The past couple of years have been exceptionally difficult for our hard-working frontline employees, and the high numbers of resignations we’ve been seeing are definitely proof of that. However, these employees aren’t only quitting because of COVID-related illnesses or out of a need for remote work. Bad bosses and improper management also have a whole lot to do with it. 

Continue reading below to learn about these issues more in-depth and discover how you can go about fixing them before it’s too late. 

The Problem of Poor Manager Relationships

In the workplace, there’s no one who can make or break an employee’s daily experience quite like their manager. After all, these bosses are the ones most directly linked to our frontline workers. They are pretty much alone in providing meaningful support, assistance, empathy, and leadership. Any lacking in these areas will immediately impact all those who rely on them and possibly ruin the relationship between management and frontline employees.

That’s a lot of pressure, to be sure, especially when close to half of all managers are brand new to the role. However, it’s critical that they figure out how to become effective at their job and foster solid bonds with those they watch over. Because when they don’t? That’s when burnout begins to hit, worker satisfaction plummets, and turnover skyrockets. 

The numbers don’t lie. According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, a little over 11% of hourly workers reported that the primary reason for quitting their last job was a bad boss relationship. Historically, this could at least be somewhat avoided by increasing pay. Yet, padding frontline workers’ bank accounts isn’t always feasible nowadays, considering how the pandemic has ravaged many companies’ financial resources. 

Let’s face the facts, though; this never really solved the problem anyway. It simply drew out the length of time before people got frustrated enough to leave, and that’s a poor way to run a business and treat employees. There are better ways to approach this, namely, going to the source of the problem. And you know what this means — actively improving manager and employee relationships. 


Talking It Out to Avoid More Walking Out

This seems pretty obvious, right? To keep people happy and in their current jobs, you have to ensure that there’s no bad blood between them and their direct boss. There’s nothing revolutionary there, and yet, this essential way of retaining employees always seems to get glossed over. Wondering why that is? Well, you can probably attribute it simply due to overthinking. 

Employee-manager relationships often appear to businesses like a mountain no one knows how to climb, but it really isn’t the whole big thing it’s made out to be. We promise: it’s not that complicated nor that scary! Fostering good relationships is almost entirely dependent on fostering strong communication, and that can be accomplished just by ensuring frontline managers:

  • Take their time to check in when it appears that something is wrong or that an employee needs a little assistance.
  • Lead discussions that can guide employees to figure out their own solutions to any issues that may arise. 
  • Ask real questions when they do see employees struggling with a task rather than taking over the situation or, even worse, scolding the worker in question.
  • Show appreciation and recognition to those who have implemented solutions and found creative ways to address problems.
  • Follow up with those who need or have needed some help and double-check they have the tools required to succeed. 

By doing all of the above, managers don’t merely correct workers when things go wrong — they actually build their problem-solving skills. Instead of providing instant solutions, they supply the support, guidance, and understanding employees need to work their own way through it. 

That’s a small shift from most bosses’ regular actions, but it has a huge impact on the workplace and workers themselves. Building up both the worker-manager relationship and helping you hit those metrics you’ve been gunning for, it’s ultimately a kinder, smarter, and more efficient way to operate a business. 

Forging a Better Path for Feedback

The steps we outlined above are so important if you’re on a quest to improve the respect and working relationship between boss and employee. They are the very foundation that you should be building everything else upon. Of course, that doesn’t mean you simply stop there. 

You can implement many other changes that can lead to quick, visible differences in the workplace that will lower the number of workers leaving. Creating more meaningful work, putting together programs that improve workers’ overall lives, and implementing employee feedback are all great moves that add up. 

However, while we’re on the topic, managers need to be sure they don’t forget to also provide feedback to folks! Workers often don’t receive much of this in regards to performance and that can be really frustrating. They then have no idea what they’re doing right or what they’re doing wrong, meaning they aren’t receiving recognition for their successes or the information needed for growth. As we said — frustrating. But you can completely flip this script and increase worker engagement by supplying them with a consistent feedback loop.

Get The One-To-One 15 minute Stand Up Framework for Lean Managers

Need a little help here? We suggest implementing the TARGET framework we introduce in our short guide for lean managers. The basic goal is for managers to have a one-on-one conversation with at least five frontline employees per day that fosters a casual and open environment where ideas can be shared, and issues can be addressed. 

This is done by (1) targeting productivity, (2) anchoring metrics, (3) ramping up the odds, (4) going for the collab, (5) elevating workers’ voices, and (6) giving space for the conversation to be continued. We know it seems like a complex process, but it’s not at all difficult in action. 

Ask workers about their goal for the day. Check in to see if their tasks for the day are contributing to their goals or the companies’ at large, and allow them to shift gears if the answer is “no.” Reach out for suggestions, and be sure to actively get to know them during your time together. It will make all the difference in your relationship, better the work environment, and significantly reduce the number of frontline workers who leave. 

The Bottom Line

Workers quitting is a frequent problem in this day and age. Driven by more than just pandemic-related concerns, many report that a bad relationship with their boss is the main reason behind previous changes in employment. 

However, despite how frequent this comes up, it doesn’t have to. By creating better communication between workers and managers and giving good performance feedback, any company can dramatically reduce their turnover rate and keep their employees happy, heard, and fulfilled. 

Get The One-To-One 15 minute Stand Up Framework for Lean Managers