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Nothing can hurt a manager more than seeing a top employee leave. Often, however, the manager is the cause. His behaviour has sent them packing.

Here are nine unhealthy habits those managers exhibit, according to psychologist Travis Bradberry:

  • They overwork people: It’s tempting to work your best people hard, but it’s also a trap. “Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance,” he writes on LinkedIn. If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, he suggests increasing their status as well. Give them raises, promotion and title changes, which can justify the heavier workload.
  • They don’t recognize contributions and reward good work: Kudos count. Give them out. Ask employees how they like to be rewarded and heed their advice.
  • They fail to develop people’s skills: This is not about sending them on courses but about being alert and giving feedback. “When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback – more so than the less talented ones – and it’s your job to keep it coming,” he says.
  • They don’t care about their employees: It’s frustrating to work diligently for someone who doesn’t care about anything other than your production yield. Managers must balance being professional with being human.
  • They don’t honour their commitments: This just fuels mistrust and bitterness. As well, if the boss doesn’t honour his commitments, why should an employee?
  • They hire and promote the wrong people: “When you work your tail off only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top, it’s a massive insult. No wonder it makes good people leave,” Mr. Bradberry says.
  • They don’t let people pursue their passions: Talented people are passionate and need the chance to pursue those interests. But, he notes, many managers want people to work within a little box, fearing, wrongly, that productivity will decline if they let subordinates expand their focus and pursue their passions. In fact, productivity is unleashed.
  • They fail to engage creativity: Similarly, it’s folly to limit your employees’ creativity. But some managers – bad managers – do.
  • They don’t challenge people intellectually: Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, you need to outline lofty goals that push your people out of their comfort zones.

"If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you," Mr. Bradberry concludes.

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The PESO promotion program

Digital marketer Gini Dietrich developed the PESO model to guide your promotions. The acronym hits four key possibilities: Paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media.

Start with owned media – websites, blogs and podcasts – the stuff you control, allowing you to put out exactly the message you want, down to captions and links. "Without owned media, all of your paid, earned, and shared efforts are moot. That said, your owned media efforts have to be smart, strategic, unique enough to rise to the top, and provide value to your prospective and current customers," she writes on the Spin Sucks blog.

Next comes shared, or social, media. She says it's vital to continually test and tweak your approach here, using available data. Some tips she offers:

  • On the day you publish a piece of owned content, share the link on Twitter four times, three hours apart. On day two, send it out twice. On day three, once. You can even send it out a few weeks after initial publication to capitalize on the so-called “long tail” of later readers.
  • Don’t neglect Facebook. Post content once a day and amplify its reach using paid media.

Third is paid media, which comprises ads across various media, from billboards to websites. It can be used to ramp up interest in something on your owned media.

"You don't want to put money behind every single piece of content you produce, but I would look at the most popular for the month and amplify or sponsor that. Test it out once a month on each platform and see what happens. It's an inexpensive test and I promise, once you show results, you will easily get more money to do more," Ms. Dietrich says.

Earned media, surprising, is last. Supposedly, it's golden; the free publicity you get when others write or produce stories on your company. But in today's world, she says it cannot happen without the help of the rest of the PESO model to build credibility and relationships over time.

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3. The Humble Leader Checklist

Humility counts, except perhaps for the President of the United States. Jim Collins identified humility, along with determination, as key ingredients to success, and other commentators have concurred. Some people believe humility is innate, but trainer Dan Rockwell offered a 10-question checklist on his blog that can help you improve it:

  • How might I acknowledge the importance of others?
  • How might I invite constructive dissent?
  • Who holds alternative perspectives?
  • How can I open channels that enable others to offer challenging feedback?
  • What might I say or do that expresses confidence in others?
  • How might I connect with people with less status?
  • What is my greatest contribution? How might I bring it to the organization?
  • Who can I brag about?
  • How might I help others get what they want, while they serve our vision and mission?
  • How might I stretch myself? After all, playing it safe is self-protection.

In addition, he suggests reflecting on humble leaders you know and thinking about how you might model their behaviors.

"If you have an ego problem, find a humble leader and ask them to be your mentor," he says. "Egotistical leaders, who aspire to humility, hold the key to success within themselves. Use the desires you have for yourself as triggers to turn toward others."

Quick hits

  • Research suggests that the best way to end an e-mail that requires a response from somebody else is to use the words “thanks in advance.”
  • Postpone that early morning cup of coffee. Your cortisol levels are naturally higher for the first hour or two after you wake up, increasing your alertness already and minimizing some of the effects of the caffeine. By the time you get to work, your cortisol has probably dropped and that jolt of caffeine will be helpful.
  • After assessing over 15,000 leaders, Development Dimensions International found empathy was the most critical driver of overall performance of others – specifically, the ability to listen and respond with empathy.
  • Too much structured knowledge hurts creativity, a study by Rotman School of Management PhD student Yeun Joon Kim and Professor Chen-Bo Zhong shows. Their experiments found participants displayed less creativity and cognitive flexibility when asked to complete tasks using categorized sets of information compared to working with items not ordered in any special way. This may apply to teams where members organize ideas according to functional similarity, area of expertise or discipline. The researchers suggest people put their ideas randomly on a white board and then think about some of their connections.
  • There’s only one interview question that matters, insists provocative HR blogger Laurie Ruettimann: “Let’s say you’re hired. A year has passed. You’re about to quit. How have we failed you as an organization?” It allows you to hear the candidate answering an uncomfortable question and signals the pitfalls you can try to avoid in future.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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