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Do People Leave Managers Or Companies?

Do People Leave Managers Or Companies

People leave managers, not companies. Right? Maybe not! According to popular management research, the biggest factor impacting employee engagement is the relationship between the employee and his/her immediate manager. Is this still true in the Open Source Era – the age of uber-connectivity and free agents, where talent is abundant, and knowledge is free? My global research suggests otherwise.

We asked over 16,000 people across 28 countries what their motivation to excel at their job most depended upon– Boss, Self or Both. A whopping 69% chose ‘Self.’ Only 14% nominated their Boss as their primary source of motivation, while 17% indicated it was a combination of both. So, while it may still be true that people leave bad managers, the reverse is not true. If you are a good boss or manager, it is not a guarantee for high employee motivation and engagement levels. Today’s new era of freedom and empowerment raises several key questions for leaders and companies, and are the subject of my new book, Open Source Leadership. In this post, I briefly discuss the concept of employee motivation and the role immediate managers play in it.

Things Are Changing…

Traditionally, a manager had a very significant role to play in the overall success and career development of an employee. It was imperative that you find a boss who was willing to be a good coach/guru, and dedicate yourself as their apprentice and gain as much knowledge and experience from them. This way, you could significantly increase your own changes of career success, and managers were thus key drivers of employee engagement.

But that was before the open source era. Today, you can get as much or more knowledge from the internet. Employees are more self-reliant with the democratization of knowledge and information. The guru is dead, long live Google!

Managers Should Look to Intrinsic Motivation

What does that mean for the role of the immediate manager? Is it totally irrelevant in employee motivation and engagement? To fully answer that question, we first need to understand what motivates the 21st century employee. The second part of the global survey asked the following question – Are you more intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated? Extrinsic motivation refers to drivers like salary and status, whereas intrinsic motivation refers to self-actualization needs like values and purpose. Overall data suggested that intrinsic is the (much) bigger of the two drivers of motivation and engagement. People are looking for meaning more than money. So, to maximize motivation, managers must be adept at uncovering an individual’s intrinsic motivational drivers.

In the open source era, business as usual is a thing of the past. When 40% of the workforce is already opting for free agency over traditional full-time employment, the role of the manager must evolve to meet the needs of today’s employees. Instead of trying to motivate employees with one-size-fits-all carrots and sticks, managers will need to get good at understanding each employee’s unique passion and energy. In this sense, the era of mass-standardization is over. We have now entered the era of mass-customization.

 Author of Open Source Leadership and Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders, Rajeev Peshawaria is the CEO of The Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre. Prior positions include Global Chief Learning Officer of both Coca-Cola and Morgan Stanley, and senior roles at American Express and Goldman Sachs. Rajeev provides speaking and consulting services globally to organizations in both public and private sectors.