Love at Work
Love at Work: A Practical Recipe

Good versus Bad Bosses – Why Retention is the Wrong Measure

You might be surprised. I was. I had come to accept the idea that people quit their jobs primarily because of bad bosses. Yet, according to a recent report in Harvard Business Review, this appears questionable. As a result I found myself wondering why I had been lulled into such lazy conformity.  

We all intuitively know that there are any number of reasons why people switch jobs, varying from such things as more money or a promotion (better status), to a new location or simply an easier commute offering more family time. This is simply evidence of that. That is why I am not sure I agree with my friend Alex Kjerulf when he says it is too soon to draw the conclusion that “leadership does not get retention.”

That is not to say that leadership is not a factor in retention. Certainly the fact that you do not like or get on with your boss will make a decision to leave more likely, but whether it is a primary motivator or not is debatable. Let me explain.  

The desire for any change comes largely from discontent or dissatisfaction with the status quo. In a work situation this will primarily come from the nature of the work you are doing. This is never a constant and as you become more familiar with what you are doing so you will, inevitably, start to look for new challenges. This is just human nature. It is described as “The Doom Loop” in a book of that name by Dr Dory Hollander and is depicted by the following illustration in my book, “Lean Organisations Need FAT People”.

Personal development 3

As you go back around the loop from the satisfied quadrant so you will find more and more reasons to look for a new job. Things that you could normally tolerate, or even endure almost unquestioningly, will come into relief like the princess’ pea and start to bug you. Unless you are ambitious to the point of being an adrenaline junkie, you will not normally consider moving until they start to crowd your consciousness. Naturally a hateful boss will be an extreme factor and be more likely to precipitate a switch, but normally only if and when you have achieved enough to secure a comfortable move.   

In fact a good leader, as someone who helps to further the careers of their employees, is just as likely to have a high staff turnover as a bad manager. The only difference is that they are more likely to have a replacement already lined up and thus be less likely to have to fight fires in the event of a surprise.

This does not reduce the argument for good managers over bad; it simply suggests that retention is the wrong measure to distinguish the two. The correct measure would be the extent to which there is a smooth transition when an employee leaves. This is something that can be readily achieved with my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model, and the partnership it creates between manager and employee and its focus on personal development and growth, rather that the hierarchical emphasis on performance with its underlying command and control bias.        


Contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can help you create an organisational culture that embraces change and transforms – and sustains – organisational performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


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