Improving employee retention is one of the key factors in maintaining organizational stability and success. Why do employees leave a job?

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” – Peter F. Drucker
There are many reasons to leave, some plannable, some not. Some are avoidable, some not. If an employee decides to call it quits, their managers should want to know why. The reason for this is that it could have been avoided and the manager could have fixed it. And even if they cannot retain the one employee who pointed out all the things going wrong, they can learn from this one case to avoid any more losses in the future.

Let’s exclude such reasons as ‘my partner is moving to another country and I want to go with them, maternity/paternity leaves, illness, or starting a full-time education.

Let’s focus on the snafus a manager can do something about.

The Top Reasons to Leave

  • Lack of management recognition
  • Lack of contribution to business goals
  • Bored/unchallenged
  • Relationship with co-workers

Source: Top 10 Reasons Why Employees Quit.

Now looking at these top reasons, all of them could have been addressed by an attentive manager, which is why I state: people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers! If a manager realizes through good communication with his employees that e.g. one of them is bored/unchallenged, he needs to take action. A person will only state that they left because they were bored/unchallenged if their manager did not realize this or if their manager was unable to fix it. The most effective prevention mechanism here is communication– the more open, the better. The same goes for the other three reasons listed above.

The threat of someone leaving due to the general work environment needs to be taken seriously. It can indicate a bad fit between the company’s real leadership style as opposed to the one to be found in mission statements. It can also point to destructive sub-cultures cultivated by certain teams or team members that need to be nipped in the bud. It should also be seen as an opportunity to find the hidden problems because somebody was brave enough to articulate them. Again, active communication is required here.

We at The Cecily Group are planning to build a tool that will help enhance your retention rates. Our Entrepreneurial Tool will be designed to create a self-managing company. It will allow both managers and employees to be on the same page. How will the Entrepreneurial Tool help with the main reasons stated above?

Lack of management recognition:

The Entrepreneurial Tool will have the mission, vision, and values of the company at its core and build the projects based on those. Recognition will come out of completed projects that fit the values of the company. Projects will be discussed before starting and the input of every employee will be taken into consideration.


With the Entrepreneurial Tool, employees will receive tasks that fit their unique abilities. Unique abilities are what employees both excel at and are highly interested in. The reasons for having employees work within their unique abilities from the companies’ perspective are that the tasks are best done by those who are good at them and want to do them. However, a unique ability is not only a skill that is beneficial to the company; it also triggers motivation and emotional benefits to the employees themselves when they work on projects that they both can do well and are interested in, both alleviating and preventing boredom. The Entrepreneurial Tool will use the Capacity Matrix to further allow for the development of employees’ skills and to move an employee further along the scale to more challenging tasks.

Lack of contribution to business goals

Clarity is key: the company’s mission, vision, and values will be visible to everyone. Since each project is assigned to a specific goal (long- or short-term), employees will know which goal they are working towards. At the end of a project, the Entrepreneurial Tool will ask employees for a rating as to whether the project was within their unique abilities and the answer will be displayed in a chart. By collecting this information constantly, projects or tasks that did not fit so well can be detected and traded for other assignments in the future. That way, an employee not only knows which business goals they are contributing toward, but also can visibly see that the projects are catered to their unique abilities.

Relationships among co-workers

Teamwork is based on trust and a sense of satisfaction in what has been achieved by the team. When employees work within their unique abilities, they are many times more likely to have a sense of satisfaction and to see projects through even when hindrances occur, equating to more success for the team. Past team success is the best foundation for future trust among team members, so aligning team members to their unique abilities, clearly defining responsibilities, and making their progress visible to them while allowing them to have a real impact by responding to their feedback are all factors which will enhance co-workers’ relationships and contribute to a “Go-Team!” positive attitude.

Why Is the Focus Here on the Manager?

Relationship issues

Employees have a working relationship with their managers and managers are the first to be addressed in case of obstacles or challenges.

Neutral party

if the reason is that the employees have a bad relationship with their colleagues, managers can serve as neutral mediators.

Network hub

A manager provides direction, feedback, and a connection to the rest of the organization.

Changes to the assignment of work tasks

Managers are in charge of the work and have more possibilities to adapt anything that does not fit – anything that makes the employee unhappy or feel unrecognized.


Managers can up their own game to keep their employees happy. A manager can communicate more, stay in touch with employees’ needs, or pick up topics that need to be improved and discuss them at higher levels.

Organizational changes

A manager is one level higher and therefore might have more possibilities to change practicalities e.g. the salary, the working hours or the amount of travel needed.

Birds’-eye view

A manager has a better view of strategic and long-term planning and might see an option for change coming up that the employee is unaware of.


Leaving a manager does not always have to be a negative experience<: another reason to leave which I have not yet mentioned is due to a promotion. A promotion comes with positive vibes: it is all about moving up, not about leaving. Sometimes employees are promoted and still stay with the manager if their manager oversees several hierarchy levels. In that case, nothing changes manager-wise. But promotion can also mean that employees move up and are at the same level as their former managers. This can create a very interesting dynamic. It depends on the personal relationship between the manager and the newly promoted employee. This kind of promotion to the same level happened to me once and I was just very lucky that my former manager was always there to support me and was very happy for me to have received the recognition. I could always count on his experience and no question went unanswered. As I said, I was lucky. So, I did leave him behind as a manager, but I gained a highly-valued colleague, instead.

Issues With the Manager

Sometimes though, the reason to leave is the manager itself. Now, this is tricky for the employee. It is usually not something that they want to discuss with the manager directly, especially not if it is a personality mismatch that cannot be salvaged. This is a case where HR departments (or the board if the case happens in HR itself) step in as the main contact.

Often, the situation can only be solved by moving the employee to a different team or even department. It could be a simple mismatch which does not immediately mean that the manager or their management style is questioned. If complaints about the same manager keep adding up, then it is more than a simple mismatch and needs to be looked into by HR. In my career, I faced this problem. I was still young and decided for myself that it was time to find something else. The job itself was interesting, and the colleagues were nice, but having personal issues with my boss and not seeing eye-to-eye on most working decisions were both so problematic that I looked for something else on my own, inside the same organization. What disappointed me was that HR never asked for a meeting to discuss why I wanted the change. I can only imagine that they already knew what the issue was and could do little to change it.

Looking back at my career, I realize that what I remember first about past jobs are the people I worked with, not the tasks I had to do. So, when I did decide to move on, I left people behind with that I enjoyed (or did not) working and that left a mark. Some managers were great, some not so much, some became almost mentors to me, some I am still in contact with and yes, I did primarily leave them when I left my job. If you do decide to leave, keep it classy, and remember, you always meet people twice in life.

“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I use my own experience with my previous managers to enhance my results, now that I have moved up to become a manager. Currently, in my work with The Cecily Group, I use a system of regular communication enhanced with the concept of unique abilities to stay in touch with everyone and see that all tasks are organized according to employee preferences and skill sets. It has been a fantastic experience for me to see how well this system works, and in my opinion, it has a very strong impact on employee retention. If you would like to learn more about project management using unique abilities, see my blog here.

To sum up, there are both positive and negative reasons that people leave their managers, and managers do have a degree of control over employee retention. From my personal experience, I have met both situations: where no satisfactory result was obtained, and where issues were resolved and I was able to keep employees despite difficulties. It’s the degree of employee satisfaction that makes all the difference.

With the knowledge that many of the reasons why employees leave could have been avoided, we at The Cecily Group are building a tool that will increase employee retention. Our Entrepreneurial Tool benefits all in the company: founders, managers, and employees. Especially in times of more remote work, the risk of people leaving is higher as the connection to the company might suffer. With the Entrepreneurial Tool, anyone working at the company will stay connected, informed, up-to-date, and part of the bigger picture. Communication is the solution to many of the issues mentioned. Having the Entrepreneurial Tool to support communication and information sharing will help make work more transparent, more appropriate to employees’ skill sets, and more motivating.

Higher Employee Satisfaction = Improved Employee Retention

Contact The Cecily Group for more information about our Entrepreneurial Tool.