People Don't Leave Organizations… They Leave Managers

It’s common knowledge and backed by research that people don’t leave organizations but people leave managers. Extensive research of exit interviews across organizations cite different reasons for a person leaving, but when you dig deeper, most often than not it has been related to a bad experience with a manager. Of course it would be completely wrong to put the blame on the plate of the managers, but it does help to take some pointers on what issues can potentially raise conflict with your staff. The list below is just some of my personal learning’s after talking to various people in the industry over the years on expectations from their boss. Most often than not most of the cribs I have heard from people center around the points below. 
Do you lead from the front and walk the talk?
Remember that almost all the staff watch their bosses on this particular characteristic. They want to know if their boss can lead and show the way and do you they get your hands dirty as well? Many times bosses expect a certain level for quality of work, passion and commitment but don’t project and do the same in their own work. They have different standards for themselves and different for their staff. Don’t treat your staff like donkeys, because they have a brain and they will question this behavior at some point in time. You’re in it as a team and it is still a collective responsibility.
Do you give credit to your team or do you steal credit from your team?
This is a big sore point with staff and can get the frustration levels high up there. Many mangers have the natural inclination to package and pass off their staff work as their own and claim credit. Nothing kills the motivation of a person more than someone stealing his or her credit. We all need appreciation and kudos for the work we do and it’s probably one of the basic expectations that anyone has from their manager. Don’t be insecure and steal the limelight of your staff. The fact that your direct report managed to pull something good off was because you managed them well. It just reflects well on you if your people perform and shine in the organization.
Do you value add or just act like a traffic controller? Are you a yes man/ woman or can you push back and defend the team?
Do you just pass on instructions from your boss to your staff or do you do your bit of analysis and planning before you delegate. Delegation is not bad but delegation without any direction or personal input makes you just an email forwarder. Break down the task in logical steps and delegate it in a balanced way with your team members. The other crib we hear often is that the boss is spineless and doesn’t stick up for the team when they need defending and protection. As a manager you are the guardian of your team and if they are right you need to defend and fight for them and correct perceptions about them.
Do you give your staff visibility to top management without being insecure?
This again relates to your insecurity and lack of self confidence. You need to give adequate chances to your staff to establish their credibility in the organization. If your staff shines in the organization it reflects well on your management style. Getting people to work full steam and their fullest potential is what successful management is about.
Do you encourage career development and rotation or just hold back people for your own selfish reasons?
Many managers keep their staff locked up in routine assignments for too long. Depending on the industry I believe there is a self life for every job and that after a certain period of time learning for the employee stops. In fact keeping a successful employee in the same job for too long can be counter productive. The common excuse we hear from managers is he or she is my best team player and I can’t give them up. Well guess what if you don’t give them up and help them progress to a new level they will leave anyway. If your staff show interest in other departments of the organizations then encourage them and guide them to meet their goals.
Do you give regular feedback or is it always a surprise? And are you honest in your feedback?
The appraisal process in all organizations has their fair share of disgruntle employees who don’t agree with their yearly assessment. The common response you get from staff is that ‘it came as a surprise’ or they heard of this feedback for the first time. The feedback could be genuine but it may be too late in the day for the person to make amends. The manager owes it to their staff to give regular feedback on their progress and behavior. This is not an area to be shy about, remember it’s the employee’s career that is at stake and complete honesty is needed. Give enough heads up to them and document the feedback so that they can to make the necessary changes and avoid surprises.
Do you exercise work life balance and do you encourage staff to do the same? Do you hold any prejudices because of the person’s lifestyle or belief system?
The last tip deals more with your personal beliefs. We all have our views on morality, religion and lifestyle but we have to remember to be fair and professional. You are not in a position to judge a person on personal aspects like lifestyle and anything that’s related to their personal time. How they live their life outside has no correlation with their performance. Only in circumstances when their actions outside are harming the companies reputation or is un-lawful is when intervention is needed. Avoid counseling in personal matters and leave that to company appointed counselors if available or external counselors who have knowledge of that subject. In-spite of all the good intentions it’s best to keep away from their personal matters and focus only on professional mentor-ship and direction.
Lastly just like communication is important in all of our personal relations, I believe it’s the same for boss-reportee relationships. If there is no regular communication these problems can fester and result in the person either leaving the organization or becoming a non-productive worker. So people communicate and talk to your staff and don’t shy away from sticky issues.


  1. Comments from


    # | by Software On Sailboats on August 10 2009, 11:21
    I have inherited more bad sales managers than I can possibly count. Carefully interviewed with Manager A, hired, and built a working relationship. Manager A gets promoted and replaced with Manager B. Time to start updating your resume. Wish it weren't true.

    # | by evidencesx on August 14 2009, 02:42
    You're so right. Management is a science of course, and art, and both of them in a mindset is always difficult. I personaly follow more men and personalities, than organizations. Managers must have personality to see far beyond companies goals, and make emphasis, taste of success and have behind them organizations – shaped with others people they have to motivate -, to achieve a team spirit, and welfare of everybody. I could say in my modest experience, that it's really rare…
    Thx for reflexions, kind regards,

    # | by Minter Dial on August 15 2009, 00:41
    I thoroughly agree with your article and your guidelines for good management/leadership. This holds true at all levels in the company, although one may find a strong link between the CEO's style and that of the managers underneath; so it is worth keeping an eye on the top boss' management style.
    Even at the highest levels in the organisation, if there are strategic differences of opinion, these strategies are driven by a person, the top boss. I believe that, if you are not feeling like you are able to learn from your boss, then over time you lose respect. At a certain [ie board] level in the company, though, you are the one that is destined to bring the learning to the organisation — in this case, the learning can or should come from the peers on the board.
    Rule #1 for entrepreneurs is to go into business with the right people. In essence, for any size company, Rule #1 remains : have the right people. Of course, it is still important to have the right strategy and organisational structure…but these are borne of the people.

  2. Whatever is said above is so true and what happens when managers take up something, to pass it on to the reportee, they are not capable of doing but only take it up so they can get credit if successful and push the blame if not..and when you refuse to take it up pass u stinkers 🙁
    I only wish we had more mature managers..

  3. @Mitra: I can understand what you are saying, seen enough instances of this happening. All i can say is lessons for us when we become managers not to be this way 🙂

  4. Thats is absolutly right. I still cherish my work with some companies. Reason to leave was always a manager. This is an insight for me also people do not leave my organisation, they actually leave me.

  5. @Jagpal: Thanks for your comment and great to see that you are willing to look at it from another angle.

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