Why Employees Leave Managers (Not Jobs) and What to Do About It

Noelle Ihli

Why Employees Leave Managers (Not Jobs) and What to Do About It 

The Speed of Trust Author Stephen Covey Breaks Down the Value of High-Trust Leadership

According to Gallup’s comprehensive research on “The State of the American Manager,” most employees don’t seek changes in employment for better pay or more exciting work.

A staggering 50% of employees listed “getting away from my manager” as their top reason for leaving a job. And of the employees who did cite wanting better pay or more fulfilling work, many noted a problematic manager as a secondary motivation. 

In its final analysis, Gallup found that “The manager accounts for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement."  

So, why is the manager-employee relationship so pivotal? And more importantly, what can you do to cultivate trust and rapport with your employees? Keep reading to find out!

Why the Employee-Manager Relationship Matters 

Research conducted by Arthur Lefford, author of The Influence of Emotional Subject Matter on Logical Reading, found that 90% of decisions are rooted in emotion. Ultimately, a lower-paid employee who trusts and admires a manager is less likely to leave a job than a better-paid employee with a negative relationship with that leader.

So, what does this mean for managers? It means that your job is about much more than doling out projects and tracking productivity. It’s about understanding and respecting employees' feelings about their work and key professional relationships.

Trust: The Ultimate Act of Leadership

The so-called “command and control” style of leadership, popular in the past, might keep employees jumping when you snap your fingers, but it won’t keep them from walking out the door. According to Covey, that takes trust.

High-trust leaders encourage team members to speak up about problems or new ideas, make room for failure as part of learning, and never punish honest mistakes or mishaps. 

As a result, employees feel safe to express ideas and opinions. They know that leaders see them as collaborators, rather than resources to attain company goals.

How to Cultivate High-Trust Leadership

Trust can’t be built in a day. Use the following tips to build trust with your employees, little by little: 

Stay Approachable

Encourage your team members to feel comfortable approaching you, and make them feel welcome and valued when they choose to do so. 

Prioritize low-pressure interactions that give employees plenty of opportunities for a little face time, and make it a habit of regularly asking how your team members’ projects—and their days—are going.  

Connect Regularly

The quality of your interactions with employees certainly matters—but so does the quantity. Regular interactions offer opportunities to build real relationships, practice communicating, and foster mutual respect and rapport. 

These interactions don’t have to be lengthy. A quick conversation or walk to the water cooler will do the trick. But they do need to happen frequently enough for you to keep a pulse on your relationship and really get to know your employee. 

Communicate Effectively 

Studies show that both employees and managers get nervous talking to each other. Take the lead by modeling generous, direct praise and straightforward feedback. Over time, these interactions will become more familiar, leading to less anxiety for everyone.

Model Vulnerability

Honesty and vulnerability go hand-in-hand when building a high-trust relationship. Don’t be afraid to own up to your mistakes or challenges, and stay positive and affirming when your employee does the same. 

Prioritize Good Ideas, Regardless of their Source

When leaders stay open to good ideas—regardless of who offered them—employees feel respected, seen, and appreciated. Meetings and brainstorming sessions are no longer just a hoop to jump through but become an arena for new ideas and engagement. Make it a practice to solicit feedback from everyone involved in a project instead of just the higher-level stakeholders. 

Reflect and Apply

How do you cultivate trust with your employees? Share your best tip for creating a safe, consistent, affirming relationship with your employees on Twitter using #SpeedofTrust.

About the author

Noelle is a content creator, author, and editor. She lives in Idaho with her husband, two sons, and two cats. When she's not writing, she's either reading a good book or scaring herself with true-crime documentaries.

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