People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses

Here’s corollary to the post yesterday (What does a ‘No Fire’ policy change? Everything.) where I reported on a CEO that instituted a ‘no fire’ policy, and discovered it led to 0% turnover.

Florida State University researchers look into the notion that people leave jobs because of problematic bosses, and find real support for it:

Working with doctoral students Paul Harvey and Jason Stoner, Hochwarter surveyed more than 700 people who work in a variety of jobs about their opinions of supervisor treatment on the job. The survey generated the following results:

  • Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that their supervisor gave them the “silent treatment” in the past year.
  • Thirty-seven percent reported that their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
  • Thirty-nine percent noted that their supervisor failed to keep promises.
  • Twenty-seven percent noted that their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
  • Twenty-four percent reported that their supervisor invaded their privacy.
  • Twenty-three percent indicated that their supervisor blames others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.

According to the researchers,

Employees stuck in an abusive relationship experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust.

They also were less likely to take on additional tasks, such as working longer or on weekends, and were generally less satisfied with their job. Also, employees were more likely to leave if involved in an abusive relationship than if dissatisfied with pay.

A recent survey by the Robert Half Group shows that in 2012 most people in organizations live in fear (as reported by David Williams and Mary Michelle Scott in HBR)

In their survey, employees cite the following issues:

1. Fear of making a mistake tops the list (cited by 30%)
2. Fear of getting fired. In fact, not only the fear of getting fired outright, but the fear of appearing less dedicated or vital if they actually take earned vacation days is a big issue in a slow economy. The data show employees left an average of 11 vacation days untaken in 2011.
3. Fear of dealing with difficult customers or clients
4. Fear of conflict with a manager
5. Fear of speaking in front of a group
6. Fear of disagreements with co-workers

Only 3% of employees consider themselves “fearless.”

Number 1 — fear of making a mistake is closely tied to 2, since making a big mistake (or a third mistake) can quickly lead to getting fired.

My bet is that this culture of fear not only impacts productivity and innovation, it leads to serious health issues as well. So people will quit rather than deal with abusive bosses, or continue in a fearful climate of job insecurity.

Relevant Analyst
Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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