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“People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers”

I read lots of articles on how to calculate attrition and how to interpret the findings. I am wondering if we can cut to the chase and pinpoint one of the main reasons why and start tackling the issue (rather than purely report attrition and say this is terrible and start recruiting more people to replace the leavers).

A great quote from Marcus Buckingham is “people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers”. Ring true? As a line manager myself for a number of years I can confidently say that I didn’t lose a team member due to poor people management, lack of development opportunities or allowing employees to make and learn from mistakes.

What I have observed being a non line manager is many people leaving organisations because of poor management. There confidence is destroyed, they feel worthless and can’t see a way to progress or develop.

The issue is two fold. The first issue is ‘bad manager’ is not a leaver reason on many HR systems (and the thought of selecting this is future career suicide) which means the problem is not reported to senior leaders. The second is bad management is a sensitive issue and a hard problem to admit to and therefore tackle. By acknowledging it companies have to admit they have not developed the necessary skills in its workforce.

But things have to change. Length of service, age or gender should not determine who managers people. It is a skill that is both natural and learnt. Some of the best managers are hands off and some take a micro approach to developing and coaching team members. There is no perfect manager but there are bad managers and these people need to be identified and put on a development programme or removed. Being arrogant, self centered and dictatorial are not good traits so lets focus attention on this group of people.

Great managers help bring out the best in people and motivate the most important asset the company possesses. It is cheaper to develop great talent than hire expensive new talent.


Neil received his degree from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1994. After gaining experience across a number of roles he embarked on a career in recruitment/HR analysis. After successfully implementing a culture of data led decision making across two recruitment advertising agencies he moved to BSkyB to set up a new reporting function.

Neil set up his own consultancy in 2012 to help clients bring their data to life. He has worked on developing strategic KPIs, designing dashboards and enhancing in-house analysis capability. At Diageo he facilitates organisation effectiveness through the interpretation and presentation of HR data.

He shares his analysis thoughts via his blog, attends the gym and travels regularly around the world.

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