Employees leave companies, not just managers

blog“Employees leave their managers, not their companies” a commonly used phrase in organizations, highlight the importance of a manager’s role. Managers surely make a huge difference in how employees feel about their jobs, overall mood and energy. However, it’s inappropriate to treat managers either as superheroes or wicked villains. A good manager cannot negate the ill effects of other organizational factors. And a bad manager may diminish some of the positive elements of a company, but can never completely negate them.

Managers’ role diminishes further in today’s context. One rarely reports to the same manager for years at a stretch. Organizational changes allow employees to work with different managers. Hence, it’s important to consider employee retention in a holistic manner and consider other critical factors.

  • Senior Leaders, including the CEO play a huge role, as they set tone for the organization culture. I remember working with a company several years ago, where the top management was fairly negative in its approach. One would rarely ever see the CEO smile, he would always go around with a grumpy face, criticizing work done by teams. Unfortunately, he was also very visible. A rare word of praise from him would be like scanty rain in a desert; fall on parched sands only to disappear in seconds. Probably, it was a blind spot for the CEO, he might have believed that he is pushing people to stretch and do better. But, his actions had a contrary impact. As the negative culture percolated down the line, it demotivated people. Employees did not feel valued. No negative news would ever flow up, as the messengers were often shot. In this work culture, I had a very good manager. I am still closely connected with her. But all her managerial strengths were unable to reduce the overall negativity in the company.


  • Too many and too frequent changes in structure, processes, people – change undoubtedly is important, but any change needs to go through ‘unfreeze, change, refreeze’ (Kurt Lewin). Change needs time to yield results. Leaders, driven by impatience for results, might introduce waves of change in the organization. This rarely helps achieve anticipated results. Instead, it sets change fatigue and cynicism in employees across levels.


  • Lack of transparency related to aspects that touch the lives of employees and things that matter to them. For example, an employee may feel disappointed if he is passed over for a promotion or a plum assignment, but the disappointment turns into frustration if the reasons are not objective or well understood.


  • I have personally seen these three factors play a role in how employees feel working with an organization; and their decision to stay or leave. Would you agree?


2 thoughts on “Employees leave companies, not just managers

  1. Absolutely agree… The larger ecosystem goes a long way in affecting employees. It would be myopic to diagnose too simply to immediate factors rather than the larger context.

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