“Even in the darkest days in the aftermath of the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, 1.7 million Americans each month were willing to tell their bosses to ‘take this job and shove it.’” reports Eric Jackson in Forbes. And that number has been climbing steadily since 2009, a year after our second biggest financial calamity. In March of this year, just under 2.5 million Americans quit their jobs. Undoubtedly the percentages of quit jobs varies considerably across different professions. Very likely, the lower the skills required for a profession, the harder it is for the person to quit that job, which coincidently, correlates with wage level: It is much harder to leave a low-wage job during financial hard times.
However, regardless of the level of the job one quits, what’s the most common reason for such a daring act? It’s the boss! Most often one quits one’s boss, not one’s job. In most cases the new job is very similar to the job left behind, but hopefully one’s new boss is an improvement over the boss one has quit. Mr. Jackson offers eight reasons why people quit their bosses, and most of these reasons are intuitive and “obvious” (once the reasons are identified).
- Overburdening people with more responsibilities…without proper compensation.
During financial hardships, we take for granted that organizations slash budgets and reduce staff size. Yet, these belt-tightening measures don’t immediately let up when economy turns positive. It is especially galling when the bosses don’t seem to work that much harder, or take financial losses proportionally to everyone else’s.
- Lack of clear directions, or directions are too diffuse and too changeable.
It’s bad enough when people don’t have a clear sense of where their work group is heading, or, when direction changes every six months. This bad situation is compounded when people have to work extra hours with neither monetary reward nor job satisfaction.
- Running horrible meetings. Who’d thought this could have long-lasting impact? (I would add: calling too many meetings.)
Mr. Jackson provides the example of Google’s Larry Page. In the early days of Google, Page’s idea of running a good meeting was to have people engage in arguments. This inevitably led to a sense of antagonism and “anything goes” chaos. I hypothesize that managers who don’t know how to provide big picture direction for the group or organization are likely to run meetings without clear boundaries or agenda.
- Promoting or hiring incompetent people. To this I add, promoting the “wrong” person over someone in the group who is more worthy is a proven way to drive away valuable employees.
- “Absent” managers. This doesn’t mean that the managers are not reporting for work, just that they are often absent from their offices and work groups. The situation is made worse when a manager baldly claims “My office door is always open.” In addition to not bothering to truly care for her people, she is now a hypocrite. An “absent” manager is likely out of touch with her people, and not surprisingly, promotes or hires “wrong” people.
Do not confuse “absent” managers with managers who “get out of people’s way…so they can get things done.” Absent managers do not engage with staff. A good manager knows his people and their work in order to be able to gauge when to stay out of the way.
- Micro-management. Yes, the degree of micro-management is a socially constructed reality. Still, managers who cannot help themselves in their need to review everyone’s work product, sign every document and approve every travel request, prevent their people from being effective in their work and finding reward in their employment.
- Disconnected from their direct reports’ career development. I further contend that both micro-managers and absent managers, because of their lack of good judgment, are in danger of ignoring or misdirecting their people’s career tracks.
- When a manager conveys that he’s more important than you are. How can any manager not understand the principle that “your people’s success is what makes you look good?” How does undermining your people’s work and success accomplish anything except lowering your performance evaluation? Logical conclusion: The insecure boss loses top performers in his group.
- If a manager loses his star employees at a rate of one per month, for four straight months, should the manager blame externalities for “luring away” his people? blame his direct reports for lacking loyalty? Or, should he take a good look in the mirror?
- What should the same manager do for his remaining staff? Monitor them even more closely? deliver stern lectures? separate them so that they can’t share “bad ideas?” conduct exit interviews? Actually, not a bad idea, but the manager from whom employees are fleeing really shouldn’t conduct exit interviews himself.
Next week, let’s look at what motivates people to want to stay and work. Till then,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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