“I may have to remove Walter (the western regional manager),” a CEO said to his human resources (HR) manager after his annual tour of their four regions.
“Really?” replied the HR manager. “He’s only been there a year and his region is doing pretty well, not great but better than two others.”
“I know but after I explained the changes in our benefits plan to the employees, I did not get a single question. At all other locations, I was bombarded with questions after my presentation.”
The CEO further explained that lack of employee response suggested that Walter might be a bully leader, and he asked the HR manager to investigate.
After spending several days in the western region, the HR manager reported that employees were indeed afraid of Walter. Several highly productive employees had recently quit. A few employees said that Walter, prior to the CEO’s visit, had threatened termination for anyone who made him look bad. The culture was oppressive, harsh and stressful.
A couple of weeks later, the CEO called Walter to the office and terminated him. Shortly afterwards, under new leadership, the western region’s performance improved markedly.
The lack of spontaneous and open questioning of leaders’ decisions by employees often indicates failed leadership.
According to the Labor Turnover Survey, about 3.5 million employees quit their jobs every month. The average tenure for employees in their workplace is less than five years—longer for older employees, shorter for millennials.
Most job offers look pretty good from a distance but not all turn out to be so. Still, few employees treat a job change like major surgery. As one said, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just look for another.”
I think the analysis of whether to go or stay boils down to two basic issues—the work itself and the boss.
Concerning the work: Do you like what you are doing? Does your job allow for personal growth? Do you value the mission of your company?
Concerning your boss: Does your manager respect and appreciate you? Is your manager interested in your development? Do your opinions count?
If the answers to these questions are compelling “yes’s,” I suggest that you lean heavily toward staying in your current situation. Still, I understand moving for opportunity. Although I’ve chosen to remain with my current organization for more than forty years, I did change jobs seven times in the first eight years of my career.
“In thirteen years, I’ve worked for two companies,” Albertson said. “Managers tell me that I’m a conscientious employee, and I’ve had very good performance reviews in all of my jobs.”
“Why did you leave the first company?” I asked.
“I was there six years. I liked the work and I had opportunities for advancement. I got a new manager in my third year and our relationship was shoddy. He was a good person but always hovered over my work and was quick to second-guess any initiative I might take.”
Albertson continued to explain that his manager had very little experience in the tasks that he performed and tended to micromanage. Albertson described his manager as a negative person and was not always clear about what he expected.
Eventually, Albertson left for a job in another company at lower pay. Albertson has remained with the second company for seven years. He likes the work and has been promoted. Albertson says his current manager cares about him and is very clear about expectations.
Gallup polls show that seventy-five percent of employees who voluntarily leave their company do so because of poor relationships with bosses. Employees join companies but they leave bosses.
“With such a strong economy, it is getting harder for us to retain our good employees,” a manager said to me. “It’s especially hard to keep younger talent.”
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“We are developing promotional paths for the people that we really want to keep. We also try to keep our wages competitive.”
“Have you looked at your front-line managers?”
“What do you mean?”
“How do they relate to employees? Do your managers treat employees respectfully? Take a personal interest in them? Seek their suggestions occasionally? Show their appreciation?”
About two-thirds of the participants in our management workshops, when given a choice, say that opportunities for promotion are more important than employee-manager relationships.
However, research clearly tells us that the number one reason good employees quit is because they did not respect their managers. It is true that many employees do get a pay increase when joining another company.
But as an employee said, “I did increase my pay but I just got fed up with my supervisor. You could never please him and he had his favorites.”
Managers who develop professional relationships with their employees have much better retention records.