Two of the biggest leadership buzzwords that follow the word “employee” are “engagement” and “retention.” We’ve talked about engagement on this blog before but haven’t tackled the epidemic of bolting employees — a trend that’s only growing. A recent survey by Dale Carnegie Training revealed “26% of U.S. employees say they will look for a new job within the next 12 months, and another 15% are already actively looking for a new job.” Now there are dozens of reasons why employee retention is low, many of which you can’t control. However, a greater percentage than we’d like to admit seek a paycheck from elsewhere because of common pitfalls in management and culture.

Here’s just a sample of what drives away employees: 

 1.  A Bad Manager

Nothing scares off good employees like a bad boss.  This isn’t news.  But it remains so consistently true that it bears repeating.

The type of boss that lies, denies responsibility, takes all the credit, micromanages, or refuses to nurture talent. A Gallup study of more than 7,000 U.S. adults found 50 percent of employees left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”

“The single biggest decision you make in your job — bigger than all the rest — is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits, nothing,” Gallup CEO Jim Clifton said.

A manager doesn’t need to be friends with their employees, but a positive, mutually beneficial relationship is critical. Coaching, feedback, and commitment must be evident.

A toxic, aloof boss is a surefire way to get an employee to polish their resume.

2.  Disconnected Work

Employees typically spend more than half of their waking hours getting ready for work, commuting, and sitting at the office. Feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride when the day is done keeps employees happy. But there is a difference between happiness and fulfillment.

As  employers we try to  motivate and challenge our  employees, but it may be more important to convey the bigger picture. Ideally, our jobs  keep us engaged and motivated.  But this is an unrealistic goal. Sometimes work is just boring! But those boring tasks are necessary to the company’s success. Even the proverbial “ditch digger” should have dignity in their work.

The key is connecting work to the company’s overarching vision. Make sure your employees know they are making the bigger things possible by completing smaller tasks with skill. This will allow your workers to connect themselves to a bigger reality and find that sense of fulfillment.

Endorphins only last a few hours but feeling essential to the success of a business can ensure years of company loyalty.

 3.  Office Politics

Ah yes, the unavoidable divider in every office. If you think your operation is free of office politics and internal scheming — think again. even created a guide to winning such a thing.

Employees are always trying to find ways into an inner circle that leads to more projects, opportunity, job security, and eventually money and influence. For some, their tactics work. Other idealistic employees who take the high road often wind up outside the figurative circle and discouraged.

The great challenge for leadership is to decide whether to eliminate office politics altogether, or understand its existence and how it can benefit the shop and the future of team members. Or you can do nothing and keep searching for new employees every month.

Now that we’ve outlined a few of the most toxic contributors to poor employee retention, we’ll discuss additional ways to avoid these pitfalls in our next blog.


Keep reading HERE to improve your retention rates or HERE for ideas on what to do when someone does leave.