6 Mistakes Managers Make That Cause Good Employees to Quit

Do you know your employees? Of course you do. You may only know some or most of the 1 or 2 tiers below you but of course you do. But even honest managers with good intentions can do things that unintentionally drive their best people searching for another place to work. Here’s what to avoid.

Why do good people quit?

There are a lot of answers, but most are based on the huge impact that you as the supervisor have on how engaged they are at work (or how engaged they are in looking for another job).

In my line of work, I often consult with clients who work with teams that aren’t doing well; I have done so in the past myself. There are a lot of reasons why teams perform well but even more why they don’t. When things get really bad, there is often finger-pointing at who is perceived to be the real problem.

If you boil it down, though, one critical factor is the environmental philosophy (sounds like a UN mantra!) that management is setting. This comes from a manager’s behaviours on a daily basis, which has a huge impact on whether people want to stay or go.

Sometimes situations are salvageable. Others are irreparable. In those situations that are beyond repair, it isn’t because the managers are bad, unethical, or dishonest people. In fact, that is rarely the case.

What’s really going on is that they are simply doing things every day that upset or annoy their people. There are some common themes which, if left alone to fester, will drive good people out:

1. Not asking for input

People like to feel like they have some say in what happens to them. Most are reasonable and don’t feel like they need to have their opinion always sought for everything. Indeed, most would probably think less of you for it. But, not ever asking for input from your people, especially for things that directly impact their job, gives employees the impression that you just don’t care.

2. Asking for input, but never using it

Worse than never asking is asking but never doing anything with the input. This has an even more detrimental impact because employees often think, “if you weren’t going to do anything with my input, why did you ask in the first place?” or worse, “if you already knew what you were going to do, don’t pretend that you wanted my input.” Not asking for input leaves employees feeling like they have no control over their lives; asking for it and then not using it often leads to distrust of their manager or the belief that their manager was just “doing what he thought he should” when asking.

3. Not taking the time to explain “why”

Most people want to know why a decision was made or why things are moving in the direction they are moving instead of simply being told what is happening. Will the “why” always make people happy? Definitely not. But most employees in teams where things aren’t going well consistently say that at least they would feel like they understood the situation better. Not telling the why often leads employees to jump to one of two bad conclusions: 1) My manager doesn’t know why (code for “my manager doesn’t know what he or she is doing”) or 2) My manager doesn’t want to tell me (code for “my manager is hiding things from us”). Taking time to explain things goes a long way for people.

4. Chronically under-staffing

When running a tight ship gets to the point where even the good employees are constantly under stress and feeling that you have a management ability problem. “Managing” understaffed for a short period can actually be a rallying cry for a team to get great results even in the face of adversity. Being under-staffed all the time simply burns people out.

5. Not taking action on consistently poor performers

Any business review, meeting, article, person says the same thing (I felt it myself earlier in my career). When managers don’t act on poor performers, good performers see it and are incredibly frustrated. They begin – and, worse, persist – to ask, “Why am I working so hard?” Really good employees don’t have it in them to not work hard. Instead of relaxing in response to their annoyance, they just look for another job where they will be rewarded for working hard.

6. Having favourites (or appearing to)

No one likes to be on a team where the leader of the team consistently shows favouritism. If those staff are recognised by all – even, for some, grudgingly – as the best, no one usually has a problem with it. But sadly, this frequently isn’t the case. If those favourites aren’t the best performers or worse, if there is some sort of apparent conflict of interest based on a friendship, it causes ructions.

These mistakes are easy to correct. You may recall recently I explained my own disastrous management failings in the shake machine scenario (have a look, it’s good! No, not the shake though it was too) I’ve seen great turnarounds with managers I managed or who managed me who were willing to focus on these key things. The wrong things.

Then ideas will happen. You have now discovered that the ideal change management processes result in quick ideas that you put into action, which can be evaluated for effectiveness and revamped as necessary. Once you’ve assembled an eclectic assortment of people at all levels, and involved them, you’ll see the buy-in. And buy-in produces outcome. Positive outcome.

Written by

Nigel Benson is a professional career sector specialist with over 12 years' experience writing executive level CVs and expertise in recruitment, job interviews and training.

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