It’s not always easy to discern fact from fiction, but one of the biggest myths surrounding employee-employer relationships is that people don’t leave organizations; they leave managers.
Spot the odd one out:
- We only use 10% of our brain.
- The daddy long legs is the most poisonous spider in the world.
- People don’t leave organizations. They leave managers.
Trick question! There is no odd one out. They are all myths that have been well and truly busted. So much of what we consider settled wisdom is actually a case of enough people have said it enough times, so it must be true. This is especially so when something sounds reasonable and makes sense.
However, a leading employee feedback company recently tested the claim that when people leave a company it’s because of their manager. The company used employee data from over 300,000 employees (from a range of industries and geographies) who completed employee feedback surveys that included manager ratings in the last year.
- Yes, people leave bad managers, but it’s not the number one reason people leave a company
- Alignment, Leadership, and Learning and Development were the highest three predictors of employee attrition
Organizations that believe the “leaving managers” myth focus their attention in the wrong areas when they’re trying to address their retention problems.
Some people blame the manager for a lack of career progression, and sometimes they’re right. But often the progression of a manager’s direct reports is out of their control. Factors such as how the company is structured, what type of work the business is prioritizing and how the organization thinks about applying people to that work all come in to play.
Direct managers have a role in leadership, but people have separate experiences with their direct managers versus those in leadership. The data found that company leaders have a much stronger effect on an employee’s commitment to stay. In fact, leadership, alignment, and development had about 50% higher impact than managers on people’s intention to leave.
Like all areas of people and culture, having good data can avoid costly errors in addressing retention issues. If people are leaving, examine whether people are aligned with the organization and if there are strong leadership and access to learning and development opportunities. If so, a good manager can make a sizable difference. If not, removing the manager is not likely to address a high turnover problem.