Three managers, three reasons: 'Why I quit my job without a new one'

07 June 2018 -

Career changeThis is how to retain your senior staff – from three managers who left posts without a new role to go to

Rebecca Rock

A recent research report from recruiter Robert Half revealed that nine out of 10 new hires would leave a job that failed to meet expectations within the first month. The global study, which surveyed 11,000 employees across 11 countries, showed that 44% of those that would leave gave poor management as their deciding factor.

However, long-serving members of staff are just as ruthless in their quest for rewarding careers. Here, three managers reveals why they left a job without another one to go to – and what organisations can do to keep talented employees like them, satisfied for longer.

“Roles may change but the physical environment is the same”

Seven years into a career as a senior account manager for an advertising agency, Joseph Oliver* handed in his notice in a spontaneous meeting with his line manager. Responsible for five main clients and with at least 12 direct reports internally, Oliver had enjoyed his time and growing responsibility within the firm. That was the problem.

“I knew if I didn’t do something dramatic, I could have ended up working for the company for much longer,” he explains. “I’d been thinking about the decision for three months but the particular day I handed in my notice I had arrived at work to see the same issues and the same emails – and it suddenly felt like Groundhog Day.”

Managers are understanding of the flip side of company loyalty. Professional development is essential to challenge and motivate all employees, not least those who have been in their roles for a while.

“When I told my line manager, she offered me new positions and clients and in the past that had kept me engaged,” explains Oliver. Yet, he thinks conventional management wisdom is missing a trick: “Although the job description can change and be exciting, it isn’t as refreshing as it seems because I’d still have worked with the same faces in the same office. There would have been no change in environment.”

THE SOLUTION: The CMI/Glassdoor Top 20 showcased the squads and tribes-inspired models of companies like Cloudreach. The tech consultancy hosts ‘hackathons’ and ‘skunkworks’ – innovation days where different groups of employees can work together in the spirit of generating new ideas.

Read more: Trends from the CMI/Glassdoor Top 20

“Firms still see long hours and high pressure as a badge of honour”

An increasing focus on mental health at work means most companies strive to improve their culture, but for some long hours and high-pressure dynamics remain. One production manager who left a London media firm, explains: “There were seven people in my team and in a two-and-a-half year period all of them left without new jobs to go to. However, senior management seemed to pride themselves on ‘burning out’ employees. They’d get effort from them and then simply recruit new staff.”

CMI Quality of Working Life research showed that managers are working an extra 44 days a year on top of their contracted hours, as a result of an always-on culture that requires them to be responsive and engaged at all times.

Read: Managers are working 44 days a year unpaid

After yet another round of aggressive meetings, the production manager in question gave three months notice then left the business. “The advantage of a longer notice period meant I had time to find something new, with the mental reassurance that I was only there for a little while longer.”

THE SOLUTION: It is crucial to ensure the mental wellbeing of a workforce. WH Smith employs mental health first aiders, while there are straightforward steps a company can take to improve mental health at work.

There is also no substitute for professional management training. Accidental managers may be responsible for a decline in productivity and morale that affects the business and staff performance.

Learn more: CMI professional qualifications

In her two articles on sexual harassment and homophobia in the workplace, National Bullying Helpline founder and CMI member, Christine Pratt FCMI, advises managers to look out for subtle signs of workplace bullying. Her top tip? Sickness absences can betray uncomfortable team dynamics that cause previously committed employees to take time off.

Read more: five facts you need to know about harassment in the workplace

“I learned from my boss and wanted to start my own business”

Entrepreneurialism is growing. Bosses who have spent time acquiring skills in the workplace are increasingly starting their own businesses. Chloe Jones* is one candidate who took the leap and started her own floristry company after three years of working for someone else in a senior role.

“Working for a business gave me the opportunity to learn about floristry – not just in terms of the physical craft but also how to commercialise my work, make contacts and market myself. In 2016 I left my job to start my own business – using social media, trade fairs and word-of-mouth to get new customers.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. “Managers can underestimate the structure and reassurance of having company processes, clients and a regular salary,” she says. However, she most missed the support of a network. “When you become your own boss you have less people around you to bounce ideas off. I miss having advice from more senior professionals and peers on a day-to-day basis,” says Jones.

THE SOLUTION: Keep in touch with former employees and invest in building a network to maintain a relationship with the talent you’ve met over time. Professional organisations such as the Chartered Management Institute offer a gateway to events; research and ideas that can help managers stay engaged with other experienced minds in their chosen fields. See the CMI Get Involved page for more information, and remember this crucial networking tip.

Get involved: find out more about the CMI groups, events and contributor opportunities near you

*Names have been changed

Image: Shutterstock

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