The myth about employee departures (Guest commentary)

Popular belief is ‘people leave managers, not companies’ — but it’s not that simple
By Beth N. Carvin
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/18/2009

Raise your hand if you’ve heard or repeated the saying “People leave managers, not companies” when discussing employee retention. For nearly a decade, this pithy bit of business advice has been passed from HR department to HR department and become the mantra for retention experts everywhere. The only problem is it’s simply not true.

There’s no question bad managers drive employees away. The problem with the statement is it implies bad managers are the only reason for employee turnover. If only employee retention was that simple.

A more accurate statement would be “Employees leave irritations.” Irritations are the daily annoyances that each employee deals with. For one employee, it might be his mean and rotten co-workers. For another, it could be a seemingly nonsensical company policy. Irritations, like plaque on arteries, build until an employee can no longer tolerate it. Like Howard Beale, the character played by Peter Finch in the movie Network, the employee opens the window and shouts, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”