Have you ever found yourself in a position where you loved your company and team but found your boss incredibly difficult, even unbearable?
You’re not alone!
This study by DDI suggests that 57% of people have quit because of their boss — and 37% reported that they’ve considered leaving because of their manager.
People quit bosses, not jobs.
So what are bad bosses doing to force people out the door? And what can you do as a leader to ensure your employees don’t become part of this 57%?
- A study suggests that 57% of employees have left their jobs because they are frustrated with their manager or company leadership.
- Bad leaders create unhealthy work environments rife with ineffective communication, lack of recognition, micromanagement and poor productivity.
- A significant change in your leadership strategy and execution is necessary to retain key employees.
Why People Leave Bad Leaders
Are you inadvertently pushing your top talent out the door?
Poor leadership is at the root of this phenomenon.
Below, I’ve listed five dangerous practices and habits of bad leaders that create toxic workplace cultures.
(If you discover you are engaging in these practices, you need to take action today because your best people already have one foot out the door.)
1. Refusing to Lead by Example
The direction set by the leader determines the path the team follows.
There is no room for hypocrisy in the workplace. As a decision-maker and manager, you expect your employees to abide by a set of values and rules, therefore you must do the same. You aren’t the outlier; you’re the benchmark.
If a leader expects their employees to be well-prepared for a meeting, they can’t show up ill-prepared. If a leader expects employees to engage with their work, the leader must demonstrate what engagement looks like.
As the leader goes, so go the people.
2. Not Offering Support and Recognition
Bad leaders look inward rather than outward. They focus on their own advancement rather than supporting and recognizing their employees. Alternatively, good leaders invest in their employees and their growth.
Recognition and appreciation for good work costs nothing, but it deposits a large amount of relational capital to your account. Bad leaders never make deposits to this account and are consistently overdrawn.
Ask yourself this — as a leader, are you setting aside time to invest in your employees with handwritten notes or 1:1s? Are you publicly acknowledging their accomplishments?
These things take relatively little time and effort. They simply require humility and self-sacrifice. Are you willing to serve your people in this way?
3. Communicating Ineffectively
A bad leader is unresponsive and unreliable, leaving their team struggling for clarity on how to excel in their work.
Communication is oxygen. Your team won’t realize they need it when it is there in abundance, but they will suffocate without it.
Poor leaders share these bad communication habits:
- Not communicating when they should.
- “Wingin’ It” when it comes to planning and preparation.
- Not giving enough advance notice when decisions need to be made or work needs to be done.
- Communicating in reaction to events rather than proactively getting ahead of events.
4. Micromanaging and Withholding Control
Nobody likes the boss who has a “my way or the highway” mentality.
Bad leaders exert abnormal amounts of control over “how” things are done. They care too much about the exact process and too little about the people doing the work.
The reality is there are always multiple paths to the same destination, and the process of optimal path discovery is an important part of learning and growth for employees.
Unfortunately, bad leaders either 1) don’t understand this or 2) don’t care, and they are worse off because of it.
5. Fostering an Unhealthy Work Environment
Poor leadership creates unhealthy work environments.
How do poor leaders create this kind of environment?
- Refusing to publicly recognize praiseworthy achievements.
- Overworking employees without recognition or compensation.
- Setting unclear expectations on deadlines, projects, advancement or other important milestones.
- Demeaning and ostracizing their employees.
- Creating no avenues for conversation around personal growth and development.
Each of these activities creates workplace cultures that actively push away your best people and leave only those who don’t care about getting results for your company.
In my opinion, that cost is too high to pay!
The Cost of Employee Turnover
Lose an employee. Replace the employee. Train the new employee. Lose that employee.
It’s a vicious cycle that many managers don’t understand how to break.
And this costly cycle of high employee turnover contributes to a significant decrease in employee productivity, a negative shift in team dynamics and a damaged company culture.
Plus, recruiting and training the replacement takes up valuable time and resources! It’s expensive, and it takes time away from employees with other essential tasks to complete.
Companies simply can’t afford to have high turnover rates.
So, how can you stop the revolving door of employee turnover?
8 Principles to Help You Become a Better Leader
It’s not enough to make a few changes and expect dramatic results.
If you’re reeling from the pain of losing good people, an entire shift in your leadership strategy is necessary.
And that shift starts first with you.
“Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
Before people will do what you say, they need to experience what you do. So much more is caught than taught.
So here are eight principles you can study and apply to become a leader people want to follow — and when they want to follow, they won’t leave!
1. Lead by Example
My first rule in leadership is to always lead by example.
Employees who see their boss doing one thing and asking for another recognize the hypocrisy and refuse to follow them.
You must conduct yourself like you want your employees to conduct themselves.
This I know firsthand, and I’ve said it earlier in this article — as the leader goes, so go the people.
2. Listen to Understand, Not Respond
Because leaders like solving problems, we’re often one step ahead of the conversation. We want to respond. We want to share solutions.
But this way of leading doesn’t put employees first. It actually puts you first.
Why? Because you are only receiving the information to spit out your opinion. It’s akin to prescribing a treatment without making the diagnosis first.
If you aren’t listening to what your employees are saying, how can you offer a solution that truly helps?
Instead of offering an immediate solution, take a step back and show your employees that you understand their concerns. And if you don’t understand, ask clarifying questions until you do.
Then, you can come up with a solution together.
3. Create a Clear Strategy Centered Around Vision, Mission and Values
Does your leadership style reflect them?
Good leadership focuses on your company’s vision, mission and values and uses them to guide you and your employees in day-to-day tasks.
Remember: Most employees come to work for a company in part because they believe in the mission or feel that their values align with the organization.
If your leadership style doesn’t reflect the mission and values, you are quietly turning people away by making them work in an uncomfortable state of ambiguity and confusion.
If you haven’t already, re-read your company’s mission statement, core values and vision statement. Then, list everything you can do as a decision-maker and manager to demonstrate your commitment to them.
Let’s say one of your company’s core values is “Everyone’s opinion matters.”
Then your list might look something like this:
- Give your employees sufficient time and line-of-sight for all key decisions being made that are relevant to their role.
- Ask for feedback on those decisions from all of your employees.
- Stay open-minded and actively listen to what your employees have to say.
- Create a safe space for everyone to share their ideas in meetings, reviews and one-on-ones.
- Encourage open discussion between you, other company leaders and your employees.
- Ask probing questions to further understand viewpoints on strategy and decisions.
- Be respectful to your employees — even if you disagree with their point of view or decision.
4. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Do you take your vehicle to get oil changes at regular intervals, or do you wait until the engine cracks before taking care of it?
Reactive leadership only solves problems as they arise — and often only when they have become big problems.
However, proactive leadership functions like a monthly maintenance plan, putting emphasis on preventative care to ensure little problems never mature into big problems.
Let’s consider an example.
A software development team is working on a project to create a new feature within their mobile application, and they have a strict deadline. The developers on the project feel overwhelmed with their current workload and have valid concerns about meeting the launch date.
A reactive manager will wait until the employees feel fully burnt out before they notice and respond to problems. At this point, the manager will scramble to shift priorities, adjust the schedule or petition to make changes regarding the deliverables.
But unfortunately for this manager, the damage has already been done. Those developers have already begun to daydream about their next role where this won’t happen under a different, better manager. In their world, the grass is most certainly greener on the other side.
Now, the manager only has two options:
- Force the developers to release a sub-par feature, further damaging morale.
- Deliver the feature later than the due date, impacting performance reviews, bonuses and advancement opportunities.
On the other hand, a proactive manager will have active check-ins before the start of the project and along the way to ensure their team’s workload is manageable.
Suppose the manager suspects that her employees are feeling burnt out. In that case, she can reallocate some resources ahead of time, offer schedule flexibility, shift around meetings or cross-train another employee to take some of the team’s load.
Those two options may still happen for the proactive manager, but morale will remain high, and it won’t impact reviews, bonuses or advancement opportunities as poorly as you might expect.
What can leaders like you learn from this example?
Proactive leadership often sees better results, higher productivity, better morale and stronger employee loyalty. All of these factors contribute to a great working culture, and people rarely leave great working cultures.
5. Communicate More Effectively
A good leader communicates with their team, but a great leader communicates quickly, clearly and effectively.
When your employees have a lot on their plate, the last thing they want is to sit in a long meeting that could have concluded in 15 minutes — or worse, could have been an email.
Yet quick communication means nothing without clear communication. Otherwise, your employees will still spend their valuable time (and yours) coming to you with clarifying questions.
So, how can you communicate quickly and clearly? Here are 10 essential tips and principles you can apply to grow in communicating more effectively:
- Know your audience.
- Prepare your message ahead of time.
- Use direct language.
- Practice being concise.
- Start with the most important information.
- Avoid ambiguity.
- Provide meeting agendas.
- Share meeting notes.
- Leave time for follow-up questions.
- Summarize key points.
6. Audit Existing Systems, Processes and Practices
Here’s a hard truth: You’ll never be an effective leader if you and your team aren’t aligned on the same goals.
Nothing is more counterproductive than working hard and excelling at accomplishing the wrong things.
You’ve got to make sure the ladder is on the right wall before you begin climbing it.
So what can you do? You can start by audit your existing systems, processes and practices.
Do they align with your mission, vision and values? If not, change them to align. And if you don’t have the power to change them, change the story and narrative around them.
Are they filled with unnecessary steps and complexity? Most complex systems and processes result from adding layers of protection to fix recoverable mistakes. Eliminate the hassle and simplify them so that your people can do more with less effort.
And, when the mistakes happen, adjust your training and communication. Avoid optimizing for the 5% of edge cases and making it unnecessarily complicated for the 95%.
Are they getting the results you want? If not, you need to change the system. Bad systems produce bad results. Great systems produce great results. It’s as simple as that.
7. Invest in Your Employees
Employees stick around when they know their leaders care about them. They need to know that you want to see them grow within the company.
Not exactly sure how to do that?
Here’s a brief list of ways to invest in your employees:
- Provide opportunities for skill development (think certifications or job-specific training).
- Offer leadership training programs and workshops.
- Get them involved in mentorship programs.
- Send them to work-related conferences.
- Let them take the lead in a client meeting.
- Allow them to take ownership of a challenging project.
- Help them plan out their career path (and start by sharing your own path you envision for them).
- Reward their achievements.
- Present them with networking opportunities.
- Discuss their progress in frequent one-on-ones.
- Write a handwritten note thanking them for a recent job well done.
8. Commit to the Plan
Remember principles three and six? The ones where you evaluated your practices and devised a strategy for how you will lead?
Now, you need to stick to that strategy.
Don’t jump after the new shiny thing. Great leaders chart the course and stay committed to it.
There’s nothing more damaging to employee confidence than to see a leader wishy-washy in their strategy and execution.
Sure, there are times when you need to course-correct, but course corrections shouldn’t happen every few months.
Don’t limp between options, even if you aren’t entirely sure of the path ahead. Like Jeff Bezos has said, if you feel at least 70% confident in a decision, decide and commit.
“There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”John F. Kennedy
Indecision is a decision in itself. Create a plan, review the plan and commit to the plan. Your employees will thank you for it.
Better Leadership Leads to Happier Employees
Be the leader people want to work for. When you are, you’ll have no problem with employee retention. You’ll keep your best people, and they will recruit more A players to join your team.
Better leadership leads to happier employees. Happier employees lead to a strong workplace culture.
And a strong workplace culture is the best defense against people leaving your company.
To becoming better leaders together,