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.