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Why Even Good Bosses Lose Employees

Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks

It's not just bad bosses who push employees to leave for other jobs; good bosses often have the same effect, new research finds.

While you might expect that employees who have good relationships with their bosses would be happier and more committed to their organizations, a study set to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Personnel Psychology discovered that those positive bonds often aren't strong enough to prevent workers from leaving for another employer.

The study's authors found that good bosses are more likely to invest in developing their staff by grooming them to become better and more competent employees. This in turn makes those employees more in-demand.

Although these valuable employees could move up the ranks in their current organizations, that path may not always be available. Additionally, managers might not really want their workers to move up internally, because it means losing a good employee, said Ravi Gajendran, one of the study's authors and a professor of business administration at the University of Illinois. This ultimately makes these workers attractive to employers in the outside job market.

"That's why people leave good managers, precisely because good managers invest in and develop their employees," Gajendran said in a statement. "They typically get a better job with more responsibilities at their next employer."

The study found that while managers might be inclined to react badly when an employee with whom they developed a good relationship leaves, it's in their best interest to maintain good ties. [ ]

"Recognize that it's not personal but an opportunity to build a relationship with someone from another company," Gajendran said. "If you have a good relationship with an employee who's left to join a client or competitor, you can leverage that relationship and potentially use them as a source of future business or as a back-channel source of information."

As more organizations see the value in keeping good relationships with their former employees, an increasing number of companies are creating online social networks for ex-workers to keep in touch, Gajendran said. Companies are also organizing social events for ex-employees, such as wine tastings or golf outings, as a way to potentially help tap into their alumni expertise.

"Our paper shows that even employees who are leaving can be valuable somewhere down the line," Gajendran said.

Developing this positive post-employment relationship needs to start with the "off-boarding process," when employees are leaving. The study's authors said organizations should do more than just a quick exit interview and a pat on the back.

"You should be thinking of them as a contact you can tap in the future," Gajendran said. "So it's a potential future asset that you want to think strategically about."

The study shows that it helps if managers make an attempt to keep their valued employees, even if the manager thinks it's unlikely the worker will accept the offer to stay.

"Managers who make a good-faith attempt at retaining the leaving employee actually elicit the most goodwill from alumni," Gajendran said. "When people believe that they were valued by their former organization, they are more likely to have goodwill toward the organization and, thus, more likely to be a source of future benefits."

The study was co-authored by Deepak Somaya, an associate professor at the University of Illinois; Xiangmin Liu, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University; and Sumita Raghuram, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Image Credit: Manczurov/Shutterstock
Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks
Business News Daily Staff
Chad Brooks is a writer and editor with more than 20 years of media of experience. He has been with Business News Daily and for the past decade, having written and edited content focused specifically on small businesses and entrepreneurship. Chad spearheads coverage of small business communication services, including business phone systems, video conferencing services and conference call solutions. His work has appeared on The Huffington Post,,, Live Science, IT Tech News Daily, Tech News Daily, Security News Daily and Laptop Mag. Chad's first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014.