Mythbuster: It’s not the boss’s fault you’re resigning | Fin24

Mythbuster: It’s not the boss’s fault you’re resigning

Jun 27 2018 14:41
Amanda Visser

A classic myth that has been thoroughly busted is that Daddy Long Legs are the most poisonous spiders on earth, but that (luckily for us) their fangs are too tiny to pierce the human skin. 

The same goes for the 10% brain-usage myth, and then the modern-day classic that people leave a manager and not a company. 

Didier Elzinga, CEO of Culture Amp, says much of what is considered settled wisdom is actually a case of enough people having said it enough times, so it must be true. 

His organisation offers an employee analytics platform that specialises in staff surveying and analytics. 

They examined 175 teams, consisting of eight members each, to understand why people leave their jobs.

Their findings were quite the opposite of what the myth wants companies to believe. Organisations that believe the myth that employees leave managers, focus their attention on the wrong areas when they are trying to address their retention issues. 

People actually leave because of a lack of development opportunities, and not because they hate their managers.

Culture Amp found that people who are leaving because of a manager or pay, roughly equalled 12% and 11% respectively. 

“Development opportunities came in at a whopping 52%, dwarfing the other factors as the driver of the decision to leave,” says Elzinga.

Linda Ronnie, associate professor at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB), says this is especially true for the millennial generation. 

“Millennials are quicker than previous generations to leave jobs when they are not happy.

They expect regular affirmation in the workplace… Other organisations have launched collaborative initiatives that help to motivate and engage millennials.”

The Culture Amp study also showed that in good companies, the manager will make a difference, but, in a bad company, good or bad managers make little to no difference to a person’s decision to leave.

In a company with below-average development opportunities (bad companies), team members gave below-average managers a rating of 35%. 

In the same (bad) company, above-average managers received exactly the same rating. 

However, where there are above-average development opportunities (good companies), the below-average manager got a rating of 56% and the above-average manager got a rating of 66%.

“Management does impact the level of commitment, as long as there are good development opportunities,” says Elzinga.

Global consultancy firm Accenture recently did a survey among 10 000 workers in 10 countries about the impact technology will have on the workplace.

Globally, 95% of the workers believe they need new skills to remain relevant, and 85% said they would invest their free time to learn new skills in order to do so.

The Accenture model shows fewer jobs will be lost to automation if people are able to “reallocate” their skills to tasks that require more “human skills”, such as complex analysis and social and emotional intelligence. 

Some employees just blame the manager for a lack of career progression. However, it is often other factors such as the company structure, the type of work that is being prioritised, and how the organisation applies people that decide their progress, or lack of it.

No one disputes the fact that the behaviour of a manager can make people unhappy and may even cause them to leave.

Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them, says Travis Bradberry, co-founder of TalentSmart. 

Employees could find this quite perplexing – it makes  them feel as if they are being punished for performing well.

Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they will not stay if their job suffocates them in the process. 

An increase in workload is acceptable to employees if it is accompanied by a higher salary, a promotion and a title change. 

Another reason people leave is when managers disregard their commitments to them. 

“Making promises to people places you on the fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door,” Bradberry wrote in a LinkedIn post on the ways managers motivate and demotivate employees. 

Most people have felt the pain and demotivation when the company appoints, and, worse, promotes the wrong people.

“When you work your tail off, only to get passed over for a promotion that is given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top, is a massive insult.”

Bradberry further warns against forcing talented employees to “work within a little box”. 

“Studies have shown that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, which is a euphoric state of mind five times more productive than the norm.”

Management is not a static process. It is also no longer just about getting other people to do the job, or to fix a team or to turn around an office. 

Management is increasingly about introspection and self-mastery, says Ronnie.

Bad managers are often bred by the organisations that appoint them. The first-time manager often feels overwhelmed by their new role and finds themself in a position they have little or no training for. 

The result is the development of bad management habits. 

“This includes the inability to delegate and inspire others to do great work; the inability to encourage debate about different ways of doing things and to cope with change and new opportunities,” says Ronnie.

If people are leaving, look at whether the organisation is truly creating an environment of learning and development opportunities, Elzinga says. 

If so, good managers can make a sizeable difference. If not, removing the manager is not likely to address the turnover problem.

This article originally appeared in the 21 June edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

employment  |  workplace  |  management