with a good book. The more often employers ask their employees to make trade-offs, the more likely employees are to find a job with a company that encourages work-life balance.
How to Solve It: Work-life balance is not just a buzzword. It’s something employers, and company leaders need to encourage. Leaders should regular ask employees about their needs and discuss possible solutions with them. By regularly surveying employees, company leaders can discover trends or issues that are affecting a majority of the company and put new policies in place to reduce the effects. Some possible solutions to help maintain a positive work-life balance would be to support telecommuting, allow for flextime, promote health and fitness, and express the importance of quality work, not the quantity of work.
Employees leave jobs. When companies are in search of retention solutions, company leaders should look at themselves and determine if their leadership style is what is causing talented employees to quit. It is their responsibility to create a work environment that fosters communication, inclusiveness, balance, and positivity. Great bosses protect their employees from toxicity and convert times of frustration and upset into healthy learning experiences that encourage growth and job commitment. When leaders care about employee happiness and success, it’s not hard to attract new talent while retaining current employees. And when employees feel good about the work they are doing, they can’t imagine working for anyone else.