New study: We know employees leave bad bosses – but maybe they also leave good ones


This is so far just a small study of employees at one company, but the results are interesting. Researchers Ravi S. Gajendran and Deepak Somaya summarize their study as follows in HBR:

We began our study by surveying over 700 employees at a large multinational IT firm. We asked them to assess their manager’s leadership quality…

Eighteen months later, we went through the list of survey responders to see who had left the company… and… interviewed these former employees, 128 in total, to find out why they left the firm, how their new job was different from their previous one, and — most importantly — if their perceptions of their prior employer had changed.

These were the results:

What we discovered was surprising. Good leadership doesn’t reduce employee turnover precisely because of good leadership.

Supportive managers empower employees to take on challenging assignments with greater responsibilities, which sets employees up to be strong external job candidates.

So employees quit for better opportunities elsewhere — better pay, more responsibility, and so on.

I can already hear the lousy managers out there saying “See – I told you there was no reason to treat my people well.” :)

But that is precisely the wrong lesson to draw here. Though the researchers themselves conclude that “Leadership does not beget retention,” I don’t think that’s warranted yet. That is too broad a conclusion to draw based on a study of one workplace.

I’m sure there’s something to the idea, that if you lead your employees well, they’re more likely to grow and develop to the point where they are able to find work elsewhere or start their own businesses. It reminds of the old quote:

What happens if we develop our employees and they leave?
What happens if we don’t, and they stay?

Other studies have shown that the quality of the leadership strongly affects  absenteeism, motivation, creativity and productivity, so even if we accept that good leadership has no effect on retention, it still improves business results.

The study also did not take into account whether employees ever came back to their old workplace with new skills and experience.

Finally, as I have often said, even if good leadership did not have a single proven positive effect on business outcomes it would still be the right thing to strive for, because we know that bad leadership hurts an employee’s career, health and private life.

Related posts

5,000 people took our “is it time to quit” test. These are the results.

5000 took our test here are results

If you are not happy at work, we have a simple test you can take to see if it might be time to quit.

So far 5,000 people have taken the test and you can see the results above.

Please note that we can make no inferences about how happy or unhappy people are at work in general based on these results, because the people who take this test are clearly not a representative sample – they will skew strongly towards the unhappy.

You can take the test yourself here.

And remember: March 31 is International Quit Your Crappy Job Day.


Hate your job? March 31 is International Quit Your Crappy Job Day

Too many people hate their jobs but still stay in them. This is what we know:

  • Around 20-40% of employees are unhappy at work
  • Hating your job can harm your career, your health and your private life
  • Many people are reluctant to quit and stay for too long in bad jobs

This is clearly a recipe for disaster for everyone who feels stuck in an unhappy work situation.

We want to change that, so we’ve declared March 31 to be International Quit Your Crappy Job Day and have created a web site to match at

Here’s our announcement:

On the site you can take a test to see if it might be time to quit and you can read a number of articles about quitting, including:

There are also a ton of stories from people who found the courage to quit bad jobs. This one is my favorite.

So if you are not happy at work, take a look at the site. Or if someone you know and love is stuck in a crappy job, consider sharing the site with them.

We want more people to quit, but more than that we want many more people to realize that they have that option. Because if you hate your job, but believe that you are not free to quit and get away, the situation gets much, much worse.

Woohoo: We now have partners in 15 countries

woohoo partners logo

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Our Woohoo Partnership program is constantly growing and we now have partners in 15 different countries:

Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia,Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, USA

See the full list of partners here.

We are looking for many more partners around the world so if you want to work with happiness at work, read all about the Woohoo Partnership program here.

Join the Woohoo Academy in Copenhagen or NYC


We have just announced the next two Woohoo Academies, which take place:

  • June 21-24 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • October 18-21 2016 in New York City, US

We have held 2 editions of the Woohoo Academy already, one in Copenhagen and one in Prague. It’s our 3-day intensive, in-depth training for anyone who wants to learn all about happiness at work.


Here’s what participants said about the training:

The Woohoo Academy was, without a doubt, the best training I have ever experienced (and I’ve participated in many trainings). It was very well organized, and provided the latest research, practical strategies and opportunities to engage in many meaningful experiential activities.

– Danielle, Canada

I have attended many motivational and leadership courses over the past 20 years and never came out with so much clarity as after this course. It was interesting with so many nationalities, experiences and angles to the same topic. The value vs time spend for me was immense as my entire organisation over 100 people will benefit directly.

– Monika, Czech Republic

My main reason for going to the course was to got a broader perspective on happiness at work. I wanted to learn more about the theory behind joy, people, work, meaning and succes in businesses. The course gave me a lot of confidence on this topic and I’m convinced that within a copple of years this will be a very important part of leading a business.

– Tamara, Netherlands

The training is for:

  • External consultants who want to build a business delivering happiness trainings to clients
  • HR staff, managers and internal facilitators who want to get the knowledge and tools to make their organization happier

For us, the Academy is a huge pleasure too. It lets us take a deep dive into many of the things we’ve learned about happiness at work over the years, which we find incredibly fascinating, but which we rarely get a chance to share because it goes into more depth than most of our clients need.

Read all about the Woohoo Academy and sign up here.

How did you lose pride in your work?

Link sharing site reddit asked its users a really interesting question:

What work moment made your attitude go from proud employee to “I’m just here for the paycheck”?

The answers are incredibly interesting (if not a little depressing) and roughly fall into 3 categories. Here they are with some examples.

The examples also bear out the research that shows that even star employees resort to bad behavior when they feel mistreated at work.

1: Bad bosses

When the owners and GM looked at my prostate cancer as a major inconvenience – for them.

When they bitched about my being out for cancer surgery – and I’d been out less than two weeks.

When I was back after two weeks wearing a fucking diaper because I was afraid of losing my job because of cancer.

Then they expected me to be concerned whether they made a profit. Yeah, that’s likely.

For 7 years I had a boss who valued the work people did, and didn’t care how you arrived at the end product. Motivated and innovative employees were recognized and generally received additional responsibility and challenges.

Then came the new boss, who was the text book example of micro manager, and ran the department like it was a 50’s assembly line. Watched the amount of time people took breaks, watched the minute people arrived, and the minute they left. Achievements were no longer recognized and employees were just cogs in a wheel.

If there is no incentive to do anything more than the minimum amount of effort, the minimum amount of effort will be done.

A change of boss.

We went from someone positive and inspiring to work for to a dolt without vision or concern for employee morale or motivation.

2: Unfair treatment

When the new guy who relies on me to do his job got promoted.

The company cut out a whole department and transferred their duties to my department. Now we must do two people’s jobs for a 52¢/hr raise and the strict no overtime policy remains.

Fast forward 3 months and the company flies all the managers (3,000+) from across the US to Florida for a meeting where they rent out an amusement park and have a concert by a well known artist.

Needless to say, I’m now the saltiest of salty employees.

Both of my mentors — two ladies who saw potential in me that I didn’t and helped me turn my life around — were fired (packaged out) within a week of each other. Fired by people who had only started a few months before and then themselves quit a few months later.

3: Being asked to do something unethical

When I was told to peel the ‘re-manufactured’ sticker off of the back of the ‘new’ instruments we were installing for a customer.

Found out that the product reps were giving a ton of free product to the store for the managers to distribute to the sales team.

The reps would even give the managers the option of getting a few display-only models for customers to check out or giving products directly to the sales team for them to describe to the customers. The managers would blatantly lie to the reps and say that giving them to the sales team would help their sales the most, and then the managers would just take all of it.

Then these same managers would blame the sales team 100% for poor numbers, at our no commission position.

If they’re only looking out for themselves, then I’m doing that exact same thing.

At a grocery store: When for 2.5 years I warned that someone was going to slip and fall on the faulty loading dock for the trucks because a drip in the ceiling wasn’t being fixed by the company or the landlord who owned the building. On top of the the thing kept breaking.

I griped loud enough and the solution was to send us pretty much this. Since unloading the trucks was a one person job, having one person drag this 165 pound ramp around was a hazard in itself, we just couldn’t use it.

So, inevitably, someone slipped and fell on the old ramp. And only at that point, and some payout that was kept private, did they replace the faulty ramp we had.

Read the whole thread here and for cryin’ out loud: Stop doing this kind of crap to dedicated employees.

Related posts

I’m taking February off. Here’s why.

Is a Chief Happiness Officer always happy at work? Heck no.

Everyone has bad days once in a while and I’m no exception. I always say that if someone is always happy, there’s something wrong with them :)

But for some time now I’ve been feeling burnt out.

Don’t get me wrong – I love giving speeches and workshops. Nothing beats the kick of getting on stage in front of an audience and sharing an important message with them. But over the last few months, I’ve been getting bogged down in a lot of my daily chores and maintenance tasks that just didn’t light my fire.

I’ve also felt like I’ve been stagnating professionally. Business is great, we’re making a ton of money and clients love what we do, but I’ve been feeling frustrated that we haven’t progressed beyond that and grown as a company lately.

If there’s one lesson we try to teach it’s this: when you’re not happy at work, you should take it seriously and do something about it. So it would be pretty hypocritical of me not to do that myself :)

So when I noticed these feelings in myself and, by coincidence, that my schedule for February was actually pretty free of big events and gigs I decided to take February off.

I’ve delegated all my tasks to my awesome coworkers and have closed my inboxes (here’s why I don’t just use an autoreply/vacation message) and company phone so no one can reach me.

What will I do with that time? I don’t know. I have not planned anything and that’s on purpose. I think that completely free and unstructured time is what frees your mind to think big thoughts. Too many plans (or any plans at all) would interfere with that.

So I’ll see you again in March.