Employees were almost three times more likely to leave a role because of poor leadership, compared to wanting to be paid more.”

Employees leave bosses, not companies

In their 2022 Australian Talent Insights Report, Aquent reported that: “Poor leadership and management was by far the most common reason why people left their job. In fact, employees were almost three times more likely to leave a role because of poor leadership, compared to wanting to be paid more.”

And there it is: employees leave bosses, not companies. And that’s because the capabilities companies look for in their managers and leaders still lean mostly towards the so-called hard stuff – technical skills, administrative skills, commercial awareness, and a track record of successfully managing financial resources. Their job, after all, is to optimise the systems and processes so that they bring the largest financial reward by maximising output and minimising cost.

Well, since employees are the largest financial resource in most companies and organisations, let’s look at the costs when it comes to employee attrition and engagement. SHRM reports that the cost to replace a leading level employee (on a salary of $125k) is $312k. Gallup has estimated that a disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary. Clearly traditional indicators of managerial potential are out of date and need a serious overhaul if companies want to decrease attrition, increase engagement, and minimise costs. 

Soft skills (be nice) are the hard skills

That’s when so-called “soft skills” come into the equation (so-called because soft skills are, in fact, the hard skills). Some of the soft skill requirements to be a great manager or leader include communication, judgment, creativity, perception, persuasion, enthusiasm, and empathy. And the BIG one I want to focus on is empathy, because that is the one human skill will make you a great boss to everybody (even if you’re bad at the other stuff).

empathy noun the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. 

Empathy is managing and leading others in a human way. By that I mean from the heart, not just the head. We all want to feel good about ourselves and live happy, full, loving lives, no matter where we are – at work or at home. Leaders and managers who reckon the only way to get stuff done (and to get ahead) is to be assertive, forceful, and hard-nosed will not win the trust, respect, or admiration of anyone: because they are behaving like dickheads. In life, we actively remove ourselves from toxic relationships and people like this, so why wouldn’t we do the same at work! That’s why 57% of people quit their job.

My top tip for leaders and managers

Here’s my secret message for ALL managers and leaders working in the mighty CBD buildings across the globe: If you want to have the respect, the trust, and the support of the people you lead and manage:

BE NICE (or they will fuck off).

So smile. Greet people in the morning. Chat to people in the lifts. Ask questions. Give people compliments. Be interested in them. Listen when they speak. Say and do things that trigger positive emotions (not negative ones). Sure, hard conversations and decisions will still need to be made, and tough weeks will still happen. That’s business. Except people will feel a lot better about themselves and each another because you were nice to them. 

Remember, nice people finish first.

Be nice or they will leave
Be nice or they will leave
Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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