Bad bosses prompt 2 in 5 Canadians to quit a job, survey finds

New research suggests two out of five Canadian professionals have quit a job because of a bad boss. The survey released Tuesday found that 39 per cent of respondents had resigned over a bad manager.

Conducted on behalf of staffing firm Robert Half, the online survey was developed by independent research firm Maru/Blue; 400 randomly selected full-  and part-time Canadian office workers were surveyed during the month of April.

A probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by age, gender and region.

Mike Shekhtman, regional vice-president for Robert Half based in Vancouver, said he wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“You always hear the mantra that people leave managers — not companies. Especially with the landscape nationally with unemployment sitting at 5.7 per cent, people have choice. So when they feel they’re not treated well, there’s another opportunity knocking.”

A manager has an incredible amount of influence in cultivating a work-happy culture, said Shekhtman.

“It’s about building really authentic relationships with your team members and generally wanting to see people succeed.”

Shekhtman said there’s “a tremendous difference” between simply managing and true leadership. “It’s not about controlling people or things. It’s about inspiring. It’s about creating an environment that allows people to be creative in their work.”

Vancouver freelance writer Carla Young once quit a staff job as a technical writer because of a toxic boss. The company was struggling financially and developed a “ship-is-going-down” culture, said Young.

“My boss, along with a few of the other executive team [members], had started with the company when it was brand new. They had these great contracts that said if they got fired they got these huge packages.”

Micromanaging, meetings and more

One manager had already been given a package, and Young’s boss had made it clear that he wanted the same kind of deal for himself, even going so far as to joke, “I guess I haven’t been bad enough.”

“He was a micromanager. He’d invite the entire team to a ridiculously long meeting that had no point. And he just had a way of making people feel kind of demeaned.”

“Even if it wasn’t directed at you, you still felt the impact of it,” she said. “It was like being in the same room as a fighting couple. Everyone just cringed and felt bad for the person.”

Young left that position for another company, but eventually decided to employ herself.

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of bad bosses don’t know that they’re bad bosses,” she said. “My advice would be, if people are leaving your team and leaving your organization, it’s probably not always them.”

Brian Baker also found himself working for a company that was in financial trouble. The small media organization had asked staff to take a 10 per cent pay cut to help keep it afloat. Yet the CEO gave herself a pay raise of more than 40 per cent, he said. When he expressed dismay about the situation, “I was fed the line, ‘If you don’t think I should get a raise, you shouldn’t be here.'”

“I kept it quiet but after that I started really looking for work,” said Baker, who left the company about four months later.

Shekhtman said job seekers should expect a leader who is a strong communicator and who allows employees to feel safe about making mistakes.

“Also, a good leader will still give you tough messaging, because it’s not about making a friend, but about having someone who will hold you accountable so you can learn and develop.”

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