People don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses

It’s a common way of saying that so and so has left a particular company to join another company. Actually, a company is an abstraction for the group of people who comprise it. So, often, what people exit from is not the company but their interactions with their team in the company.

Most people would stick around as long as they’re treated with respect, paid fairly, instructed clearly and given work that usually falls within their abilities but sometimes challenges it, giving them opportunities to grow. Good bosses ensure that they create such conditions for people.

Bad bosses often assume that just because someone is paid a salary, they get to have a license to command their team. Money is just one of the components that makes people stick around. Even if the pay is excellent, people leave if they’re disrespected or treated unfairly or given constantly changing expectations or asked to do the work that regularly falls above or below their skill level. 

A company’s job is to hire good managers and enable them to deliver work through their teams. People leave when the company (i.e. the founder in the early days) fails at this task. This is why hiring good managers and leaders is an incredibly important step. If good managers are hired, the capacity of the company to get things done is increased.

Remember: bosses are the conduit through which the company interacts with people. 

This essay is part of my book on mental models for startup founders.

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