The #1 Reason People Quit Is …

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When we included Chapter 27 titled “Develop Managers” in Outstanding! I’d hoped it wouldn’t be needed. I mean, organizations always train people managers properly, right?

Well …

QBQ, Inc., has been following the story of Sabrina, a 39-year-old Physician’s Assistant, who began employment 90 days ago in a department deep within a large healthcare system.

It has not gone well. There have been problems—all resulting from poor people management. Here are a few …

  • It has been unclear who Sabrina reports to on a daily basis.
  • Sabrina has been asked to do things she’s not been trained to do.
  • Job expectations, role, and duties have been ill-defined.
  • Long-term staff at all levels have created “cliques” that exclude people.
  • Management appears to have “favorites” in the organization.
  • Sabrina has been moved to a different area each day creating confusion.

Not good. But I believe the most egregious management mistake is this:

Sabrina was called into a meeting where she was confronted on behaviors that were never observed by a direct supervisor. Only by peers and co-workers.

One employee had submitted this accusation: “All Sabrina cares about is hand lotion!”

Can you say petty at best and catty at worst?

As Sabrina recalls, she exited an exam room one morn after treating a patient and exclaimed, “My hands are so dry! Is there any hand lotion around here?”

This does not seem to be “confrontable” behavior, right? But even if it is, what’s the real problem here?

In Outstanding! we provide managers this guidance:

One cannot coach what one does not observe.

(Ch. 37—“Coach, Moment to Moment”)

Otherwise, it’s hearsay, gossip, and backbiting.

And tattling.

Sabrina’s department management has created a Culture of Tattling. When co-workers are allowed (encouraged?) to “rat” on each other, a cancer has entered the organization’s culture.

W. Edwards Deming, the management guru who helped Japan rebuild after WWII, stated this: “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”


In that meeting where Sabrina was reprimanded, she was informed that management no longer believed her to be a “good fit” and suggested she seek another position within the parent organization.

Our counsel to Sabrina was this: GET. OUT. NOW!

Our counsel to this department’s leadership would be this:

Implement management skills training YESTERDAY.

What is the cost of failing to develop managers properly? It’s summed up in the note we received yesterday from Sabrina:

I’ve found another job. I’m done working with these people. It’s torture.

I bet this is not the reputation management wants, but it is the reputation they now have—all because of their actions.

And lousy management is the #1 reason people quit. Period.

If you’re a manager who has not received management skills training, invest in yourself immediately. Believe me, your staff will be forever grateful.

Comments welcome!

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4 Responses

  1. Good blog John. Having been in the business of placing people for 25 years, I would agree, the number one reason people leave their jobs is the people. In many cases there are problems such as unclear expectations, lack of support, minimal training, or a culture that lacks mutual respect, integrity and common purpose.

    However, I consider office relationships to be a two way street. Certainly the employer has a responsibility to build a culture whereby an employee can thrive and grow. However, the employee must also fully participate by doing their part to support such a culture, regardless of what is going on around them—including bad behavior on the part of a manager or two.

    A responsible employee can always set their own benchmark for good behavior, self-training, team player, overachieving company goals, and being a mentor-coach to all who can use their help—they do not have to wait for someone else to dictate these type of behaviors or actions.

    One final point—there are always difficult people and situations in every company—nobody is immune. As an employee this requires building the skills to manage the imperfections found in even the best companies.

    As always, keep up the good work John—your blogs, books and training sessions are invaluable to many.

  2. I don’t quite agree with you can’t coach what you don’t observe. Sometimes managers have to investigate issues reported to them by other staff or even customers. I ask what went down from their perspective. Many times just asking about what’s been reported causes the staff member to cop to (in some form or fashion) some level of the behavior reported to me. Very rarely does someone say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about…” Just my $.02

    1. Sure, sometimes you must. But as a general rule, mgrs should be with their people not on the phone or in meetings. And when we’re WITH our people, we observe – and that’s when we coach best. Thanks for sharing, Deb!

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