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Mistakes That Make Good People Quit

Managers are often heard complaining about their best employees leaving, and they really do have something to complain about—few things are as costly and disruptive as good people leaving the organization. By: Travis Bradberry

It is vital to have motivated, engaged employees, but a lot of organizations fail to hold managers accountable for making it happen. When they don’t, the bottom line suffers. Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on a lot of things, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they mostly leave managers. The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part.

• Gallup research shows that 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her manager.

• Research from the University of California found that motivated employees were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales, and

were three times more creative than demotivated employees.

• A Corporate Leadership Council study on over 50,000 people, found that motivated employees are 87% less likely to quit.

So, let's take a look at some of the things that managers do that can send good people out the door:

Overworking people

Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s tempting to work the best people hard, and a lot of managers fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance; and it’s also counterproductive.

New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more. If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process.

Raises, promotions, and title-changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.

Not recognizing or rewarding good work

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give everything they had got.

Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.

Failing to develop people’s skills

When managers are asked about their inattention to employees, they try to excuse themselves, using words such as “trust,” “autonomy,” and “empowerment.” Good managers manage, no matter how talented the employee. They pay attention and are constantly listening and giving feedback.

Management may have a beginning, but it certainly has no end. When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s your job to keep it coming. If you don’t, your best people will grow bored and complacent.

Not caring about employees

Smart companies make certain that managers know how to balance between being professional and being human. This equates to the kind of manager who celebrates employee successes and empathizes when employees are going through hard times. Bosses who fail to care will have high turnover rates. It is not possible for employees to work eight-plus hours a day if they feel that their boss does not care about anything other than the production yield.

Not honoring commitments

Making promises to people and keeping them is important. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honorable (two very important qualities in a boss). But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as uncaring, and disrespectful. After all, if the boss doesn’t honor his or her commitments, why should anyone else?

Hiring & promoting the wrong people

Good, hard-working employees want to work with like-minded professionals. When managers don’t do the hard work of hiring good people, it’s a major let down for those stuck working alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. When you work very hard only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who didn't deserve it, it’s a massive insult.

Not encouraging passions

Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies show that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.

Failing to engage creativity

The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. If you take away their ability to change and improve things because you’re only comfortable with the status quo, this makes them dislike their jobs. Caging up this innate desire to create not only limits them, it limits you.

Not enough intellectual challenge

Great bosses challenge their employees to accomplish things that seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed. When talented and intelligent people find themselves doing things that are too easy or boring, they seek other jobs that will challenge their intellects.

If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees may be quite resilient, remember their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you and stay focused on ways to keep good talent in the organization.

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