The Main Reasons Employees Leave: Direct Managers or Senior Leaders?

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Post-exit surveys reveal that more employees leave for reasons related to senior leadership than issues with their direct manager. (Source: Keeping the People, Inc.)

"Undeniably, people do leave jobs because of poor direct managers, but there tend to be many more poor managers in companies that have poor and uncaring senior leadership."

The conventional wisdom is "People join companies, and leave managers." But research conducted by Leigh Branham, founder of Keeping the People, Inc. and author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, indicates that it's not that simple. His analysis of 1,000+ post-exit surveys reveals that senior leaders have more influence than direct managers on the many factors that cause employees to disengage and leave.

Out of 39 possible reasons for leaving, 26% of respondents cited five among their reasons for leaving that senior leaders tend to influence more than managers and supervisors--lack of trust in senior leaders, lack of focus on quality, lack of honesty/integrity/ethics, uncertainty about the future of the company, and unhealthy/undesirable culture.

Only 13% cited reasons more influenced by immediate managers: lack of feedback, unfair treatment, and lack of focus on productivity. The remaining 61% of respondents cited factors that are influenced by both senior leaders and managers, such as lack of recognition, lack of opportunity for training and development, lack of encouragement of new ideas or, not having needed resources, unfair or insufficient pay practices, excessive workload, and inflexible work arrangements.

The exit surveys have been completed by 1,000 visitors to Branham's website--http://www.keepingthepeople.com since 2004. Respondents are instructed to complete the survey based on their experience at a previous employer.
"Most people are more likely to describe the real reason they left when the exit survey is administered by a third party than by their own employer," Branham said, "because they know the information is anonymous and they won't be burning a bridge."

"This data should be a wake-up call to senior leaders, especially those who tend to put the onus for employee retention and engagement solely on the direct manager. Undeniably, people do leave jobs because of poor direct managers, but there tend to be many more poor managers in companies that have poor and uncaring senior leadership."

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Leigh Branham
Keeping The People, Inc.
(913) 620-4645
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