Why Do People Quit Jobs?

People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.

A new report out Thursday from market research firm Gallup finds there’s still plenty of truth in that old cliché. The survey of 7,200 adults found that about half had left a job at some point “to get away from their manager.”

So, what do workers want from their managers? In a word, communication.

Gallup found that workers whose managers hold regular meetings are three times more likely to be engaged—that is, feel involved in and enthusiastic about their jobs. Workers said they want to be in contact with bosses on a daily basis, and not just about sales targets or an upcoming presentation: they want their manager to take an interest in their personal lives, too.

More than half of workers—54%–who give the highest agreement rating to the statement “I feel I can approach my manager with any type of question” are actively engaged, a proportion that plummets to 24% for those who give the next-highest rating. Roughly a quarter of respondents said they did not feel comfortable bringing up personal matters with the boss.

Employees who feel they can communicate openly tend to place deep trust in their bosses, said Jim Harter, chief scientist for Gallup’s workplace and wellbeing research, adding those workers have “an element of certainty in the [supervisor-subordinate] relationship that’s really powerful.”

Another area ripe for improvement: setting job priorities and goals. The survey found that workers feel like they’re given little guidance for understanding what’s expected of them. Twelve percent of workers strongly agreed that their manager helps set work priorities. That 12% tends to be much happier at work than those who scored their bosses’ goal-setting at the bottom end of the scale.

“Clarity of expectations is perhaps the most basic of employee needs and is vital to performance,” Gallup wrote in the report.

Workers also want accountability, said Harter. “For engaged employees, accountability means that all employees are held to roughly to the same standards, and slackers will be exposed. So accountability means there’s equity.”

Yet there’s a pipeline problem in management. Gallup has also found that only three out of ten bosses have the natural or coachable talent to become great at managing people. The company says that such people motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company. Sadly, only 10% of managers display all five talents, and another 20% possess some of those traits and can be taught the others.

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