Calling Bulls**t on "People Leave Managers, Not Companies"
It might have been an article, or a book, but the core is always there, and seems so logical - some variation of
- If you are a good manager, then
- People like working for you, and
- Will stay around, but
- If you are a bad manager, then
- People do not like working for you, and
- Will, therefore, leave
Straightforward and logical, right?
Turns out that it is also bullshit.
As a Feb 2016 paper by Raghuram, Gajendran, Liu, and Somaya shows, employees leave both good and bad bosses at almost the same rates!
The reasoning, once you get to it, is also quite logical, just not as "simple" a story as what we are all led to believe. Basically
Good leadership doesn’t reduce employee turnover precisely because of good leadership. Supportive managers empower employees to take on challenging assignments with greater responsibilities, which sets employees up to be strong external job candidates. So employees quit for better opportunities elsewhere — better pay, more responsibility, and so on
There is an additional "network effect" that comes into play,
Former employees with good bosses are what we call “happy quitters.” ... their feelings toward their former employer ... were overwhelmingly positive ... Good leadership ... is an important tool for building goodwill with employees, which they are likely to retain as alumni, in turn becoming sources of valuable information, recommendations, and business opportunities later on.
With one very, very important caveat - it is all about the off-boarding process.
... good leadership generates alumni goodwill only for those employees who experience good faith retention efforts when they quit. So managers should go to bat for their employees and counteroffer if they can ... such retention efforts are critical for preserving the goodwill created by good leaders with employees, which can then be translated into a continuing relationship with them as alumni.
Or, to put it differently, you don't get a second chance to make a last impression.
The bottom line to all this
- Leadership does not beget retention : In essence, your employees might walk away saying "Jane is awesome!", but they are still going to walk away.
- Good leaders build strong alumni relationships : How do your ex-employees talk of you? Positively? If not, you will eventually get black-balled in the local talent-pool
- Off-boarding is very important : How did you treat them when they left? Not the dopey HR stuff, but did you - truly - signal their value, and come across as wanting to continue a relationship?