11 Things Managers Do That Make Good Employees Quit


We’ve all had them at least once in our professional lives; the “manager from hell” who make good employees quit. The designation of “Manager” is one that carries weight and significance. You are no longer accountable for what you do but for others as well.

It is a distinction that you should carry with pride and honor, yet there are those who gravely abuse it to the detriment of good employees.

Here are 11 things managers do that make good employees quit:

1. They Ride Them to the Ground

If you have an effective employee, capitalize on his or her abilities but do not abuse your authority by working them to the ground.

Good employees are what they are because they are gifted, talented, hard-working and motivated to become better. But they are also human; subject to fatigue, illness, and burnout.

They are also subject to the same labor laws as everyone else. A study by Stanford University showed that productivity declines after 55 hours of work.

There is a reason why the law allows only 48 hours of regular work every week and excess work should be duly compensated.

Also by over-relying on your standout employees, you deny those who are less proficient and less skilled opportunities to become better.

2. They Don’t Appreciate Good Work

One of the most persistent myths about work is that employees only care about the money. You may be surprised to learn that many good employees find greater value for being appreciated for the exemplary work they have done.

Case in point? India. Once the unchallenged darling of global outsourcing, India’s thriving industry suffered from high attrition rates due to low employee morale.

It doesn’t take currency to show appreciation to a good employee:

  • A pat on the back
  • A few choice words of confidence and appreciation
  • A short, informal coffee session
  • A quick shout out during a group or general meeting
  • Circulating or posting gratitude on the bulletin board on in social media

Little things go a long way when managing good people. Show them you recognize and value the things they do, and they will continue to work for the company’s benefit.

3. They Remain Detached With Their Employees

There are still managers and business owners today who believe you should keep an arms’ length policy with their employees.

They do not have lunch with their employees or share water cooler breaks with them. The reason is they want their employees to realize there is a great divide between management and hired help.

This is outdated thinking. Managing employees mean learning to work with people. The challenge is everyone has unique traits, qualities, and behavioral attributes. How can you learn how to manage them if you’re not yourself?

There should be no distinction between who you are at home and who you are at work. If you’re naturally friendly, outgoing and motivational at home, be exactly that when you’re with employees.

Let them discover who you are so they can open themselves up to you. This is how you develop human connectivity which is the first step toward running an organization united to serve the common interest.

4. They Do Acts of Self-Preservation

Trust is a fleeting quality in work relationships. Just when you think you’ve met people you can count on for the rest of your life, they’ll turn on you for 30 pieces of silver. Or to save their career.

In 1991, I was the Section Manager of a sales department headed by a woman. Let’s call her “Patty.” We were the top producing department in the company for the past year.

One evening Patty asked me to gather everyone for an important meeting at Shakey’s. She told us another group was offering higher pay and promotions if we transferred our business to their company.

We had the usual reservations but trusted Patty would take care of us. So we agreed to go along with her and move to the new company.

Two days later, Patty and I were asked by management to stay after office hours. They wanted to talk to us individually. Patty as the Senior officer went first.

When it was my turn, the General Manager said I was fired for “brokering” the transfer to the other group. I was shocked because I didn’t even know anyone from the other company.

The General Manager merely said, “We trust Patty’s word, and she said you were the mastermind.”

Before I left the office, Patty went up to me and said, “I had to point the finger at you. I have a daughter. I hope you understand.”

I will not tell you how I reacted except to say more than one security guard had to “escort” me out of the building.

And Patty did not stop there.

She tried to steal my clients by calling them up directly. To that regard, she failed because I anticipated she would go that low. I talked to all of my clients right after I was dismissed from the office.

Managers like Patty drive away good employees because they only care about themselves.

5. They Play Politics

Everyone who has worked in a 9-to-5 office environment will agree with me that politics plays a big role in office promotions.

Some if not most managers play favorites with certain employees. They push for the promotion of their favorites to strengthen their influence in the company or the department.

Promotions should be based on merit. And merit should not be based on party politics. There must be solid, irrefutable and performance-based criteria for promoting employees.

And it’s not just in the private sector. Favoritism is prevalent even in government. The result is an organization run by incompetent people who only care about their interests and not of those whose livelihood hinges on every decision they make.

That’s why corruption exists in politics. The ones who receive the mandate do not serve the interests of the people but only their own.

If you’re a manager, give credit where it is due. Reward those who deserve it even if you’re not as close to them as you are with others.

6. They Sow Intrigue Among the Ranks

Worse than office politics is office intrigue. It can become a destructive force in your culture and create an environment that is not conducive to productive work.

I had a Manager who would on occasion ask us to stay after office hours to discuss “pertinent office matters.” Among our agenda:

  • Our sales agent who was allegedly sleeping with the receptionist from the other office.
  • Another sales agent who was supposedly the kept mistress of our security guard.
  • Still another sales agent who is rumored to moonlight as a dancer in a strip club to pay his bills.
  • The male sales agent who is often seen in the company of our President, “Mr. X”.
  • The Division Manager who has bad breath.

It was frustrating and annoying to have to go through this garbage. The worst part was the Manager was passionate about it. She wanted to destroy those people even though the people in question were highly productive.

In the sales department, voices carry. Within a few weeks, all of those people whom our Manager aimed her venom and vitriol at resigned.

7. They Hire The Wrong People

I am guilty of this one!

When we started the fast food franchise business, I did not want to take chances by hiring a neophyte manager. I wanted to hire one who was highly experienced and had the necessary training from a restaurant that offered the identical products to be the one to help me manage the first franchise.

I hired two who were part of the pioneer team of a successful chicken house. They had the credentials in education and experience. The company even had the Store Manager accompany me to train in the US. We paid for her airline ticket, board, and lodging plus personal expenses.

Long story short, the two managers did not work out well for us, and they found their way out of the restaurant. They were qualified but just did not fit into our system.

It was then that I realized the best way to get your store managed is to promote from within.

Managers from external sources are set in their ways. Promoting from your group gives people more motivation to work harder and hopefully build a career with the company.

8. They Disappear In Moments of Crisis

One of the managers I had in the fast food business was analytical. He liked to use numbers to make his projections for the production schedule.

During a particularly heavy lunchtime period, his projections of roasted chickens ran out well before 12:30 pm. We had to produce more roasted chicken to keep pace with the large volume of incoming orders.

Within a few minutes of realizing his mistake and hearing disgruntled customers, he simply vanished leaving us to manage the entire lunchtime crowd.

Good employees are highly intuitive. They know if you are weak or inferior to them. When that happens, they lose respect for you, and this plants the seeds of conflict.

Good employees want to work with managers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and jump into the frontlines of combat with them. Not those who will run away to save themselves.

9. They Fail to Cultivate a Progressive Environment

When you have an employee who has a dream to get somewhere in work, you should encourage that person because that will carry over to his or her performance in your department.

Motivated employees are a boon to every organization. They work tirelessly and passionately because they see every day as an opportunity to prove themselves.

But there are managers who best represent “crab mentality.” They will discourage employees from reaching their goals. Why? Because they want to maintain a position of superiority.

One episode I can’t forget was the General Manager who had me fired (#4). When she met with one of my agents, she said, “Don’t think about getting promoted with Mr. Y just because you’re a good agent. Although you may get promoted if you shorten your skirt and play around a bit.”

It was an utterly disgusting remark that made my sales agent resign.

Post-script: That office was eventually raided by the NBI after an agent complained her client’s money was purposely being withheld.

10. They Discourage Accountability

What makes good leaders? They are the ones who accept accountability for their decisions. If you cannot accept the risks that come with the responsibility of making decisions, how and why will you make them?

Successful companies such as Zappos, Facebook, Virgin Group and Amazon are encouraging their people to become accountable for their decisions because they want to build more leaders within the organization.

Unfortunately, based on my experience the same is not the case with some Philippine-owned companies. The reason? They are fearful of their employees. They don’t trust them.

In LinkedIn, I had an animated exchange with a Filipino HR Manager who disagreed with my blog on Resource Process Outsourcing (RPO). This is a branch of BPO that seeks to help companies overcome their fears of people so the human capital can become game-changing assets.

He was obviously scarred by his experiences dealing with unions that he could not bring himself to trust anyone in their organization. In his opinion, empowering employees would be tantamount to giving a child a loaded shotgun.

If you give people a reason to form a union, they will. That is their constitutional right as covered by our laws. There is nothing to do about it except not give them a reason to form a union.

People like the HR Manager manage out of fear, not benefit. Even if there were only a 1% chance of risk, he would not pull the trigger. When you manage out of fear, you turn your nightmare into a reality because it manifests itself in everything that you do.

I tend to believe that people are inherently good. As Don Peppers said, “People have no malice in their intentions.”

Any business would be better off developing leaders than propagating followers.

11. They Don’t Challenge Them to Become Better

When I was running the restaurant, I came across a young man who applied to become our service crew.

He did not have any experience, but within a few months, he was our best floor crew because he always wanted to do a good job.

Unfortunately, the restaurant closed up before I could promote him. I did recommend him to my Dad who was managing the family’s ship-staffing agency. The company needed a Liaison Officer, and even though he had no experience, I knew he would do well. And he did.

When my Dad sold his company, I took him in my BPO company as a moderator. He told me he was unsure because he was not computer savvy. He was afraid he would embarrass me.

I told him to simply be himself and do what he always did to excel in everything he set out to do. He had to beat two moderators to get the position.

He didn’t beat 2. He beat 4 and was the number one ranked moderator in the company. Two years later he was a Supervisor.

The day the company closed its doors, he dropped by my office with a box of Krispy Kremes. My favorites: New York Cheesecake and Kreme Caramel.

He said he couldn’t have moved up if I did not encourage him to at least try. He said I had more faith in him than he did for himself.

Today he continues to thrive in his career. And the truth is he did it all himself.

All I did was give him a little nudge.

The problem with most managers is that they let power blind them. They think real power is exhibited when you order people to do your bidding. Or by raising their voice; cursing and castigating people in public.

If you think in the same manner, tell me, what do you accomplish by managing that way? Do you believe people will respect you?

Real power is the ability to change people’s lives for the better. That will always be a win-win-win proposition.

Become a better manager

Why do we have managers from hell? It is because those who promote them disregard the behavioral component of management. Technical and fundamental competencies, achievements and certifications should never be the basis for promoting people.

In fact, anything quantifiable should only be 20% of the evaluation process. I prefer to entrust my department or company to someone whom I am confident will lead based on values.

If you have good employees, nurture their talents and abilities. Let them believe they have a future or a career with the company. Then deliver on your promise when they deliver the results.

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