Few managers are aware that they’re directly responsible for turnover from their team. And I don’t just mean just that they’re accountable to upper management (if it exists in the first place) when an employee leaves either.

The reality is that employees rarely leave businesses; especially those who offer competitive wages, benefits (medical and fringe) and decent vacation time. No. Good employees — the ones you really want to hang onto — leave management.

Another way I’ve heard it put is is that employees leave leaders, not companies.

And not just when the nickname everyone gives the boss is something derogatory that starts with letters ranging from A to F either.

There are more than a few reasons employees move onto greener pastures:

Image Credit: Fritz/Flickr
Image Credit: Fritz/Flickr

1. Burnout.

Overwork is no joke. There’s only so much multitasking, missed breaks and lunches, missed dinners with the family and sleepless nights due to overwork that a person can take. Allowing burnout to set in is akin to being an abusive spouse — they’ll eventually leave you — and it won’t take 20 years of hell like it does some married people either.

Not only does this scare the cream of the crop away from your business, it reduces productivity too. Check out this recent study out of Stanford University. It turns out that “grinding” for hours on end reduces productivity significantly. If you’re too lazy to read through the study, the gist is that working 60 hours per week vs. 40 reduces overall productivity by two-thirds!

2. Management is blind.

Or they appear to be. No recognition is ever given. Basically, employees are treated like a corral of horses — feed them (ie., money) in exchange for pulling a cart around (ie., work) and that’s enough. Mix this issue with burnout and you’ve already lost most of your best employees, with no hope of ever getting them back. People aren’t horses, goats or sheep.

In fact, they’re a lot like dogs. I kid, but seriously we all needed to be rewarded for our contribution to the “pack”. If not, we’ll find another place to get the recognition they need. It’s important to get to know your employees to find out what kind of recognition motivates them: bonuses, trophies, public recognition, a random day off, etc. The more you find yourself rewarding people, the better your company is doing.

Image Credit: utbblogs.com
Image Credit: utbblogs.com

3. Management over-promises and under-delivers.

A cardinal sin in business is to break your word. With clients, partners, or employees — it doesn’t matter. Break your word and you’ll never get any respect. Break your word often enough and even the most impatient employee will tire of the hamster wheel you have them running on every day. This one is simple: don’t promise what you know you can’t do and if you do break your word, be honest about the reason and apologize like you’re actually a human being with a modicum of integrity.

4. Managers don’t promote based on “qualifications”.

Instead, it’s like high school and college fraternity politics all over again for the employee. Being picked last in gym class because you don’t hang out with the popular kids. Office politics should never favor less qualified people just because they have an affinity for telling jokes, kissing butt, or bringing fresh donuts for everyone in the morning.

Instead, the most qualified  — those who have all or most of the necessary skills for a job — should be those who get first crack at a promotion. It’s management’s job to heed #2 and notice what people are doing (ie., the value they add to the team) and recognize that contribution when it comes time for a raise or lateral shift with different responsibilities.

5. Management doesn’t care.

Now, there are those who show nothing but outright disdain for their employees — yelling, ignoring, telling them “You know where the door is, if you don’t like it…” — etc. That’s one type of uncaring type of manager that employees will leave a company because of.

Then there’s a slew of other uncaring behaviors that often slip under the radar. Such as failing to empower employees to think for themselves or to brainstorm ideas that can better the company (the “they’re here to work, not think” mentality). Or never sitting down with your team or having one-on-ones to get their feedback or to give your own. Or never offering encouragement. And the worst, not offering growth opportunities such as training, seminars, cross-training with other skilled help, and so much more.

There's the Door

Reality check for managers.

The best employees in your company have a world full of options out there. Even the mediocre can find better work if they choose to apply themselves. The best way to prevent high turnover rates is to develop relationships with each individual you can, or hire someone to cultivate better relationships (ie., a better manager or management team).

No matter how much you might want it to, a good paycheck just won’t cut it long term…