Do you know why good employees leave?
Updated: Dec 31
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.
The Society for Human Resource Management found that the average cost per new hire is $4,129. Yet, the real cost of employee turnover depends on factors like location and role type. Additional studies by SHRM show that it costs up to 50-60% of an employee's annual salary to find a direct replacement for an existing opening.
Fortunately, cost per hire expenses are avoidable—managers can be taught to lead in a way that promotes employee engagement and retention. To reduce your company’s turnover problem, identify manager actions that cause people to quit their jobs and make it your mission to do better.
Here are four reasons talented employees leave bad bosses:
1. Bad managers give feedback too often (or not at all).
The Predictive Index recently conducted a people management study in which they asked 5,103 people to tell us about their managers. Their studies 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.
If you’re unsure whether you’re giving the appropriate amount of feedback, ask each employee during 1:1s. Or, if you don’t think your employees will tell the truth, consider sending a quick survey they can answer anonymously.
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).
2. Bad managers don’t invest in their people.
As part of the same People Management Study, respondents were asked to choose 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.
To retain top performers—particularly early- to mid-career employees—managers need to provide ample opportunity for on-the-job development. A company could bring in expert trainers on a regular basis. Or they 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 person in charge doesn’t set clear expectations, he or she sets 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:
Additionally, managers should set clear expectations for employee behavior to minimize friction. For example, let’s say you prefer your employees ask to leave early rather than tell you they will leave early. Be sure to communicate your preference early on so everyone knows where you 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.
As a manager, you need to recognize that when you play favorites, you play with fire. Be mindful of how others may perceive the things you do and take meaningful steps to create an atmosphere of inclusivity. For example, keep track of each time you recognize an employee for doing good work. Be sure everyone gets celebrated at least once per quarter so nobody feels unappreciated.
Great managers are self-aware.
The same People Management Study 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.
Managers rated 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.