Do you think pay is the reason employees leave? Think again.

When employees leave an organization on their own, it is usually not about the money. They may tell you it is because it is easier than telling you the truth.

The #1 reason employees leave their job is a having a poor relationship with their immediate supervisor. Their boss has more influence on their quality of their work experience than their peers or the culture of the organization.

Poor supervision has an enormous impact and cost for both the individual employee and the organization. Consider these statistics:

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

  • 89% of managers believe employees leave for more money, while 88% of employees actually leave for reasons having to do with the job, the culture, the manager or the work environment. (“The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late”)
  • 71% of workers in the United States rate themselves as either “Not Engaged” or “Actively Disengaged.” (The Gallup Organization)
  • 70% of the reasons employees leave their jobs are related to controllable factors by the direct supervisor. (“The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave”)
  • The #1 reason employees leave jobs is a poor relationship with their immediate supervisor. (The Gallup Organization)

As the research demonstrates, not only is it in the best interest of the employee, it is wise for the business to pay close attention to the supervisory relationship. Well-trained managers and supervisors provide the necessary and appropriate guidance, structure, and encouragement to their staff. Absent these important traits, the employee becomes disengaged and ultimately performs poorly or leaves the organization.

How do we get into this situation? Sometimes it is because employees are promoted to a supervisor level solely on their strong technical expertise. We naively think, if they have the technical skills, they should be able to lead people because they are more knowledgeable then their peers. Sounds reasonable?

Not necessarily. Managing people requires a different skill set than having technical expertise. When people skills weigh lightly in the promotion or hiring process, the company often face challenges with trust and respect within the department. The newly minted manager or supervisor is ill equipped to handle the tough employee issues and becomes overwhelmed.

If the employer is savvy, they will either provide some training or coaching to develop the manager’s people skills or recognize it is not a good fit and let the manager return to doing what they do best – technical work. Companies who choose to ignore this situation will see employee issues increase dramatically as time passes.

There will be some situations where an effective boss-employee relationship requires the supervisor to be a content expert. The leap of faith comes when organizations realize that a people centric manager who provides communication, employee development, leadership, and team skills can be exceptional without having the technical expertise, especially if the members of his or her team possess those skills.

What have been your experiences with managers who have either technical or people skills or both?

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  2. Another fantastic post! In my experience pay seems to be the bottom of the list of reasons I hear friends dissatisfied about their jobs (but bad pay can exacerbate the situation). Supervisors are definitely the largest reason whether you will be happy or not, but it does seem as if employers don’t realize this and think employees “want more stuff” instead wanting better guidance in the workplace. Thanks for illuminating this.

  3. Totally agree! I have worked for two companies that I loved and wanted to grow with, but everything that was told to me about my supervisors turned out to be true and then they both stood in the way of me transferring to another department. So I had to move on.

  4. Lynn, I just completed a national study with financial officers and found that one of the biggest concerns is that employees are promoted because they have great technical skills and can write a good test. What is missing is the all important people skills. Rather than building relationships, they are doing what they are good at – the technical part of their work, behind closed doors.
    I think it is far easier for employees to say that they are leaving because of the pay. But we know that the reality is different. Thanks for a great post.
    Val Kinjerski, PhD

  5. Lynn – another great post. I have read Dr. Kiinjerski’s work and she shares some good information in her book.
    In my career in Human Resources, I have tried to reach the upper levels of the organization with exactly the type of information you have written about here and even made attempts to introduce a “Stay Interview ( but it fell on deaf ears. I was told that I was too much of an employee advocate and that this type of HR was old school…after several years of hearing this type of thing…I moved onto my own and truthfully have never been happier. I choose to work with those who believe their people matter. It’s unfortunate that the message is taking such a long time to break through.

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