Leading Edge: Quitting the boss

by Ross Reimer
Ross Reimer, Leading Edge
Ross Reimer has
over 30 years of experience in transportation/supply chain. For the last 15 years he has been President of Reimer Associates, a recruitment firm within supply chain.

You don’t quit your company. You quit your boss.

One thing has become crystal clear throughout my many years in the recruitment profession: people don’t quit their company. No, they quit their boss. It’s almost always personal—a decision based on the specific behaviours of the individual they report to.

As a recruiter, I meet with dozens of people every month to discuss positions we have available on behalf of our clients. The vast majority of these candidates are currently working, and I’m the one who initiates the first meeting, since I’m always looking for top-notch talent.

Why do they agree to meet with me? In some cases they’re highly focused on the progression of their career, and don’t currently see a clear pathway in their present company.

But much more often, the people I meet with are significantly dissatisfied with the person they report to. In many cases, the companies they’re looking to flee enjoy good reputations, and most people would think of them as great places to work. Unfortunately, some of the managers in these “great” organizations actually drive people away.

My experience in our industry tells me there are three behaviours that compel employees to seek change: a boss who is unfair, a boss who is untrustworthy, or a boss who lays out impossible expectations. Let’s explore each of these.

Employees expect to be treated fairly. People who look for alternate employment as a result of their manager’s unfairness do so because of a consistent pattern, not just a single isolated incident.

I could share hundreds of examples with you, some of which are pretty outrageous, and all of which reflect a basic lack of respect and fairness. When people see co-workers receiving the best assignments, for example, or getting insider information from management, or being allowed to do things that would trigger reprimands for others, they become disillusioned.

Even in a complex business with significant demands on employees for productivity and profits, a boss can stop before making a decision and first ask: “What’s the fair thing to do in this situation?”

Fairness goes a long way with employees, and unfairness is a key reason people finally decide to move on.

Lack of trust
I recently met with a sales representative who had been hired with a base salary plus a commission based on her performance. If she met certain targets, she was promised that commissions would flow as per the plan. So, she met her targets, and the commission cheques came through as she had expected—for a few months.

Suddenly, however, the owner decided this particular salesperson was earning too much, so he unilaterally changed the game and trimmed the commission payments. Within just a few days of being lied to, this employee—a top performer—was on the phone looking for a boss she could truly trust.

People become extremely uneasy when they feel the boss’s word and deed can’t be trusted. Our workplaces present enough unavoidable pressures and difficulties as it is. We certainly don’t need a basic lack of trust to poison this working environment.

Impossible expectations
In today’s highly competitive marketplace we all expect our jobs to require important goals and targets. That said, it simply crushes the human spirit when expectations are impossible to achieve. Unfortunately, some bosses believe this is how you get the most from people. They think they need to “crack the whip” and act as though their very command makes the impossible possible.This is absolutely incorrect and drives people away from the organization and towards new–and more reasonable—opportunities.

People are discouraged if they come to work every day and face unattainable goals, along with an unbending boss who is not prepared to clear away legitimate roadblocks or even understand that such obstacles can exist. Many a job search is born from these impossible conditions.

The good news? Many very satisfied individuals work in the transportation and supply chain industry. Often I meet people who speak positively about their work environments. They tell me their boss treats them fairly and honestly and lays out attainable goals, making for an encouraging workplace, not a discouraging one.

Clearly, this strategy produces not only a low turnover rate and highly loyal employees, but it’s also the best pathway towards consistent productivity and long-term profitability.