Employees leave managers, not their companies: Truth or myth

9 min read
Employees leave managers, not their companies: Truth or myth
Employees leave managers, not their companies: Truth or myth

In the dynamic landscape of today's corporate world, where innovation races alongside competition, the role of effective leadership has never been more pivotal. Yet, an unsettling reality persists: employees don't leave companies; they leave managers.

Picture this: A thriving organization, brimming with talent and potential, suddenly faces an exodus of its most valuable assets. Why? The answer lies not in the company culture or the nature of the work itself but in the relationships employees share with their managers.

It's a phenomenon so common, yet often overlooked – the power a manager wields over the professional destiny and satisfaction of their team. Let's delve into the heart of the matter – why people leave managers because understanding the same is the first step toward building a workforce that thrives under inspiring leadership.

Employees leave managers, not companies: Why is that?

Employee running towards the exit
Employees leave managers, not companies: Why is that?

In the realm of professional dynamics, the axiom that people quit bosses, not companies, encapsulates a profound reality. The influence of managers on the employee experience is pivotal.

Leadership style plays a crucial role, as autocratic or uninspiring approaches can create a toxic work environment. Effective communication is the cornerstone, and managers who fail in this regard can breed disorientation and a lack of trust.

Recognition and appreciation are fundamental human needs, and managers who neglect to acknowledge contributions risk disengagement. Additionally, limited growth opportunities and a dearth of mentorship can prompt employees to quit or seek advancement elsewhere. Failure in conflict resolution further erodes morale, prompting departures.

Mismatched values and culture between managers and employees also contribute to the exodus. In essence, the manager-employee relationship is the nucleus of organizational success. When characterized by effective leadership, communication, and recognition, it fosters engagement. However, shortcomings in these areas impel employees to seek environments where their professional and personal needs align.

What are some common reasons managers fail?

Manager feeling angry in the workplace
What are some common reasons managers fail?

Managerial success is a delicate balance, and unfortunately for great managers, there are common pitfalls that can lead to failure in this crucial role. Here are some key reasons managers may falter:

  1. Poor communication skills: Managers who struggle to convey expectations, provide feedback, or foster open dialogue create an environment rife with misunderstanding. Effective communication is the bedrock of good leadership skills.
  2. Lack of emotional intelligence: Failure to understand and manage one's emotions, as well as empathize with others, can hinder a manager's ability to build strong relationships and get positioned as a bad manager.
  3. Inability to delegate: Poor management style, such as micromanaging and reluctance to delegate tasks, can stifle employee growth, create resentment, and result in burnout for the manager and the team.
  4. Resistance to change: Managers who resist adaptation and cling to outdated practices impede innovation. Successful leaders embrace change and guide their teams through transitions.
  5. Failure to provide clear direction: A lack of clear vision and direction leaves employees adrift. Managers need to articulate goals, expectations, and the broader organizational mission for a cohesive and motivated team.
  6. Inconsistent or unfair treatment: Favoritism, inconsistent enforcement of policies, or unequal distribution of opportunities erode trust and morale within a top management team.
  7. Neglecting employee career development: Managers who don't prioritize employee growth and skill development risk losing valuable talent. Successful leaders invest in the professional advancement of their team.
  8. Inability to handle conflict: Avoidance or mishandling of workplace conflicts can escalate issues and create a toxic atmosphere. Managers need strong conflict resolution skills to maintain a healthy work environment.
  9. Ignoring employee well-being: Managers who disregard the well-being of people leave their team, whether it's burnout prevention or addressing work-life balance, risk a disengaged and unproductive workforce.

Why is employee engagement a manager’s responsibility, too?

Employees are hifying each other in the workplace
Why is employee engagement a manager’s responsibility, too?

Employee engagement isn't just an HR buzzword; it's a critical factor that directly impacts a company's success.

While HR plays a significant role in designing programs and initiatives, the onus of fostering employee engagement and employee retention is shared with managers. Here's why it's not just an HR responsibility but a crucial mandate for managers:

1. Daily interaction

Managers have daily interactions with their team members, making them the frontline influencers of workplace engagement. The tone they set, the feedback they provide, and the support they offer directly influence the employee experience and job satisfaction.

2. Relationship building

Employee engagement is deeply tied to the quality of relationships within a team. Managers, as team leaders, are uniquely positioned to build strong, trusting relationships with their direct reports, creating a positive work environment.

3. Recognition and feedback

Managers are responsible for recognizing and acknowledging the efforts and achievements of their team members. Regular, meaningful feedback and recognition are powerful drivers of engagement and motivation.

4. Clear communication

Managers are the conduits for communication within a team. Clear, transparent communication from managers helps employees understand their roles and expectations and how their contributions align with the larger organizational goals.

5. Professional development

Managers play a pivotal role in the professional development and personal growth of their team members. Providing growth opportunities, training, and mentorship are key aspects of keeping employees engaged and invested in their roles.

What do managers struggle with the most?

Manager feeling confused in the workplace
What do managers struggle with the most?

Managers shoulder a myriad of challenges integral to organizational success, and communication remains a persistent hurdle. Juggling the need for transparency, clarity, and openness while ensuring seamless information flow tests their communicative finesse.

Additionally, fostering team collaboration in diverse or remote settings poses a continual struggle, with managers working to dismantle silos and cultivate a shared sense of purpose.

Time management becomes a daily battleground as managers navigate overseeing team tasks, attending meetings, and addressing individual concerns. The delicate art of balancing these responsibilities without compromising productivity demands strategic prioritization.

Performance management is equally challenging, requiring managers to evaluate individual and team performance, provide constructive feedback, and align efforts with organizational goals.

Conflict resolution proves a frequent test of interpersonal skills as managers navigate diverse personalities within the team. Moreover, the ability to adapt to change and guide their teams through dynamic business landscapes is a constant source of stress.

The challenge extends to fostering employee engagement, a complex endeavor involving the recognition of individual contributions, the provision of growth opportunities, and the maintenance of a positive work environment.

Beyond these, decision-making weighs heavily on managers, who must strike a balance between timely decisions and well-informed choices. Achieving a work-life balance is a struggle that often defines managerial roles, where the lines between personal and professional life blur.

With the advent of remote work, managing dispersed teams brings forth additional complexities, requiring managers to overcome communication barriers and ensure team cohesion in virtual settings.

What is manager effectiveness, and how can it contribute to workplace engagement?

Manager effectiveness is the gauge of a manager's ability to achieve positive outcomes for both the team and the organization, extending beyond mere task oversight to inspire, guide, and empower team members. The impact of effective management on workplace engagement is profound.

A manager's clear leadership and articulation of a compelling vision provide a sense of direction, fostering engagement among employees who understand the purpose set by their leader. Communication skills are paramount; transparent communication builds trust and reduces misunderstandings, enhancing overall engagement.

Acknowledging and appreciating team contributions, along with providing regular, constructive feedback, reinforces a sense of value and accomplishment, boosting engagement levels. Empowering team members with autonomy instills a sense of ownership and responsibility, demonstrating trust and contributing to engagement.

Effective managers actively support professional growth, offering opportunities for skill development and mentorship showcasing a commitment to long-term employee success and satisfaction.

Addressing conflicts promptly and fairly, recognizing individual strengths, advocating for work-life balance, and navigating crises with adaptability all contribute to an effective manager's ability to foster engagement.

In essence, manager effectiveness is the linchpin of workplace engagement, creating an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and connected to both their immediate team and the broader organizational mission. This, in turn, leads to increased productivity, satisfaction, and retention.

How can employee exit surveys help leaders gauge individual team’s engagement levels?

Employee providing feedback in emoji rating
How can employee exit surveys help leaders gauge individual team’s engagement levels?

Employee exit surveys serve as invaluable tools for leaders to gauge the engagement levels within individual teams. When team members depart, they provide candid feedback on their experiences, shedding light on factors influencing their decision to leave. By analyzing these insights, leaders can discern patterns related to team dynamics, managerial effectiveness, and workplace culture.

Exit surveys reveal sentiments regarding communication, recognition, and opportunities for growth—essential components of engagement. Leaders gain a nuanced understanding of team-specific challenges and successes, allowing for targeted improvements.

Identifying trends across multiple exit surveys enables leaders to implement strategic changes to enhance their team member engagement, ultimately fostering a healthier and more productive work environment. In essence, exit surveys empower leaders to address team-specific concerns, fostering continuous improvement and bolstering engagement for the remaining team members.

Why should you put more emphasis on exit survey results to find out the actual truth about attrition?

Why should you put more emphasis on exit survey results to find out the actual truth about attrition?
Why should you put more emphasis on exit survey results to find out the actual truth about attrition?

Putting more emphasis on exit survey results is crucial for uncovering the actual truth about attrition. When employees decide to leave, they often provide candid insights in exit surveys, offering unfiltered perspectives such as poor leaders or problems with company leadership.

Unlike routine feedback mechanisms, exit surveys capture the true sentiments of departing employees, unveiling underlying issues that may contribute to attrition.

Exit surveys act as a reality check, exposing systemic problems, managerial shortcomings, or cultural issues that might be driving talented individuals away.

This unvarnished feedback is invaluable for leaders seeking to address root causes and implement meaningful changes. Relying solely on attrition data without understanding the specific reasons from exit surveys risks overlooking critical issues and perpetuating a cycle of turnover.

In essence, placing greater emphasis on exit survey results provides a holistic understanding of why employees quit, helping organizations to proactively address challenges, retain employees, and foster a workplace where employees feel heard and valued. It is a strategic approach to deciphering the truth behind attrition and building a more resilient and engaged workforce.

How can HRs improve manager effectiveness using the help of employee engagement platforms?

HRs are working together effectively
How can HRs improve manager effectiveness using the help of employee engagement platforms?

HRs can significantly enhance manager effectiveness by leveraging employee engagement platforms as powerful tools. These platforms offer a centralized hub for real-time data, communication, and insights, enabling HR professionals to:

Continuous feedback loops

Implementing feedback mechanisms on engagement platforms allows HR to collect continuous insights into team dynamics and managerial performance. Regular feedback fosters a culture of improvement and enables timely interventions.

Performance analytics

Utilizing data analytics within employee engagement platforms helps HR assess the impact of managerial decisions on team engagement. Identifying trends and patterns allows for informed decision-making and targeted interventions.

Training and development programs

Employee engagement platforms provide a medium for delivering training modules and resources. HRs can use these platforms to offer targeted leadership development programs, enhancing managers' skills and effectiveness.

Recognition and rewards programs

Integrating recognition features into engagement platforms enables HRs to reinforce positive managerial behaviors. Acknowledging and rewarding effective leadership practices encourages managers and contributes to a positive work culture.

Goal alignment

Aligning individual and team goals with organizational objectives is facilitated through engagement platforms. HRs can use these tools to ensure that managers and their teams are working cohesively towards overarching company goals.


In the intricate tapestry of organizational dynamics, the undeniable truth emerges: employees leave managers, not companies. This revelation underscores the pivotal role managers play in shaping the employee experience and influencing workplace engagement.

From effective communication and recognition to good management, leadership development, and conflict resolution, the challenges managers face are diverse. However, their effectiveness is the linchpin to cultivating a work environment where employees thrive.

Recognizing the symbiotic relationship between manager effectiveness and employee engagement is paramount. The journey begins with acknowledging the multifaceted reasons behind this phenomenon, understanding the challenges managers grapple with, and leveraging tools such as employee engagement platforms to foster continuous improvement.

By prioritizing effective leadership, clear communication, and targeted interventions informed by employee feedback, organizations can not only retain top talent but also create a workplace where individuals are inspired, recognized, and motivated to contribute their best.

Ultimately, the nexus of manager effectiveness and employee engagement forms the cornerstone of a resilient, innovative, and harmonious workplace culture.



Santhosh is a Jr. Product Marketer with 2+ years of experience. He loves to travel solo (though he doesn’t label them as vacations, they are) to explore, meet people, and learn new stories.