Most people who resign from their jobs are not moving for money or career progress but because they are sick of their immediate boss. Personality clashes or general dissatisfaction with managers are the biggest single reason that British companies have to spend billions of pounds a year replacing people they would rather keep.
Management lecturer Stephen Taylor and his students at Manchester Metropolitan University conducted confidential detailed research across a wide variety of business sectors before reaching the conclusion that weak management pushes good employees to leave.
In The Employee Retention Handbook, published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Taylor points the finger in particular at young, inexperienced supervisors who have not been in the job long enough to benefit from watching good managers at work.
"A lot is written about bullying managers, but more frequently, the problem is just poor managers. It may be someone who is nice but ineffectual. They may fail to tackle issues or sweep things under the carpet, or they may be too focused on their own careers.
"We appoint people to management positions without thinking about their management skills. They move up because they're good at their present job, not because they're good at managing other people."
When employees go, says Taylor – sometimes for a lower salary – they are usually leaving the manager rather than the company. "Rewards and pay are almost an irrelevance," Taylor says. "Pay is the easy bit when you're managing people. It's a doddle: you pay the market rate. The difficult bit is the area of interpersonal relationships."
Each time an employee leaves, the costs to the company are between 50 and 250 per cent of his or her annual salary. But few organisations ever find out the real reasons for their departure, because they are usually reluctant to say anything that could burn their professional bridges. Instead, they give positive reasons for leaving (career advancement, a better salary) or neutral reasons (family circumstances).
"It's interesting that although there are differences in the reasons for leaving in the different sectors, they're all remarkably similar," Taylor says. "Stagnation – a feeling of not moving forward – plays a big part, but the biggest reasons that people leave are difficulties and personality clashes with their managers."