10 Ways to Lose Your Best Employees

Mar 3, 2014
8 Min Read

Let’s say you’re watching an episode of Dr. Phil where someone is describing a person in his or her life that yells, is rude, blames everyone else for mistakes and expects others to jump 24/7 whenever it is demanded.

“Well, you need to tell this person that that dog won’t hunt,” Dr. Phil might suggest.

You agree with Dr.Phil, calling out your own advice to the television. “Leave the jerk!” you yell at the screen.

But what if that person being described is….you? And the person complaining about the treatment is one of your employees?

Things may suddenly seem much different.

Behavior we would never begin to tolerate in our personal lives is often something we demonstrate at work because we don’t recognize how destructive it can be to morale or we feel it gets results. Employees may not complain to you directly because they fear losing their jobs.

But it’s estimated by the Hay Group that average employee turnover rates will increase from 20.6% to 23.4% in the next five years. That means that top performers may quickly make an exit from bosses who make the workplace miserable – or even slightly unpleasant.

People leave managers

A  Gallup poll of more than 1 million employed U.S. workers found that the top reason employees quit their jobs is because of a bad boss or immediate supervisor.

“People leave managers, not companies. In the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue,” Gallup reports.

What many managers may not realize is that what they consider “tough” management techniques they believe necessary to get results are actually poor strategies that lead to turnover and poorer performance. Specifically, Gallup finds that poorly managed work groups are on average 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well-managed groups.

If employees are taking off from your department faster than others, you can bet your performance will be called into question by the higher-ups, and your job could be threatened.

So it’s time to break the bad habits that are making you a terrible manager. Here are 10 things that you’re doing to drive employees out the door:

  1. You make them work terrible hours. It’s not enough to put in eight or 10 hours at the office. You make them answer emails or phone calls at night and on weekends. You don’t think they need a day off after they’ve returned exhausted from business travel across different time zones. In a survey by NPA, 41.5% of workers say they were motivated to change employers because of issues like job travel and hours.
  2. You make them scapegoats. You can’t have the big boss thinking you make mistakes, so it’s much better to let someone else take the fall if something goes wrong. You’ve got much more at stake, you believe.
  3. Feedback is always negative. You’re always quick to offer advice on how an employee can improve, but never give a shout-out when they are doing something well, like handling a difficult customer or completing a project ahead of schedule.
  4. Yelling. Raising your voice may be your way of getting someone’s attention and signaling your passion for the work, but to the employee being yelled at it is humiliating.
  5. You’re unethical. A David Alpin Group survey found that one of the top five reasons employees leave is because the company or managers lack honesty and integrity. Keep in mind that employees pay attention to what you say – and don’t say – when they judge your worth. Actions that hint at deceit or underhanded tactics will prompt employees to lose respect for you and look for jobs elsewhere.
  6. You don’t let them grow. All jobs have boring aspects to them, but employees are willing to put up with them as long as they feel their careers are being developed in other ways. Once employees are bored with their jobs then trouble begins: The Alpin survey finds that 50% of employees say once they start thinking about leaving, they put in less effort.
  7. Pay isn’t fair. Employee unhappiness is often triggered by what the workers perceive as unfair pay (such as when a new employee with less experience earns more than seasoned workers.) The Alpin survey finds that insufficient pay or unfair pay practices is the No. 1 reason they would leave their jobs. At the same time, 61% say they would trade their base pay for more time off.
  8. You treat them like outsiders. If you fail to keep employees informed about what is going on or don’t actively solicit their input on a regular basis, then they become disengaged. Gallup finds that the 30 million engaged employees in the U.S. come up with the most innovative ideas, create most of a company’s new customers and have the most entrepreneurial energy.
  9. You’re unpredictable. Mood swings, moving targets and random decisions make employees feel like they’re in the land of Oz. If you’re going to change policies or procedures, give them advance warning and plenty of time to understand what you want. As for your mood swings? Call Dr. Phil and don’t inflict them on workers.
  10. You’re unfair. Whether you’re showing favoritism to certain workers, taking credit for work that you didn’t do or are arbitrary with bonuses, not being scrupulously fair can sink morale and force employees to begin dusting off their resumes.

What bad boss behavior gets on your last nerve?

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