Organizational Wellness

Unveiling the Truth: People Don't Quit Jobs, They Quit Bosses

Sep 20, 2023
Last Updated May 13, 2024

Sarah had always been passionate about her job in marketing. She loved brainstorming creative campaigns, collaborating with her colleagues, and watching the projects she worked on come to life.

But there was one aspect of her job that had started to overshadow her enthusiasm: her boss, Mr. Thompson. He was known for his unpredictable mood swings, demanding nature, and tendency to micromanage. Sarah vividly remembered one incident when she had spent days preparing a presentation for a client and was excited to share her ideas. However, during the meeting, Mr. Thompson consistently interrupted her, questioned her choices, and even dismissed some of her key points without explanation. Sarah felt deflated, frustrated, and embarrassed in front of the clients.

We’ve all heard it before: people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. Bosses like Mr Thompson can discourage the workforce, damage employee engagement and productivity, and lower morale to the point where people leave the organization. On the other hand, a fabulous boss can boost employee retention and inspire the very best in their team. leadership has a huge impact on employees and the success of the company — for better or for worse. 

Here are tactics organizations can use to heal hostile environments, and help answer the question: “Why do people leave their jobs?”


The Boss-Driven Exodus: Debunking the Myths

Conventional wisdom often points to dissatisfaction with job roles and responsibilities as the primary reason for why people leave jobs. This assumption suggests that if employees aren't content with their tasks or don't find their work engaging, they are more likely to seek new opportunities. While this perspective isn't entirely baseless, it overlooks a crucial factor that researchers and experts have been shedding light on: the role of managerial relationships in employee retention.

The saying "People don't quit jobs, they quit bosses" encapsulates a universal truth about the employee experience. Employees are often willing to endure challenging tasks, long hours, and even occasional setbacks if they have a supportive and respectful relationship with their superiors. Conversely, a difficult boss can make even the most exciting job feel like a daily struggle. That’s why it’s so important for HR to help leaders develop the top qualities of a good manager and other skills that serve the workforce.

A survey conducted by GoodHire found that a whopping 82% of American workers said they would potentially quit their jobs because of a bad manager — so the leaders at your company need to know how to go beyond just managing tasks and making decisions. Healthy leadership is about creating an environment where employees feel valued, empowered, and motivated to contribute their best. 

The Anatomy of a Detrimental Boss-Employee Dynamic

The detrimental boss-employee dynamic stems from traits and behaviors of ineffective leaders that fuel high turnover rates. These bosses often lack clear communication, leaving employees confused and undervalued. Instead of providing mentorship, they micromanage or offer minimal guidance, hindering growth. Supportive leadership fosters loyalty, while other bosses dismiss concerns and erode that trust. 

For example, Gallup discovered that only one in four employees strongly believe that their current employers care about their wellbeing. This can take a serious toll on employees over time and certainly doesn’t foster any loyalty. It’s up to the leaders in an organization to create a more caring and supportive dynamic, especially when it comes to clear communication and mentorship programs. Effective bosses cultivate open dialogue, nurturing talent and sparking engagement. By embodying qualities like mentorship and supportive guidance, they inspire teams, fostering a positive work environment that drives productivity and reduces turnover.

Uncovering Turnover’s Deeper Truths

Personal conflict with a manager is not the only reason people leave their job due to their boss. Deeper psychological and emotional factors, like feeling undervalued or unappreciated, can chip away at employee health and push people to look for more fulfilling job experiences. The desire for recognition and respect is strong, prompting employees to seek environments where their contributions matter. 

To counteract this and reduce the number of quitting employees, fostering a sense of purpose and belonging becomes crucial. When bosses create an atmosphere of inclusivity and mentorship, employees feel valued and emotionally connected to their work. Constructive feedback and recognition nourish a positive psychological environment, reducing the urge to quit. By addressing these intrinsic motivations, companies can build a workplace where employees find their roles meaningful, ultimately minimizing turnover driven by boss-related factors.

HR as the Catalyst for Positive Change

HR can be the catalyst for organizational change—in fact, HR leaders are some of the few people who can instill these changes from the top of the corporate food chain. To create an employee experience that uplifts your workforce through supportive leadership, consider implementing some of these actions:

  • Assess organizational needs: Conduct a thorough analysis to identify areas where supportive leadership and mentorship can make the most impact. Consider employee feedback, performance reviews, and retention data.
  • Leadership training: Develop customized training programs for managers to enhance their leadership skills. These can focus on communication, emotional intelligence, active listening, and conflict resolution.
  • Mentorship framework: Design a structured mentorship program that matches experienced employees (mentors) with those seeking guidance (mentees). Clearly outline goals, expectations, and milestones to ensure a productive mentorship journey.
  • Communication channels: Establish clear communication channels for employees to express their interest in becoming mentors or mentees. Use both digital platforms and in-person interactions to promote the program.
  • Feedback loop: Create a mechanism for participants to provide feedback on the mentorship program. Use this input to refine the program and ensure its continuous improvement.
  • Recognition and rewards: Acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of mentors and mentees through recognition programs. This encourages active engagement and motivates participants.

Prioritizing the needs of its employees through strong leadership can help both your workforce and business thrive.

Employee Wellness Belongs at the Center of Your Organization

So, is it true that people don't leave bad jobs? 

In the intricate landscape of workplace dynamics, the profound influence of boss-employee relationships on retention is undeniable. While job roles are pivotal, it's the quality of these relationships and the health of the work environment that often determines an employee's decision to stay or leave an organization. “People don't quit jobs, they quit bosses" is just one way of saying that employees need to feel like their personal wellbeing and contributions matter!

Providing an employee wellness program can embed wellbeing in your organization. Wellhub can help you establish a holistic wellness program that helps employees prioritize their health, including physical fitness, mental wellness, and more. With access to gyms, wellness apps, and studio classes, it is an easy way for HR to invest in an accessible and convenient wellness program that drives bottom-line results. 

Talk to a Wellbeing Secialist today to join the more than 15,000 companies already leveraging Wellhub.

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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