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Employee Retention - Do Employees Really Leave Bad Managers?

Written by: Christina Merhar
April 11, 2016 at 12:30 PM

When it comes to employee turnover, employees leave bad managers, not Employee Retention - Do Employees Really Leave Bad Managers?companies. Right? Not so fast. New research suggests good leadership does not reduce employee turnover just because of good leadership. Employees quit because of new opportunities elsewhere. This is according to a new report by Harvard Business Review (HBR) that took a closer look at why employees leave and what this means for employee retention strategies.

This article summarizes key takeaways from the report, and how managers and companies can take action to retain top employees.

Leadership does not directly impact low turnover rates

According to the HBR research, great leadership has many virtues but it may not help as much with reducing employee turnover. Why? One benefit of working for a good manager is better external career options.

Take Action - Thoughtfully design other retention mechanisms to retain the talented employees that good leaders develop.

Good leaders build strong alumni relationships

With an increasingly mobile workforce, it is common to change jobs - and employers - every few years. According to the report, many employers now have very sizable populations of former employees.

Take Action - Good leaders help companies proactively seek to build and leverage relationships with alumni as a strategic constituency.

Off-boarding is key

So, how do you create positive experience with great employees who are leaving the company for opportunities elsewhere? According to the HBR research, off-boarding is key.

Take Action - Carefully design off-boarding processes that build bridges with employees and build on their positive experiences in the company. As the report explains, instead of perfunctory HR-driven exit interviews, manager-led retention and exit procedures should signal the employee’s value to the company and seek to continue the relationship even if they choose to leave and become alumni.

Click here to read the full HBR report.


According to recent research, employees do not leave companies simply because their managers are bad. Rather, employees leave companies because of greater opportunities elsewhere. Companies can take action to retain great employees by designing retention activities to retain the best employees, building relationships with alumni, and developing a positive off-boarding program.

Download our employee retention eBook to learn how to keep your most valued employees without breaking your budget.

What do you think? What are your employee retention strategies to keep great employees? Leave a question or comment below.

Topics: Employee Retention