A few months ago, I had lunch with a fantastic young couple that I have known very well for many years. They are both in their mid-twenties. One works in sales (I will call him Fred), and the other in the healthcare field (I will call her Mary). 

During our lunch, I asked both how their jobs were going. A simple general question that forced our discussion to go in so many directions. They have not been in the corporate arena for many years; however, they clearly understand what inspires them and what de-motivates them. Fred and Mary were not afraid to be honest with me. Needless to say, our one-hour lunch turned into three hours of fascinating discussion!  

Intrigued by what I heard about their jobs and wanting to learn more, I asked them some additional pointed questions. I wanted to determine why they enjoyed their work and why they didn’t. Both mentioned that they love their profession—that is, Fred likes sales, and Mary likes the healthcare industry in general. They are both hard workers and don’t mind their intense work schedules. They don’t mind their drive to the office, the number of vacation and sick days allotted, the medical and 401k benefits package, or the compensation. Both went to college for what they are doing professionally, so their professional passions were being satisfied. 

Then, I asked them the proverbial deadly question, “How is your boss?” I determined the primary source of their happiness and, unfortunately, their frustration with this one question. Fred stated that he “loved his job”! A comment which is not commonly heard!

Fred enjoys going to work, feels respected, and stated that his manager is always concerned about his professional development. Fred’s discussions with his manager are always positive and supportive and feel more like coaching sessions than anything. Basically, Fred is delighted with how he is being led and has no plans to leave the company in the immediate future. Fred even told me that for him to leave the company, it would have to be an “unheard-of deal since there is so much value in working for a positively motivating and inspiring manager!”   

Mary, on the other hand, had a very different perspective on her work life. Mary was quick to tell me her manager was condescending, derogatory, and reluctant to delegate tasks without micromanaging. There is fear among the employees, and turnover is a common occurrence in the department. Mary regrets going to work each day, is stressed, and resides in an office filled with tension and drama. Her manager is not respected and continually berates employees publicly. I could see in Mary’s nonverbals that she hated working for this manager. Close to tears, Mary stated that she likes the company very much and believes in its mission of helping people but is aggressively looking to leave the organization because of her manager.

It was clear that the one key point that separated Fred and Mary’s job satisfaction, motivation, and willingness to remain dedicated to the organization was their manager. There is a common belief that employees leave their manager, not the company. The conversation I had with Fred and Mary quickly proved some relevance to that belief.

It is true that employees are dissatisfied and leave organizations for several reasons.  But this is not the first time I have heard individuals who plan to leave an organization state reasons like: “I hate my boss,” “My boss treats me poorly,” “My manager does not care about my development,” “My supervisor does not challenge me,” “My manager is not a leader,” or “My boss does not communicate with me and can care less about my perspective.”  The reasons employees are unhappy with their managers are endless. Regardless of the reasons, ineffective and untrained managers can seriously impact the overall results of employee retention, motivation, and productivity.

Leaders hold significant power over why employees stay or leave organizations. Employee turnover costs organizations millions each year. It does not have to be that way. Leadership training is readily available—and many companies invest in developing their leaders at all levels. The ROI of that leadership development is substantial. The results can be increased motivation and productivity, improved employee satisfaction, and increased employee retention.

Just last week, I ran into Fred and Mary at the local grocery store. Fred still loves his job and now aspires to be a District Sales Manager with his company. On the other hand, Mary has applied for several different positions outside her company, has two interviews set up for next week, and “can’t wait to leave.”  She is now looking for employment with another organization—one that employs trained and skilled managers!