People Don’t Leave Jobs — They Leave Relationships




  • “People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.”

    This is a very popular phrase that circles around the HR and management community a lot…and in fact has been doing so even during the time I was a recruiter some 25+ years ago. And, in all that time has consistently proven to be true.

    However, I’d like to frame this truth in a different way. People don’t leave jobs, they leave relationships. Because, in essence, that’s what we’re talking about. Leaving anyone, boss or not, is leaving a relationship.

    What they are leaving is the way they are being treated.

    You see in business and in life, what impacts the quality of our lives the most are the relationships in our lives. And so, this brings up a critical business truth – the quality of your business is dependent on the quality of relationships in every aspect of your business.

    Whether it’s between your customers, team members, suppliers, manger to team member. A business is an eco-system of relationships.

    So if this is true, then as a business owner, senior leader or HR partner. I suggest we get very clear and stay clear on the types of relationships we want in our business. An easy way to do this is to identify the qualities you most desire.

    Action item: write out a list of qualities you’d like your relationships to demonstrate or possess. Here are a few of mine: compassionate, understanding, caring, considerate, truthful, candid, nonjudgmental, generous…just to name of few.

    The characteristics I’ve listed above, set expectations and parameters for how the relationship will be conducted – on my part and theirs. We call these attributes –boundaries.

    What’s a boundary? – it’s a line not to be crossed. It keeps things in and it keeps things out. Think about this in terms of relationships.

    Boundaries define for you, for those creating them, what will and won’t be tolerated. Your boundaries inform those who enter into a relationship with you how it’s going to go….and if they are not able to behave in the way desired, then there can’t be a relationship and it will need to be modified or ended.

    Except… and here’s the catch, many don’t end it. For whatever the reason (and that’s for a different post) they keep either moving the boundary line or more commonly, tolerating the violation of them. This is rampant in companies.

    This, by the way, confuses the violator…and so they just keep on testing, violating the boundary because they are not experiencing any meaningful consequences when doing so.

    Here’s another phrase worth remembering. We “train” people how to treat us. If we don’t like the way we’re being treated we have to ask ourselves what are we allowing (and this is the really important one) and why.

    Many people will blame others for the effects of the very things – actions, behaviors – they are tolerating and still not do anything to change the situation.

    Now as it relates to business, unbeknownst to us, we do establish boundaries…for example with an employee handbook, a contract, labor laws, company values. But for a fundamentally healthy culture to exist, where all parties can thrive, boundaries need to be set at a team level starting with the manager being clear on he/she desires for the team atmosphere, values, which all directly relate to how each will treat the other. Every team should have a set of agreed-upon attitudes and behaviors (which I call team values) which each member is expected to honor.

    Please know – and this is critical – the qualities of a team’s culture is directly related to the level/ amount of tolerations of the manager.

    Ultimately, when a team member does not honor the values, what should the manager do? Quite simply have a series of conversations that flush out if the team member is aware and do they care.

    If they don’t, that’s your clue they are not a fit for your group. Not caring reflects a social and emotional immaturity that you will have to spend excessive time and energy managing. Do you want to do that? Do you have time for it? A warning…it will feel very parental, be very stressful and prove to be exhausting!

    So here’s your “people skills for managers” coaching tip: See your business, team, customers as relationships. Decide how you want them to go/be. Be clear. Also, decide – if any characteristics are violated – what will you do?

    Remember, ultimately everything in business is about human behavior and relationships.

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    Author: JoAnn Corley

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