People Quit People, Not Companies

In his book “Leadership Gold”, John Maxwell says people quit people, not companies. Employees often leave companies not because they dislike the company or their job, but rather because they want to escape a particular person, usually their boss.

Unfortunately I found this statement true at my last job, where my manager’s actions and attitudes made it senseless to stay there. In this article I’ll give a few examples of how poor leadership can make good employees head for the exit, and then provide a few tips to keep your employees engaged.

Apathy On A Key Project
My first example involves a key project that had gone bad. Executive management had approved a data warehouse, and I was a key player on the project team. Despite the large potential impact the project could have on the company, executive management did not assign or measure leadership accountabilities. As a result, the project languished for years. When I frequently told my manager about it she would grumble and complain about the IT division but would never use her authority as an Executive Committee member to work out a solution.

Her lack of leadership showed me that this project, which was critical to the continued development, growth, and effectiveness of my division, was going to go nowhere. It made me believe from a career standpoint that I was stalled out in the last century, getting increasingly further behind the technology curve. Her lack of action kept my team and I in the status quo, and I was demoralized as a result.

Distancing Herself From A Tough Decision
Another incident with this same manager came when I decided to discipline an employee for insubordination. My manager and I discussed the situation beforehand, and she was fully on board with me. After I carried out the discipline, the employee resigned and wrote a hate-filled letter about me to the company chairman. Instead of supporting me as she had prior to the disciplinary action, my supervisor distanced herself from the decision and based my ensuing bad performance evaluation on my handling of this situation.

Not Caring About Employee Development
During my tenure with this manager she was unconcerned with my professional development, so I made my own development plan. Part of the plan involved attending a John Maxwell Team conference, and this manager prohibited me from going, saying “if you’re like me, you already know all you’re ever going to learn about leadership”. What? I lost all respect for her after that comment.

Quitting A Manager
These incidents and others like them with this manager made me realize there was no way I could thrive at that institution as long as she was there, so I left and started my own company. If she would have been a more supportive manager I might still be there. Her lack of leadership and support demoralized me, and I definitely quit her instead of the company.

3 Employee Engagement Tips
There are many reasons people quit people besides my examples. Since I can’t cover all those reasons in this space, I leave you with three employee engagement tips I hope will stimulate your thinking.

1. Understand and care about the work of your employees, especially their major projects. Use your authority to help them break through organizational obstacles. Don’t be so concerned with protecting your own skin.

2. Have the courage to protect your employees when they make tough decisions. Nothing makes an employee feel more betrayed than when their manager hides from a jointly made decision. If you have participated with your employee in a tough decision, own it; don’t run from it.

3. Work on a development plan with your employees and support their efforts to grow. Don’t let their development be impeded by your preconceived notions. Be open-minded and show you care about their growth.

About the Author

Scott-McClymondsScott is a veteran corporate leader and serial entrepreneur.

He believes people development is the primary business of every leader.

His company Nehemiah Worldwide works with business leaders who want their companies to be profitable, great places to work, and assets to their communities.

Contact Scott at: