Top Reasons Why Employees Quit Their Boss

Posted on November 24, 2019 by

Let’s consider a scenario that happens often in today’s workplace. A highly qualified job candidate is hired for a position. With adequate industry experience and/or solid academic background, the employee has already accumulated a certain level of expertise in a given line of work. The person is considered a “good hire.” What happens next varies according to circumstance. In one scenario, the employee performs well (or perhaps exceptionally well) and after some time quits the job. In another scenario, the employee does not perform so well or is perceived as a poor performer and ends up quitting the job out of pressure.

There are many variations to this story but the main narrative is simple: a worker is hired > something doesn’t work out in the workplace > worker quits. This is a common scenario. What’s interesting, however, is a prominent yet overlooked reason why most people quit. A large majority of employees don’t quit their line of work or their “company” (what it does and what it stands for according to its mission and functions). Rather, a large majority of employees quit their bosses. According to a Gallup study 50% of 7,200 surveyed employees quit their jobs to get away from their boss. That’s a lot of wasted talent.

Let’s take a look at the top reasons why people leave their jobs because of their bosses. 

Not being transparent

An agreement to work for pay is a complex and long-term transaction or exchange that entails diverse values and incentives: economic, professional, social, and personal. In other words, an employee is not merely trading his/her time and effort for money. There’s much more to it. And as with any transaction, the buyer and seller must to come to terms early on as to what the course of the exchange, however clear or fuzzy, might look like.

This means that both employer and candidate have big responsibilities: The candidate must gather details with regard to the job, performance goals, pay, work environment, career path, and potential effect on lifestyle. The employer, on the other hand, must be transparent with regard to most if not all of these aspects. Lack of transparency can lead to a doomed transaction. Full transparency, on the other hand, can lead to a healthy and promising start.

Not giving employees deserved recognition

If an employee consistently performs well or makes a remarkable contribution, rewarding that employee with higher pay or a big bonus may satisfy the employee’s economic incentive but not his professional and personal incentives. Money is important, but so is professional growth, peer recognition, and personal satisfaction. Giving recognition is not just about making the employee feel good (you don’t’ ever want to humor or patronize your workers), it’s about providing honest feedback which the employee can use as a benchmark or reference point to assess the conditions of his contribution, work environment, and employment. Monetary compensation and recognition are distinct benefits. You cannot substitute one for the other.

Overworking employees

How often have you run into this situation: “the unspoken rule is that everyone works more than a 40-hour week, including some weekends and holidays”? If this defines the corporate culture that one gets hired into, it ought to be disclosed during the interview process. Most cases it’s not and employees get overworked. Their productivity decreases sharply as they approach burnout.


Let’s look at it from a different perspective. You go to your local bakery and order ten apple pies. Each pie will cost you $15 (a total of $150 for the entire order) and your pies will be available the following day. Now let’s consider what might happen if you make the following requests:

  • “I’ll pay you $150 for ten pies, but please add five more pies for free”;
  • “I know that it usually takes one day to complete an order of my size, but if you work harder, you might be able to finish it in half the time and for the same price”; or
  • “I know that your bakery is closed tomorrow, but I’d like you to open up the bakery to complete my order.”

In a simple short-term transaction, such requests might seem rude and unreasonable. But in a complex and long-term transaction, such as in a work environment, there are enough fuzzy areas for similar requests to go unquestioned. When employees are overworked, particularly without prior agreement, it means that more production or effort is demanded in excess of the agreed financial and professional compensation. It comes off as dishonest and sends a message that an employee’s true worth and personal interests are of little interest or value to the employer.

Not caring enough for their employees

Employees are people who are hired to perform a function. Unfortunately, some managers pay too much attention to the function rather than the people part. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, people don’t work solely for money. They have other equally important motivations. Employees will find it difficult to work eight hours a day, five days a week if their managers care only for the work they do and show little empathy for who they are. Caring for and respecting employees shouldn’t be that difficult; it’s a matter of having basic people skills. Not surprisingly, many people quit their jobs because they don’t get along with their managers. In many cases, however, basic empathy and people skills would have prevented many of these unfortunate situations.

Hiring and promoting the wrong people

A strong workforce is a competitive one. It’s not unusual to observe a healthy form of competition among co-workers. This helps employees ensure that they and their teammates are operating at tip-top shape. When an employee is on-boarded, the new hire’s strengths may or may not be immediately apparent. This usually takes some time. But if a group of workers observe over time that the new hire is under-performing, and if the hiring manager cannot convincingly convey how or why the new hire might make a strong contribution to the group, then the entire team is let down.

Even worse, if employees observe that unqualified workers are promoted (whether the lack of qualification is a reality or perception) then the employees might feel cheated or insulted. In such cases, clear expectations of responsibilities, performance, and assessment are badly needed to avoid such perceptions.

Disregarding an employee’s passion, creativity, and ingenuity

Many people become experts in a given field because they have a passion for it. Sometimes the passion is direct (“I just love coding software”), and sometimes the passion is indirect (“I love to create video games, so I have to be good at coding them”). When an employee is passionate toward a given line of work, she tends to enjoy her work and operates in a more creative manner. Creativity leads to ingenuity, no matter how big or small. Ingenuity drives a company’s capacity for high performance and innovation.

When managers place employees within a restrictive “box,” hampering employees’ potential to work in a creative manner intrinsic to their natural abilities and inclinations, not only do they take away the fundamental drive encouraging employees to build on their talents, they ultimately limit the potential of the entire company. Employees choose to gain expertise in a given line of work for reasons that are more basic and instinctive than economic gain. Take this away, and the company loses its drive, initiative, and capacity for excellence or innovation.

Failing to positively challenge employees

People strive to grow professionally, personally, and financially. Encouraging professional growth among employees is a healthy investment for any company. Growth in professional skills and facility leads to better products, services, and profits which, in turn, can serve as a basis for promotions, higher pay, and further investments in professional development. It’s a positive cycle.


When bosses fail to challenge their employees, particularly high-performing ones, to accomplish difficult tasks requiring a real stretch in skill or intellectual capacity, then employees see a plateau in their professional interests or career path, get bored, and look for more challenging work elsewhere. This is a particularly sad case, as employees who are internally driven to take on challenging tasks ought to be highly coveted and cultivated.


There are plenty more reasons why employees quit their bosses. We’ve mentioned a few major ones. Although they differ slightly, all variations of these reasons have something in common. They demonstrate a failure to take into account the very essence of what employment is about. It’s about a person exchanging time and effort for a number of benefits including money, professional growth, social belonging, and personal satisfaction. If managers can take all of these into account, then it should be easier to retain and cultivate employees who in turn will add greater value to the company.

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