“Employees leave managers not companies”

Yes, we have all heard this time and again. This powerful statement really helped shape my understanding of employee-manager-company relationship dynamics and I am sure the same might be true for many of us. But had I not recently decided to reflect on my career moves so far and what prompted those moves, this statement or rather this belief would have continued to give me a false sense of justification for my job hops.

Just to be clear, this is not the first time I reflected upon my career; it’s just that I did it from a different perspective this time.

Now before I present a counter argument to this statement, let’s look at the possible reasoning behind it:

  1. People may leave companies because the manager was rude to them most of the times; had a behavioural problem.
  2. Manager had unreal expectations; expects overtime very often.
  3. Manager would hinder growth; spoils ratings irrespective of good performances or may not allow to work on different stuff.
  4. Or simply an employee could not gel well with the manager.

Now if we reflect a little deeper on the above points, I believe there are some really important questions that need to be asked here before we squarely place the blame of voluntary attrition on the immediate manager. These form the very core of my argument:

  1. Do company policies or processes empower an employee to look for different opportunities within?
  2. Do companies collect 360 Degree feedbacks to assess a manager’s people management skills?
  3. Do companies empower a manager to help shape an employee’s career and manage their expectations?

If the answer to any of the above question is No then the company is to be equally blamed. Most companies emphasize on similar values but the methods and processes that help them imbibe those values take years to develop. A manager’s role becomes very crucial as he has a certain responsibility to ensure the company culture and values are upheld at all times. There are stringent processes to follow that often give very little room for managers to play with. Processes that might have a crippling effect on a manager’s people management abilities. A person categorized as Horrible Boss may be actually be too ill-equipped to innovate and make a difference to a disgruntled employee’s work life.

So I think this statement is biased against managers and that a company and its policies and processes are to be equally held responsible for an employee parting ways. May be if companies had faces, they would have been blamed too.

This indeed looks to be an interesting topic and should be discussed further in detail. Do comment and let me know what you think.


Aditya Dutta
Twitter: @aditya_datta