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True or false: Employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers.

You’ve heard it before: “People join great companies but leave bad managers.” But is faulty leadership really the root cause of employee turnover?

We asked our network of hiring managers and recruiters if they agreed or disagreed with the adage above, and the results were nearly unanimous: 97 percent agreed, saying that employees did most often quit their jobs to escape lousy managers.

The Good, the Bad, and the Costly

As it turns out, high employee turnover can be pretty costly for businesses. A Center for American Progress study found that replacing an employee can cost upwards of 20 percent of that employee’s annual salary due to lowered productivity, decreased team morale, and new hiring costs. Global staffing firm Robert Half puts that figure at 30 percent.

On the flipside, companies that hire great managers keep employees engaged and increase revenue. A Gallup study suggests that good managers double the rate of employee engagement, resulting in 147 percent higher earnings per share than those of competing businesses.

If bad managers cause employee turnover, and employee turnover cuts revenue, then businesses must focus on hiring capable leaders.

What Makes a Bad Manager, Anyway?

The first step to avoiding bad managers is identifying characteristics that make them hard to work with. According to our survey, the number one reason why employees leave their managers comes down to personality. 71 percent of respondents agreed that unkind, rude, passive aggressive, or arrogant managers were the worst offenders.

Not surprisingly, more than half of respondents cited bad leadership skills such as indecisiveness, micromanaging, and lack of mentorship among the primary reasons their employees quit.

Other indicators of bad management include failing to accept responsibility, taking credit for others’ accomplishments, and inexperience in a supervisory role.

Don’t Just Avoid Bad Managers, Empower Great Ones

How do you avoid employee turnover due to bad managers? Look for strong leadership skills when you’re hiring for management roles; seek out those who’ve successfully led teams in the past. If they haven’t held a management position before, look for leadership in other capacities, like those who’ve led a university sports team or who regularly present to executives.

And then train! Leadership is a skill that can—and shouldbe honed, so empower your employees with the skills they need to lead. Set them up for success by training and preparing them to grow a strong and capable team.

What’s your experience with bad managers and employee turnover?


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