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Bad Managers: Why People Quit Their Job

March 27, 2017

“People leave managers, not companies.”—Victor Lipman

Employees join companies to hone their skills, contribute business value, and rise up the career ladder. People really don’t want to quit their job within their first year because it may appear that they are job hopping. So what exactly would induce or compel an employee to take such a drastic step as leaving after just a few months? In most cases, people leave because of the negative attitudes, behavior, or character of the manager to whom they report directly. According to a survey that Gallup conducted, approximately 50% of employees quit their job because of bad bosses.

Working in an unprofessional environment, getting bad performance reviews, or being overburdened with work for months on end are some of the major reasons why employees think of quitting. But managers with appalling traits can demotivate employees so completely that they quit their job. If, while reading this article, you recognize some of the unfortunate situations we describe and feel trapped in your job, it is probably time to rethink where you want to spend your time and effort.

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A Manager Who Is Unappreciative

No matter how good are you at your job, a bad boss with a big ego will never appreciate you. Being unappreciated when you’ve done good work leads to low morale, negative feelings, and a reluctance to take the initiative at work. For instance, if you go to your boss and inform him about some initiative you’ve taken and the good outcome that resulted, you may expect accolades. If, instead, your boss makes a face and asks why you didn’t get his permission to go ahead, you might reply that you did discuss your plans with your team leader. If your boss is still peevish, it’s likely that what matters most to him is his ego—that you didn’t defer to him by asking his permission—rather than the good work you’ gotten done. Once you’ve returned to your desk, feeling disappointed, that bad boss may add insult to injury by flaming you in a long email message about what is really a minor issue. This sort of behavior is extremely demoralizing. As long as you work for such a manager, you may be discouraged from going beyond the basic demands of your job again. So you may choose to seek another job, working for someone who would appreciate what you have to offer.

A Manage Who Is a Buttinsky

It’s always unfortunate to have a manager who is a micromanager and interferes in all aspects of your work. Working for a micromanager is stressful and negatively affects employees’ health. According to renowned workplace expert Lynn Taylor, people spend an average of about 19 hours a week worrying about their bosses. In most cases, such bosses are control freaks who want to control everything their employees do. Chances are that such a manager will force you to do things his way. Even when you’re doing your work properly, if you choose to take a different approach, your manager may go berserk. The fear this induces is unhealthy. Tolerating such an unhealthy, overbearing personality every day reduces employees’ productivity and motivation to such an extent that they may decide to leave forever. If you’re an independent person who has a lot to offer, you may need to find another job.

A Manager Who Discourages Creativity and Innovation

If you are someone who loves putting forward new ideas, you may not be your manager’s favorite. Insecure managers consider creative employees as competitors, so they never encourage your making anything new happen in the workplace. Even if they are aware that an innovation may be good for the company, they usually discourage its pursuit. Negative managers don’t admire or encourage creative, positive, spirited people who think differently from them. This inevitably creates ego clashes and quashes your inclination to come up with great ideas. You’re likely to look for a better position in which you can perform at a higher level and benefit the company as a whole.

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A Manager Who Competes with Employees

If your manager lacks confidence, there is a high chance that he will compete with you—always wanting everyone’s recognition for having the best ideas. He may be jealous of any successes you have and try to hinder your growth. This situation is especially prevalent for employees who are exceptionally good at their work. If an insecure boss notices that you are consistently gaining the attention of senior leaders, he may try almost anything to make you feel demotivated and hinder your success. Such managers often resort to bullying tactics such as public ridicule and sarcasm, putting you down in front of others, falsely accusing you of doing your work improperly, lying to others about you, or using other unethical means to undermine your reputation. Ultimately, the inevitable outcome in such a situation is that you’ll quit.

A Manager Who Lacks Any Philosophical Foundation

Some managers have no philosophy at all behind their thinking. According to Dr. David Brendel, having an effective philosophical base can help managers become good leaders. Philosophy teaches practical skills and values that are essential to motivating employees and increasing their productivity. However, not all managers believe in or are even receptive to good values. Such people often think all that matters is how they expect the world to be. Such amoral managers may adopt every possible unethical means of influencing or controlling others. Nothing pleases such managers unless the outcome is exactly what they want, so when things don’t go their way, they’ll find fault. Such behavior is demoralizing to employees. If you’re a good person, you’ll soon look for greener pastures.

A Manager Whose Skills Have Stagnated

Good managers continually advance their own skills and mentor others. Lazy managers don’t improve their own skills or develop expertise that they can pass along to their employees. Nor do they want others to acquire expertise for fear that someone else will make them look bad. In most cases, they discourage employees who offer valuable ideas. This leads to a regressive work environment that is bad for the employees and the business. When employees don’t have the opportunity to learn new skills, the business stagnates. A company’s new growth opportunities may lay fallow because there is no one who has the expertise to lead them. Both employees and the company suffer. So either the business will have to get rid of this manager or their best employees will leave the company.

A Manager Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Remember the popular movie Working Girl, in which the evil boss, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, stole the ideas of her secretary, played by Melanie Griffith? This happens in real life, too! If you do something great, such managers won’t want you to get credit for it. They want you to work hard for them, but ultimately take the credit for all positive outcomes. Managers who steal the credit for their employees work or pass off others’ ideas as their own demotivate employees. In such cases, the best employees leave because there is no opportunity for growth. If you have a manager who steals all the credit for your work, there’s really nothing to do but get another job.

A Manager Who Has Stopped Growing, but Expects Others to Change

While some people recognize that the only constant is change, a manager who has stopped growing never changes his habits or attitudes. He sticks to the conventional and shuns anything that is new. Such managers fear change. If you’re audacious enough to propose something new, it is likely that you’ll come under fire. This kind of manager expects employees to conform to whatever he thinks is right—from the way they work to the way they speak. If you work for such a manager, you may feel that you have no freedom whatsoever in your job and become so frustrated that you are forced to quit.

A Manager Who Favors a Certain Few Employees

When you see your manager being good to some employees, while showing a negative bias toward others, this can have a severely demoralizing effect. The lucky few who are getting good reviews and the appreciation of their manager may feel like stars, but everyone else feels how unfair this is. While most companies discourage unfairness at work, managers’ showing their partiality for certain employees can be difficult to check. According to a FindLaw survey, one in four workers has experienced bias against their gender, age, race, or other traits. If this happens just a few times, employees may slough it off. But, over time, bias creates a negative perception of the workplace that severely degrades employees’ tolerance for such a negative work environment. If you find that you must endure such bias for an extended period of time, your level of discomfort will likely prompt you to leave.

A Manager Who Is Unpopular with Other Teams

Last, but not least, it is likely that nobody in your company—whether employees or stakeholders—likes or wants to work with such bad managers. A manager with a negative attitude doesn’t relate well to other people and makes a poor impression on them. A manager with a negative, cynical outlook is very difficult for anyone to work with. Therefore, such a manager is unable to form positive relationships with people on other teams, who want avoid him to the greatest extent possible. That makes it more difficult for their employees to build the positive relationships that may be essential to their success in their job. Being deprived of the sorts of relationships that would make you happy in your work makes it more likely you’ll quit.

Conclusion

Appreciation, motivation, creativity, and freedom mean a lot to most employees. But, in all likelihood, at some point in your career, you’ve had to work for managers that fit these profiles. It is highly probable that such experiences made you rethink where you wanted to work.

While in some companies, employee reviews include 360-degree feedback, in which employees have the opportunity to provide feedback about their managers, not all companies do, leaving people working for bad managers no recourse.

Corporate policies and employee benefits differ across companies, but it is really your manager’s values and leadership that determine whether you love your job. When managers behave in the negative ways we’ve discussed in this article, it’s almost inevitable that people will leave, and the company’s attrition rate will increase over time. 

References

Bolden-Barrett, Valerie. “How to Deal with a Biased Boss.” Houston Chronicle, undated. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Smith, Jacquelyn. “9 Things You Can Do When the Boss Takes Credit for Your Work.” Forbes Magazine, January 26, 2016. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Lipman, Victor. “People Leave Managers, Not Companies.” Forbes Magazine, August 4, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Tredgold, Gordon. “People Leave Bosses, Not Companies: But Maybe That Boss Is You!The Huffington Post, January 26, 2016. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Snyder, Benjamin. “Half of Us Have Quit Our Job Because of a Bad Boss.” Fortune Magazine, April 2, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Vann, Madeline R. “Is Your Boss Making You Sick?Everyday HEALTH, October 12, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Loewen, Stanley C. “Dealing with a Micromanaging Boss,” undated. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Satell, Greg. “How Philosophy Can Make You a Better Manager.” Forbes Magazine, July 31, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

Programmer Analyst at Cognizant Technology Solutions

Calcutta, West Bengal, India

Abhishek GangulyAbhishek has over seven years of experience as a technical writer, working in domains such as retail, banking and financial services, manufacturing and logistics, and healthcare. He has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Kolkata University and a post-graduate degree in mass communications from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.  Read More

Sr. Technical Writer at ServiceNow

Hyderabad, India

Samiksha ChaudhuriWith more than ten years of experience in the field of technical communication, Samiksha has developed a wide range of product documentation, including user’s guides, online Help systems, API guides, simulations, and process models. She has developed content for various business domains, including telecommunications, media and entertainment, banking and financial services, information technology (IT), and healthcare. Samiksha holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science.  Read More

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