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People Usually Quit Their Boss, Not Their Job

By Daniel Bobinski

The names and jobs in the following story have been changed to protect the innocent – and also to keep me from being sued.

Thomas had been a technical trainer for several decades. He had great annual reviews, his students always gave him high marks and he loved his job.

One day he was told about an opening on the corporate team that oversaw the company’s training nationwide. It would mean moving back east, but it also meant a significant pay raise. Several senior people on Thomas’ team told him he’d be good in that job, but a few others looked at who Thomas would be reporting to and recommended against it. Peter, the man who had recently been named head of corporate training, did not have a good reputation.

Thomas weighed his options and decided to go for it. He easily got the job, so he uprooted and relocated back east.

That was a year ago. Today, Thomas is looking for another job. “Peter is the worst boss I’ve ever had,” Thomas told me. “I didn’t think it was possible for someone to be that high up in a company and be so unreasonable.”

According to Thomas, the national team has six people, and four are now actively looking for other work.

There’s much more to this story than I have space for, but you should know that Thomas has not only tried talking with Peter, he even went to Peter’s boss. In fact, everyone on the team has talked with Peter’s boss about how bad Peter is as a manager.

Yet, even after all that, the boss continues to think Peter walks on water.

I share this story for two reasons. The first has to do with the company’s bottom line. No matter what Peter’s boss thinks about Peter personally, if everyone on the team is complaining about how bad he is to work with, it only makes sense to invest in some emotional intelligence training for Peter.

The impact on the bottom line should be a no-brainer. Everyone on the national team makes $100,000 or more per year, so the cost of replacing four people will be somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000. Hiring a coach to help Peter with his people skills can be done for between $8,000 and $15,000. You can do the math and decide if that makes sense for the company’s bottom line. Amazingly, even if only three people quit instead of four, it would still be a good financial decision.

The second reason I’m sharing this story is to underscore the need for listening. It takes guts for someone to approach a boss’ boss with a complaint. If one person complains, it might just be a disgruntled employee. But when everyone complains, that means an issue requires attention.

Bottom line, sometimes people get promoted in spite of their people skills, not because of them. When we consider that the cost of replacing an employee is usually equivalent to that person’s annual salary, and that people quit bosses, not jobs, it only makes sense to invest in people skills for middle and senior managers.

Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. teaches teams and individuals how to use Emotional Intelligence, and he’s been doing that for 30 years. He’s also a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at daniel@eqfactor.net.

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