Bad bosses happen to good people

By Christine Awuor

"People leave managers, not companies," write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. "So much money has been thrown at the  challenge of keeping good people - in the form of better pay, better perks and better training - when, in the end, turnover is mostly a  manager issue."

"People leave managers, not companies," write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. "So much money has been thrown at the  challenge of keeping good people - in the form of better pay, better perks and better training - when, in the end, turnover is mostly a  manager issue." If you have a turnover problem, look first to your supervisors and managers. Are they driving people away ? Beyond a point, an employee's primary need has less to do with money, and more to do with how he's treated and how valued he feels. Much of this depends directly on the  immediate manager. And yet, bad bosses seem to happen to good people everywhere. A Fortune magazine survey some years ago found that nearly 75 per cent of employees have suffered at the hands of difficult superiors. You can leave one job to find - you guessed it, another wolf  in a fancy suit in the next one.

One of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in the book: First Break All The Rules. It came up with this surprising finding: If you're losing good people, first look to their immediate supervisor. More than any other single reason, he (or she) is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And, they are the reason why they quit, taking their knowledge, experience and contacts with them.  Often,  straight to the competition.

Of all the stress, a bad boss is possibly the worst, directly impacting the emotional health and productivity of staff. Here is one sad tale. Sam, an engineer, still shudders as he recalls the almost daily firings his boss subjected him to, usually in front of his subordinates. His boss emasculated him with personal, insulting remarks. In the face of such  rage, Sam completely lost the courage to speak up. But when he reached home depressed, he poured himself a few drinks, and magically, became as abusive as the boss himself. Only, it would come out on his wife and children. Not only was his work life in the doldrums, his marriage began cracking up too.

HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find public humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not leave, but a thought has been planted. The second time, that thought gets strengthened. The third time, he starts looking for another job. When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss crucial information. "If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don't have your heart and soul in the job"   Different managers can stress out employees in different ways - by being too controlling, suspicious, pushy, critical and micro management. But they forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will quit – often over a  seemingly trivial issue.

While it seems like there are plenty of other fish especially in today's waters in Kenya, consider for a moment the cost of losing a talented employee.  There's the cost of finding a replacement. The cost of training the replacement. The cost of not having someone to do the job in the  meantime. The loss of clients and contacts the person had with the industry. The loss of morale in co-workers. The loss of “trade secrets” this person may now share with others. Plus, of course, the loss of the company's reputation. Every person who leaves a company then becomes its ambassador, for better or for  worse. "Any company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of every employee," Jack Welch once said. Much of a company's value lies "between the ears of its employees". If it's bleeding talent, it's bleeding value.

Christine is a project leader   email   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.