The top 2 reasons why employees leave

Jerome Parisse-Brassens

Staff turnover is healthy. You want new blood, new thinking, new approaches to make your business better and richer. But at the same time, you don’t want your staff to leave quickly, because this means losing knowledge and experience, without mentioning the pain and the cost of recruiting.

There are two main reasons why people leave organisations.

  1. They leave their manager.

Bad managers are the plague of a business. They can create havoc and cost you a lot of money. The impact on the organisation is far reaching: recruitment costs are on the increase, the reputation of the business suffers, you can’t find the quality people you are looking for, and people lack motivation and are therefore not productive.

“Bad” managers fall into two broad categories:

  • Those who have poor people and leadership skills. They are either too direct or can’t read someone, they don’t listen, they are bossy and autocratic, sometimes they are incapable of managing their emotions. They can also be competitive, highly perfectionists, self-centered, or just don’t care.

What to do?

This is where leadership development comes into the picture. A healthy 360 feedback process will provide the data to start doing some personal development work, combined with reflection and coaching. These managers need to be supported to develop the skills they are lacking and understand the personal impact they have on their direct reports.

  • Those who don’t manage their shadow. Every leader and manager has a long shadow. This means that the impact they have on the people around them, direct reports included, is broader and deeper than their role or accountability. Every word they are saying is being listened to, and every action they take is being watched. People interpret the messages sent through their own view of the world, and act in a certain way in response. Managers who do not manage their shadow can have a detrimental effect on people, leading them to behaving inappropriately.

What to do?

It is critical to help leaders and managers become aware of their shadow and of what it means. Self-aware managers can spend a little bit of time analysing the messages they are sending through the decisions they make, the symbols they chose, the processes they implement, and self-correct if they realise the messages they are sending are the wrong ones. This can have a dramatic and profound impact on people.

  1. The culture is not right.

This still happens too often. You are recruiting and have found the person you really need. Instead of painting an honest picture, you make things sound rosier than they are, and you describe a culture that is more wishful thinking than reality. The person joins and is very disappointed. Sometimes they leave.

Culture is the way things are done around here, it is the patterns of behaviour that are embedded in the workplace. Those patterns can be healthy and produce the business results you are after, or they can be unhealthy and have disastrous consequences such as what we saw with Volkswagen in the last few years.

If people do not fit culturally with the organisation, it is highly likely that they will become disengaged over time. They may have a personal clash of values, they may disapprove of the behaviours that are tolerated, or the physical environment may be simply unpleasant.

What to do?

Build a healthy culture within your organisation. Start by looking at what you are trying to achieve and how you need people to behave, feel and think to deliver on this promise. Define the target culture you need, assess the current situation and implement initiatives to bridge the gap. Those initiatives must include supporting managers to manage their shadow as well as leadership development. You may want to tweak certain processes and send new symbols to signify that things are changing. 

Why did you leave your last job? Was it for a better opportunity or for one of the two reasons I have just described?


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