People don’t leave jobs. They leave situations


‘People don’t leave jobs. They leave managers’

‘People don’t leave jobs. They leave managers.’ Several years ago you couldn’t escape this cliché. It’s still ubiquitous today. But it’s only half the story… and I think it does a disservice both to employees and managers. People don’t leave managers: they leave situations.

Let’s start with some basic maths: there are 24 hours in a day. We’re meant to spend 8 of those sleeping, right? So we have 16 waking hours in a day. For many, 8 of those 16 are spent ‘doing’ work. Add an hour’s commute at each end (pre-Covid-19), and you’ve hit 10 of your 16 waking hours. That’s 62.5%.

62.5% of your waking life is spent at work.

62.5% of your waking life between the ages of twenty-something and seventyish is spent at work. This is why it’s so important to enjoy what you do for a living. What’s the alternative – spending the majority of your conscious adult life miserable?

Reasons as unique as individuals

If we’re going to spend a lot of time at work – and it’s important that we are fulfilled by our work – we need to understand that fulfilment means different things to different people.

For some it could be money above all else (contrary to popular belief, this is actually quite rare). It could be personal growth. Or technical learning. It could be the ability to ‘switch off’ when leaving the office and enjoy quality time with family.

Humans aren’t binary creatures. Our lives don’t conform to 1s and 0s

Whatever it is, it’s unique to individuals and their circumstances. Humans aren’t binary creatures. Our lives don’t conform to 1s and 0s. Everyone’s situation is different.

Some people might dislike their manager, but have the ability not to let that affect their lives outside of work, perhaps encouraged to adopt that attitude by the fact that their job provides significant benefits (e.g. a short commute).

Alternatively, some might love their boss but be bored with their job and want a fresh challenge. Or perhaps their partner has an opportunity overseas. Or a family member is ill and they need to spend more time with them.

Managers are just one piece of the puzzle

My point is this: just as working from home is one piece of the flexible working pie, people leaving managers is just one piece of the situational pie. Of course a bad manager can totally disrupt morale and make work horrible; I’m pretty sure everyone reading this can attest to that. But we nonetheless need to take a myriad of emotions and rationalisations into account when examining why people change jobs.

My view is that job moves should be celebrated

My view is that job moves should be celebrated. Think about it. In ‘normal’ circumstances people move jobs to better themselves financially, emotionally or intellectually… and sometimes all three. That sounds pretty good.

And for the employer, yes, you may be losing your superstar performer, but bringing fresh people in creates diversification of thought. Again, that sounds pretty good to me.

Start with empathy

So what do you do if you’re a manager and one of your team utters those five classic words, ‘Have you got a minute?’ Start with empathy. It isn’t about you, and your employee is probably really nervous about having this talk with you.

Make it easy for them. Moving jobs is a big deal. After all, 62.5% of their life is going to change.

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