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People don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers - or do they?

Lili Z
Years and years of Java development. Now building One Stop Beauty Online. Still loads of Java, plus other new toys.
Originally published at tech.onestopbeauty.online on ・2 min read

Every now and again I come across this “pearl of wisdom” (in slightly different variations):

People don’t leave bad jobs / companies,
they leave because of bad bosses / managers

Whilst I’m sure this is true in some/many cases, I always hear an internal voice of protest.

I’ve been in the industry for close to 15 years. I went through a number of different bosses/projects (a lot of them contracts). In all of my career, I left due to my management exactly once.

All the other times?

  • it was always supposed to be a short-term engagement (early in career - internships etc.)
  • a (small) company lost a client I was at, so was forced to change my role and I prefered to stay a developer
  • I wanted to travel more and my job-at-the-time couldn’t offer enough flexibility (switched from perm to contracts)
  • the project has reached a maintenance phase, a big part of the team was leaving, plus I wanted to go on a long holiday
  • a different offer, “too good to pass”, came my way - I wasn’t looking at the time, but I decided I had to take it
  • the project was coming to a slow, uncertain phase (lack of funding), my contract was up for renewal and I decided not to
  • I decided to work on my own startup

Vast majority of cases where I stopped working for my managers, it was one of two reasons (sometimes both at the same time):

  • the project was winding down anyway (dev complete, or funding cut) and it was time to move on. As a contractor you always take into account that after the active phase, the contract might not be renewed
  • other circumstances completely outside of control of my manager (my travel-bug, or another amazing offer)

In all these cases I always made an effort to explain my reasons to my boss. In all cases I found understanding, we split our ways with no hard feelings, and in fact some of my ex-bosses became my again-bosses later on.

I really wish this quote stopped doing rounds, because I feel it might be putting an unnecessary feeling of “what did I do wrong / what could I have done better” on many perfectly good managers out there.

So to all of the “good ones”, take my word: Sometimes a person handing in their notice is really not your fault, and there is absolutely nothing you could have done to prevent this.

What were your reasons for leaving your role? What’s your ratio of bad-boss-vs-other-reasons? Was I very lucky - or are “bad bosses” not that common after all?

Discussion (3)

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ramospedro profile image
Pedro

I agree with your point of view.

The vast and complex ocean of reasons that sum up to make someone leave its job can include many things, as you said. In my case, those reasons were:

  • Bad "boss/manager"
  • Feeling that I was stuck and had stopped learning
  • Toxic environment
  • Unfulfilled promises
  • Salary

Those, among other things, usually sum up and lead to the final decision.
I guess all those might be a result of bad management, but the point is: leaving a job is a process related to several reasons and a lot of thinking.

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lilianaziolek profile image
Lili Z Author

Very true!
I also think that just one reason is usually not enough for someone to give up on a job. For example, if you have a bad manager, but your team and project are great, you're much more likely to stick around. Each of the other reasons you mention I also encountered here and there (either in my career, or listening to my friends / people I mentor).

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scottishross profile image
Ross Henderson

To be fair that phrase isn't supposed to be a "fact", but I believe when studies are done a lot of people leave their job because of poor management, toxic environments, lack of advancement or training, etc. Generally, these reasons can all be rectified with good management.

I'd also say it's a phrase for managers, rather than the normal employee. It's to remind managers that being a good manager to the employee is far more beneficial to them and the company than it is to just be an adult babysitter.