31 October 2022 |

Employees quit managers, right?

By Hebba Youssef

What’s that saying? People quit managers not jobs or companies. 

Naturally, managers get a lot of heat because they directly impact the day to day of the average employee. I mean, a bad manager has the opportunity to make your life a living hell. We’ve all had at least one micromanaging boss who can’t go an hour without checking in on something. 

I’m triggered just writing that. 

And a good manager, well they are what dreams are made of! They inspire you, they advocate for you, they include you and most importantly they care about you! It is what I aspire to be for my direct reports.  

But damn, it is tough. Between juggling responsibilities, trying to be a good leader, delegating tasks effectively, checking in on work, and giving feedback there aren’t enough hours in the day! 

Not to mention, managers have one of the biggest impacts on employee engagement. 

No pressure or anything! 

So, if engagement has gone down for the first time in a decade does that mean managers are the ones to blame?

Is it me? Am I the problem? 

Blaming managers for the engagement decline feels… wrong. There is so much more at play. 

WTF is going on with managers?

Historically, corporate America’s approach to management has been:

  • Push management as the track for career growth 
  • Promote top performers to manage 
  • Provide little to no training 

It’s a recipe for disaster:

  • 2 out of 5 managers felt unprepared for management when they stepped into the role
  • 87% of middle managers wish they had received more management training 

This approach to management fails to recognize: 

A good manager requires a diverse set of skills that do not come naturally to the average person! To be a great manager you have to master a set of versatile skills and play a few different roles:

  • Managers are psychologists: a great manager understands each of their employees is unique in the sense of what motivates them and what doesn’t. Managers also have to understand the strengths of their team and when and how to deliver their feedback.
  • Managers are inspirational coaches: Imagine Phil Jackson. Managers have to inspire their team during hard times and coach them to achieve their best work. This is my favorite pep talk when I need one.  
  • Managers are the voice of authority: Some days I’m the bad cop. When things go off track managers have to step in and correct the path. These moments can be so very stressful but managers have to play that role as the voice of authority for the team. 

To recap: management is a dynamic and multifaceted role that corporate America gives little to no training for but managers are doing fine.


43% of managers say they are burned out. It is a struggle managing remote work, low engagement/declining productivity, inflation and wage issues, and general employee anxiety about layoffs and this economy.

On top of all of that, managers are often caught in the middle between leadership and the employee, oftentimes forced to execute on things they might not believe in. Prime example: return to the office!

I’ve said this time and time again: it’s a vicious cycle. One that I will dive deeper into at a different time. Today I’m focused on managers and their impact on engagement.

What managers can do to improve engagement:

There are a few ways to make impactful changes when it comes to improving employee engagement on your team. 

1. Foster connection. In the remote era our connection at work has suffered. Last week, I talked about how connection is crucial for engagement and the importance of having a clearly defined mission, vision and values for your employees to connect with. 

When employees understand what the organization values and how those values are displayed throughout the organization they are more likely to be engaged. You also have to hold your team accountable to your values or else they will begin to distrust the organization and become disengaged. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when an organization that says there’s a no asshole policy but then there’s like 3 employees they make exceptions for. Uh, excuse me? That double standard will cause your employees to distrust the organization and begin to disengage. 

Another part of connection is connecting your team’s work to the overall mission and goals of the organization. No one wants to show up to do “busy work,” employees want to know their work matters. 

For managers that means explaining to your employees how their work directly contributes to the organization’s mission, vision and broader goals. Reiterate this in weekly meetings! 

2. Show appreciation. When was the last time you showed appreciation for work being done by your team? I’m hoping the answer is sometime in the last week but I know the reality is probably much longer.

Employee recognition has a direct impact on employee engagement. 

When employees are recognized correctly they are:

  • 4x as likely to be actively engaged in their work
  • 5x as likely to see a growth path at the organization 
  • 5x as likely to be connected to the culture and workplace

Those all sound amazing right? But you should also know that 65% of employees haven’t gotten appreciation in the last year. Yeah, you read that right. YEAR.

We don’t have time for that! Don’t be that manager. 

Employee recognition can take many different forms and it’s important as a manager to know how your team prefers to receive recognition! 

For example: I have an employee who prefers praise in private and not in a public setting. I respect that boundary by sharing praise in our 1:1s. 

Don’t forget: 

  • Once a week is the magic number
  • Ask how your team wants to be recognized (public vs private)
  • Recognition connects employees to your values therefore strengthening engagement 

Need inspiration? Here are 20 ideas for employee recognition! 

My action item for you: show someone on your team appreciation today.  

3. Give feedback. The appreciation I mentioned above is a part of giving feedback but giving feedback is so much more than just appreciation. 

Employees want to grow and develop new skills and they cannot do that without feedback. 2 out of 3 employees said they would leave their job in the next year over lack of growth opportunities!

Building a feedback culture shouldn’t just fall to the manager. Your organization should take steps to build a feedback culture. 

Here are ten tips for building a feedback culture. 

There is so much more to be said about feedback that I’m devoting my entire next newsletter on feedback! I’m back to my old antics with a good cliffhanger. Come back next week for my deep dive on feedback. You won’t want to miss this!