“People Leave Their Supervisors”…..Do they really?

Carmen Sample
May 21, 2018 · 4 min read

You know those business cliches that people have said forever, yet they don’t ACTUALLY make sense?

I hate when we use words just because they sound good…. Recently I was with a group of other business owners and one was struggling with the turnover in his company — a company that is paying people over 6 figures to do amazing work across the country…. And yet his staff are leaving.

I then heard the “words of advice” that make my skin crawl and my eyes roll:

“People don’t leave their jobs, they leave their Manager”.

I call bullshit on this widely accepted business cliche.

Maybe in a recession when there was 30 employees for every one job opening did this adage make sense. The Great Depression may have been the ONLY situation where this expression actually made logical sense, in fact.

Before the internet it was HARD to leave a job. You had to “know” people to get in with a new company. You had to take out a newspaper and circle ads and do a cold call to get an application. You had to physically walk over to the business and fill out an application. You had to wait in an office with 30 of your peers applying to the same job with your fingers crossed that they may pick you as the special snowflake to get the position. You did all of this not knowing if there was a “next” opportunity if this one didn’t work out. It was hard to leave a job and you didn’t do it unless there were extreme situations at play.

In 2018 we now have 30 jobs for every one applicant. We are bombarded with open positions and opportunities in our email inboxes daily, if not hourly. Each day we get notifications from our online source friends telling us why we should leave our jobs, why the grass is greener somewhere else, how we can make more money at one of the million companies that need the workforce more than the workforce needs them. We are headhunted and sought after.

This is why when someone says (cue eye roll)….. “People don’t leave their jobs, they leave their manager” I have to sigh and say nah….#false.

Do SOME employees leave their jobs because they can’t stand their boss? Yes. Are there some really really really terrible supervisors out there? Of course. Thanks for stating the obvious… I love it when people do that too.

Yet, In a 2% unemployment rate market the REASONS people leave jobs they actually enjoy are far more vast. I’ll throw out a few:

  • They can make more money
  • They can relocate to their dream destination
  • They don’t have to work because their partner is making so much money
  • They can make more money
  • They found a better title in another company
  • They have personal issues going on that they need to focus on.
  • They want to go back to school.
  • They can now bring their dog to work
  • They can make more money
  • They leave for opportunity and advancement

….Did I mention they can make more money? It’s a dog eat dog world right now for business leaders…. sometimes it is a simple matter of time before someone leaves you — even when it isn’t about you.

Yet, as a business owner, we all do what we can. We shift our mindsets. We cater to our workforce, even at the expense of our own bottom line. We offer better benefits. We improve our cultures. We make work as fun as possible. We pay more money…. and yes, we even try our best to be amazingly good supervisors.

Even with all that there is still a moment when business owners will cross their fingers, take a deep breath, and hope that all they have done is “enough” in this job market to retain their talent. We hope our relationships are strong enough. We hope our culture is good enough. We hope our pay is competitive enough….. And even with all of that it still may not be “enough”.

People don’t leave their jobs because of their boss. People leave their jobs because they have found a better opportunity. #truth

So, fellow business leaders: Let’s keep competing. Let’s keep raising the bar. Let’s focus on recruiting the top talent out there. Let’s play the game and let’s keep winning.

And….hey… Let’s not be so hard on ourselves when someone leaves us and let’s avoid using business cliches that simply no longer apply. Let’s remember that awesome supervisors sometimes lose people. Don’t lose your spark in your analytical post-turnover self-assessment.

Good luck competing out there. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you…and when your staff leaves I’ll give you support and not an annoying cliche.



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