We all know it’s a tight talent market out there, but retention conversations often revolve around employees. HR pros and organizational leaders are pouring a lot of time and energy into keeping top performers engaged and on board.
That’s an important initiative, but it often overlooks the company’s managers — the very people responsible for keeping talented workers happy. As it turns out, organizations shouldn’t be taking their managers for granted: About half of them are ready to walk out the door.
That’s according to a new survey from cloud learning management system TalentLMS and Dr. Ashley Prisant, instructor of leadership, business, and human resources classes at Harvard Extension School, Harvard University.
The study, which looked at why managers leave their jobs, found a number of factors influence manager retention, including work/life balance, recognition, and — perhaps most importantly — workplace relationships.
The Plight of the Isolated Manager
The top factor in manager retention is a good relationship with direct reports. According to the survey, 61 percent of managers say the No. 1 reason they stay at a company is because they work well with the people they manage.
But these relationships, even at their strongest, may not be enough on their own to keep managers engaged. While managers are the go-to supports for their team members, managers can’t necessarily lean on their team members when they need support. Ideally managers should be able to turn to their own supervisors, but that’s not always the case. In fact, 7 percent of the managers surveyed by TalentLMS said they have no one to turn to at work when times are hard.
While 7 percent may not be a huge number, 73 percent of those managers with no one to rely on said they are thinking of leaving their companies within the next year. Moreover, the plight of the isolated manager hints at some structural weaknesses within typical organizational hierarchies.
Fifty-one percent of the isolated managers told TalentLMS they were happier before they became managers, and 62 percent said the isolation set in after they earned their promotions. That raises the question: Why does promotion sometimes leave managers feeling stressed and alone rather than confident and supported?
“As soon as you become a manager, you automatically take on the role of mentor, and you have to make sure that everyone is happy,” says Aris Apostolopoulos, a content writer at TalentLMS who reported the survey results. “In other words, you need to take care of people — which, to be honest, makes you feel like a valuable asset to your company. And you are!”
However, as Apostolopoulos notes, there’s a catch: “The more you advance, the less taken care of you feel.”
“In traditional corporations, managers are not considered accessible and approachable,” Apostolopoulos says. “If you think about it, most of the time, people share worries and troubles more with their peers than with their supervisors. So, when someone gets excluded from small everyday things like office chitchat and, at the same time, has to manage a much heavier workload, they automatically feel shut out.” […]