The Role Managers Play in Retention

More than half of employees leave a job because of a manager. How can your organization avoid that trap?

Is it true that people don’t leave bad jobs—they leave bad bosses? A recent survey by DDI’s Frontline Leader Project says yes.

Close to 60 percent of respondents said they had left a job because of their manager, and another 32 percent considered quitting for the same reason. Those respondents said that managers didn’t respect their work, were unprofessional, didn’t listen to their concerns, and lacked empathy.

“How leaders manage their emotions and how they make other people feel are the strongest drivers of talent retention,” says Stephanie Neal, director of DDI’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research.

Which begs the question: Do your organization’s leaders have the skills and support they need to manage their teams well?

The Frontline Leader Project found that 70 percent of managers did not intend to become leaders. And once they did, many of them received no leadership training. In the survey, 98 percent of senior leaders said leadership development was worth the investment but admitted their managers don’t have the time to do it.

“I think that associations should provide training to managers,” says HR consultant Mary Ellen Brennan, SPHR, SHRM-SCP. “However, training only goes so far, and if managers aren’t held accountable for their performance as managers of people, then it’s hard to effect change.” So performance appraisals should evaluate managers on their people management, she says—not just their individual contributions.

Many managers also struggle with difficult conversations. In the DDI survey, both senior managers and frontline managers said that a top weakness of frontline managers is their ability to have difficult performance conversations with their employees.

“There are great resources available, mostly books, to learn how to have a tough or crucial conversation. There are ways to get better at it and feel more confident,” Brennan says. “It’s easy to put off tough conversations, but I always say that the conversation only gets more difficult the longer one puts it off. Very rarely does a ‘people problem’ fix itself and go away.”—A.T.B.

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Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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