Employees Quit Bosses, Not Jobs, Research Shows

August 24, 2018 / James Hughes

A good manager can make all the difference in the world when it comes to our jobs. Unfortunately, so can a bad one. It’s uncommon for us to see a friend in what appears to be a “bad job”, in no hurry to leave because they are loyal to their manager or supervisor. On the flip side, how many of us have seen a friend desperate to leave a “dream job”, just because their boss is a nightmare? But as organizations move to making more data-driven decisions, what does research actually have to say on the matter?

Well, a recent study by Covella, McCarthy, Kaifi, & Cocoran (2017) has provided more evidence to the idea that a manager has significant influence on job retention. Using social exchange theory and leader-member exchange theories as a backdrop for their study, the researchers claimed that employees are likely to see their supervisors as being the “organization personified”; basically, their boss is the human version of the organization they are working with. So, when members have more positive working relationships with their boss, they enjoy their jobs more (duh), and they are significantly less likely to intentionally leave the organization. This is a huge win for business leaders, because replacing people is expensive!

What this means for managers:

This study is just another voice in an ever-louder chorus singing: HIRE YOUR MANAGERS CAREFULLY! By selecting managers who are trustworthy advocates for your organization, you can reduce turnover intention, reduce cost, increase engagement, and increase production. Good managers can make all the difference, because:

People quit bosses, not jobs!

Thanks for reading,

James Hughes


Covella, G., McCarthy, V., Kaifi, B., & Cocoran, D. (2017). Leadership's Role in Employee Retention. Business Management Dynamics, 7(5), 1-15.