why don’t bosses realize people will leave if they’re not treated well? — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

A buddy of mine just quit her job, and her boss, a truly evil person, countered with a raise and a promotion. My friend refused, of course, because, truly evil person. But it got me thinking, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen bosses offer too little too late to save a stellar employee, and I wonder why.

Why don’t bosses preemptively think that if they don’t treat their best people well that those people will depart for someone who will? Why do they think that making such an offer only after the employee gives notice will work?

Good bosses are aware of that. Good bosses do proactively think about how to hold onto good employees, and then they do those things. They also ask directly, because while money is one obvious answer, there are other things people want too and sometimes those are less obvious.

But yes, bad bosses often don’t even consider that good employees might leave, and then are shocked when they do. I think it stems from power dynamics — bad managers often have an unhealthy relationship to power that blinds them to the fact that the people working for them have options. (This isn’t a logical worldview! As a manager, you should want to hire people who have lots of other choices because they’e good at what they do. That reflects well on you.)

Bad managers — by definition — also tend not to be thoughtful about management in general, and how to attract and keep good employees, and how to create an environment good people will want to work in, and they’re often not paying a lot of attention to people’s morale and satisfaction. Because they’re not thinking about it a lot, they’re more likely to be blindsided when someone resigns, and then they scramble to make a counteroffer to resolve the immediate problem that’s in front of them (“I must keep this person to avoid disruption”) rather than examining it more broadly (“what drove this person to start looking? were there things I missed?”).

Sometimes, too, counter-offers stem from thinking about pay in a way that doesn’t include much understanding of how humans work — i.e., “we’ll pay this person the minimum we need to pay them until the exact moment that keeping them would cost more and then we’ll increase to that.”

None of this is to say that every counter-offer is the sign of a bad manager. That’s not the case. Sometimes good managers miss things, or they rightly needed to prioritize putting their capital elsewhere, or they’re hamstrung by policies from above them. But definitely any good manager who finds themselves wanting to make a counter-offer should be reflecting on whether they missed opportunities to retain that person earlier on.

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