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Wake-Up Call: How You’re Driving Employees Away

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
Staff writer
business.com Staff
Updated Nov 08, 2022

Company leadership has a major impact on employee satisfaction and retention. Instead of scaring your top talent away, follow these tips to be a great boss.

Horrible Bosses might have been an entertaining comedy, but if you’ve ever worked for a bad boss before, you probably found yourself empathizing with Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Jason Bateman’s characters when they decided to, uh, murder their bosses.

Okay, so maybe murder is a little extreme when it comes to dealing with a bad boss, but quitting is definitely a viable option for most employees. When surveyed by GoodHire, 82% of American workers said they would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager. And since employee retention is a key element to company success, it’s important you put in the effort to be a good boss to your employees. Also, you probably don’t want to risk getting murdered. 

So how do you ensure you show the qualities employees want in a boss? Well, before you can learn how to be the manager people actually want to work for, you need to first understand the bad boss behavior you might be guilty of that’s driving staffers away.

Employees quit bosses, not companies

Offering competitive pay, excellent benefits and ample professional development opportunities are great ways to attract and keep talented employees. However, unlimited PTO, free snacks and other perks may not be enough to outweigh the damage inflicted by a bad boss. Simply put, terrible leadership can cause employees to quit good companies – and that’s not a risk you can afford to take.

With the current labor shortage and exceedingly low unemployment rate, workers have the upper hand in the workplace. Employees, especially top talent, aren’t very tolerant of poor leadership these days, and many are more than willing to seek employment elsewhere instead of continuing to work for a bad manager.

When asked how long they were willing to put up with a bad boss, 47% of employees surveyed by ResumeLab said they wouldn’t last more than two years – and 15% said they would call it quits within just a few months. So even if workers love your company, poor management may lead them to resign. If you intend on retaining your top talent long term, it’s vital that you develop the skills that can make you an influential leader. If you don’t, you’ll likely drive those staff members away.

FYIFYI: If you’re interested in increasing employee satisfaction and retention, check out the top reasons why employees quit. Spoiler alert: Many of them boil down to poor leadership.

Bad boss behavior to avoid

There are several negative behaviors that managers and business leaders should avoid, such as micromanaging employees, setting unreasonable expectations and creating inflexible work environments. Additionally, according to the ResumeLab study, four of the “absolute worst things” a bad boss can do include the following:

  1. Criticizing others in front of their peers
  2. Killing initiatives and ideas systematically
  3. Refusing a raise or promotion without valid reasons
  4. Lying

When a business leader displays any of these behaviors, their direct reports aren’t the only people who suffer. These actions can negatively impact the entire organization. For example: publicly criticizing team members can breed a toxic work culture; systematically killing ideas can stunt creativity and innovation; denying valid promotions can hinder employee growth and leadership development; and lying to colleagues creates a whole myriad of complicated problems.

On top of that, all these poor leadership behaviors can spur employee absenteeism, hurt performance and, ultimately, increase employee turnover. But of course, knowing what not to do is only half the equation.

How to be the boss people want to work for

As employees increasingly put pressure on organizations to maintain great company cultures, it’s now more important than ever that your workforce is equipped with competent leaders. Here are four tips to help you become the type of boss that doesn’t cause staffers to fantasize about murderous scenarios.   

1. Communicate honestly and effectively.

People often say effective communication is the most important thing in relationships and business. But even though we all know it’s important, so many people are still really bad at it. In fact, when surveyed by SHRM, 41% of employees listed effective communication as a top skill that people managers need to improve upon.

To be an effective communicator, it’s critical to understand your own communication style as well as the communication styles of your subordinates. Whether it’s scheduled one-on-one meetings, informal Slack messages throughout the week, in-person conversations or a combination of methods, find the best way to communicate with each of your employees. Understand that each person will likely be different in how frequent or in-depth they need communication to be successful in their role. 

No matter the person you’re speaking with, however, always strive for honesty, which can increase clarity. Don’t be afraid to communicate candidly (but politely), even if the truth is tough to handle. Instead of keeping your staff in the dark, be transparent about wins and losses. Honest communication shows your employees you trust and respect them.

TipTip: Every organization can benefit from a transparent culture that fosters open and honest informal feedback.

2. Show compassion and empathy.

Whether you’re giving an employee constructive feedback on a failed project or guiding them through a tough time, always demonstrate compassion and empathy. Your employees are people first, and they should be treated as such. Create a safe space for your employees to come to you with any problems they may have, and react with kindness and understanding when they open up.

For instance, if one of your team members is going through a personal struggle or experiencing burnout, you might show compassion by listening without judgment and then offering them a day off to recharge and support their mental health. This type of compassionate leadership allows workers to feel comfortable sharing their experiences so they can get the appropriate help and support they need to do their best.

3. Be your authentic self.

People want to work with managers they know and trust, so authenticity is a key component to retaining employees. A Gartner research study even found that 90% of HR leaders believe the most successful leaders focus on the human aspects of leadership – and that one of the top three components of human leadership is authenticity.

When you show your true self at work and lead with authenticity, it encourages employees to do the same. Staffers, especially those from younger generations like millennials and Gen Z, place high importance on working for organizations and people they trust and believe in. Being authentic in the workplace can help new and prospective employees better understand a company’s values and goals, which puts them in a better position to help you achieve them.

4. Don’t forget about employee recognition.

While it’s important to identify when an employee falls short and provide the support they need to improve their performance, it’s equally as crucial to recognize and reward employee success. Don’t be that boss who only focuses on what’s going wrong. That will breed a negative culture, cause employees to resent you and, eventually, desert you. Rather, if you want to develop great employees and keep them on your team, be sure to let them know what they’re doing right. 

If you don’t already have one, consider implementing an employee recognition program that recognizes and rewards employee milestones and achievements. Embrace even less formal ways of showing your subordinates how much you appreciate them. Recognizing and rewarding their success not only makes employees feel good but also encourages them to continue exhibiting a certain behavior. Employee recognition is also great for employee retention. 

Although being a great leader is not without hard work, it’s worthwhile when your employees want to stick around to keep working with you. Otherwise, expect to see more and more staffers head for the door.

Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock
Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
business.com Staff
Skye Schooley is a human resources writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where she has researched and written more than 300 articles on HR-focused topics including human resources operations, management leadership, and HR technology. In addition to researching and analyzing products and services that help business owners run a smoother human resources department, such as HR software, PEOs, HROs, employee monitoring software and time and attendance systems, Skye investigates and writes on topics aimed at building better professional culture, like protecting employee privacy, managing human capital, improving communication, and fostering workplace diversity and culture.