When weak management pushes top performers out the door

Steady Eddy. He’s reliable, hard-working and never complains. He’s also very predictable. What you see is what you get – and not a bit more. Then there’s Soaring Sally. She’s a real go-getter – sharp, ambitious, highly motivated. But she’s also impatient and restless, especially when she disagrees with her manager or the company’s decisions.

Chances are, you have a combination of these employees in your company: the “pluggers” and the “top performers.” In his blog, I Quit-Now What?, Steven DeMaio makes an interesting point about the latter:

“… top performers spend most of their time living with the day-to-day decisions
of their direct managers. What distinguishes a top performer is that she often
has the talent to do her manager's job and a keen ability to assess her
manager's choices. That makes her more likely than other employees to seek a
change in her work situation if she perceives those small matters as hindrances
to her performance, even if the big factors pass muster.”

He goes on to list the things top performers deem job drawbacks with management (and that may ultimately lead to their departure), including:

• Managers who “drop the ball” regarding various workplace priorities and expect their employees to pick up the slack and keep these balls in play
• Managers who ignore the tough questions, which can come across as a sign of weakness or poor reasoning regarding the bigger issues
• Managers who rely more on data (“number crunchers”) than a fair assessment of all the factors at hand
• Managers who are uneasy with their employees’ leadership potential, or worse yet, unwilling to groom them to advance

So no surprises here. While a “one-size-fits-all” management approach may keep your pluggers cranking along, it can also squelch the efforts and attitudes of your strong performers. To keep the bar high with your superstars, the bar needs to be that much higher with the managers who are guiding and, hopefully, inspiring them each day.


working girl said...

I totally agree. It's pretty much all I ever talk about.

Kim Fabian said...

Interesting post, and these frustrations echo what I'm seeing on my new web site A lot of middle managers are posting on the site describing their challenges with communication, prioritization and managing workload. Certainly, leadership is under a lot of pressure, too, but many execs really do need to take a look how they are perceived by their direct reports and other staff, and be committed to make some positive changes before the best employees jump ship.


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