The real reasons companies lose great people

It’s often said that “people don’t leave good companies, they leave bad bosses,” but is that entirely true, or is there more to it?

From entry level staff to business leaders, people often mention feeling underappreciated, overworked, bored or devalued. Sometimes, of course, people leave just because they’ve found great opportunities elsewhere. Underneath all of this, I’ve often heard people discuss more menacing problems and behaviors that exist within most companies—problems that are not always easily digested, candidly discussed or addressed.

Great people leave because of:

Overshadowing personal differences that are anything but trivial to the individual experiencing needless exposure to it. Personal differences shouldn’t play a role in the workplace, especially to the extent that they negatively impact others. Yet everyday people bring personal bias, personal beliefs, and personal expectations into work with them. When this happens, it has the ability to seep into conversations, and behaviors at the water cooler all the way through to the board room. Unfortunately, employees in lower ranking positions tend to be on the losing end if higher-level employees or management impose their personal beliefs in ways that adversely impact them. If left unchecked, sometimes employee-to-employee or even boss-to-employee differences can create real conflict that can surface in front of other colleagues, or even clients and vendors. It can lead to embarrassment, additional animosity and cause valuable employees to look for an exit.

The exclusive clubs and cliques—and not the good kind of “exclusive.” No matter what the label, these are closed clubs that exclude. These can be smaller or even large groups of people aligned around “things in common,” unknowingly or perhaps knowingly shutting out other employees. That puts excluded individuals at a disadvantage for knowledge sharing and building morale. This is a widespread issue in many companies, and can happen throughout all levels. Often companies don’t recognize when they have lost great employees due to these exclusive clubs, or when they have retained the problematic employees instead.

Micro-managers who hire individuals with the right abilities to perform independently, then thwart that independence once he or she is on board. Regardless of position, micromanagement isn’t fun to endure, and can be stressful enough to leave a good employee looking for greener pastures. Micro-managers can be turned around, though, and learn to show stronger trust in their team members.

The workplace wardens that restrict access to upper management. They instead choose to filter all work performed by other staff. This isn’t only a problem for the employees who want to be recognized for their hard work and ideas, it’s also a problem for higher-level management. Why? It creates an invisible barrier that stops C-suites from being able to take notice of the company’s most valuable employees, and the skills and abilities that the company has at its disposal. It’s sad to say that some of these workplace wardens may even go as far as to take credit for the work of others. Great companies lose highly talented but frustrated people to this more often than they know.

Career killers who neglect to see the potential in others, or choose to block their potential, whether consciously or not. Ideally, employees grow personally, professionally and even emotionally during their time with a company. During this time, their value to the company increases. If this is lost on the company they are employed with, it’s likely they will search for other opportunities to pursue their professional dreams. Because of the high level of intellectual capital, the more senior the position, the greater the impact.

Inflexible company policies that can be a deal breaker in this new mobile economy. Again, this affects all levels of the org chart. Inflexibility can come in the form of compensation, vacation policies, health care options, work hours, remote work, technologies or a whole host of other factors. One thing is for sure: companies with inflexible policies and practices are bound to lose great employees. This can definitely be an issue if competitors are using more flexible practices.

The never-ending workarounds that make for an unnecessarily tedious day. People aren’t typically afraid of hard work as a rule, but working harder than necessary is frustrating. Too many workarounds could be the result of funding constraints, rigid philosophies or the wrong tools and processes. If valuable employee time and skills are wasted on unnecessary practices, those individuals are likely to seek companies with a more innovative approach to work.

In addition to these, there may be other reasons your company may be losing great people. Take the time to get to the bottom of the real reasons and put a plan in place to reduce the risks.

Post by Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group and a Co-founder and Director, Information Systems & Technology Advisory at Conture Business Advisors, PS. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications and a contributor for the Price of Business Talk Radio 1110 KTEK (Home of Bloomberg Radio), Houston, TX. She has 20+ years in business, (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to and