People Join Companies & Leave Managers: A Case Study

We have all heard the old saying that people join companies and leave managers.  It’s worth repeating… People join companies and leave managers. We’ve all heard it because it’s TRUE. How do we know? We see it happen every day. The following scenario is a real and recent example. This individual was gracious enough to tell us her story; the names of the employee and the company have been changed.

Ashley was at a crossroads in her career. After working various jobs and picking up projects here and there, she found herself in need of a more permanent and financially stable job. She ventured to a career fair in Charlotte, NC and was intrigued by the opportunities available at the Cucumber Melon Company. After going through the interview process and learning about the company, Ashley and 22 other candidates were hired at the same time. She was very excited about this new opportunity and adventure with a seemingly great company!

After a few weeks on the job, Ashley came to work a few minutes past her regularly scheduled start time of 8 AM. When she arrived to work her supervisor was waiting at her desk to scold her for being a few minutes late to work. That day, and several other days following, Ashley stayed after the typical 5 PM workday to complete projects and tasks that needed to be completed. Her supervisor was nowhere to be found when she was staying late.

When Ashley began at the Cucumber Melon Company, she was told that business attire was mandatory Monday through Thursday, and jeans were allowed on Fridays. While this was not an issue, Ashley and her colleagues noticed that across the hall, the marketing department would regularly come to work in casual attire.

Since Ashley was reprimanded for arriving to work a few minutes late, she began arriving 20 minutes early to avoid any conflict. This extra effort went unnoticed by her supervisor. This lack of encouragement and positivity from management became very frustrating, and Ashley noticed she wasn’t alone in feeling this way. She quickly realized that her peers were beginning to get angry and upset as well. They complained about the lack of performance management, the lack of incentives, the lack of clear and consistent policy, the feeling of being micromanaged, and the minimal recognition for the long hours they were contributing the company. One by one, the employees began to quit. Over 20 employees under the same supervisor quit in less than a 1-year period.  Ashley was the only one of the original group of employees that remained in that role with that supervisor.

It took some time, but finally, Upper Management at the Cucumber Melon Company noticed the turnover in the department and began to make changes. However, they did so without any communication to the team members – nobody in the department knew what was going on.  They demoted the problematic supervisor to be an equal colleague of Ashley’s but did not change her compensation to be equivalent to the role she was demoted to. She was able to maintain her supervisory level of compensation in a role equivalent to Ashely’s, which then created pay inequality in that role. Next, Cucumber Melon hired a new supervisor, without any prior update or notification to the team.

In the meantime, Ashley had reached her breaking point. She could not stand to work at a place where she did not feel valued by her supervisors, and she was fed up with the inconsistent treatment of individuals and departments.  She considered switching departments in hopes of working with a new supervisor, but there weren’t other opportunities. Ashley was miserable at work and it spilled into her personal life.  She finally wrote her resignation letter. The day she planned to resign, the new supervisor, Kelly, began working. Ashley walked into the new supervisor’s office and said, “I am sorry, but I am resigning effective today.” The new supervisor politely asked Ashley to stay, as she was one of the only employees left in that department.

Given the situation, Kelly was aware that something had to be done and it needed to be done quickly.  The new supervisor took swift action to make changes that could be done immediately to ease the tension and eliminate some of the unnecessary headaches that employees were feeling. She changed the dress code to casual, allowed employees flexibility in arrival and departure times, and started to include employees in decision-making.

These kinds of changes are very small and easy to make, but they make a significant impact on a business, its employees, and the company’s overall success. Although this wasn’t a long-term fix, Kelly’s minimal changes improved the situation so much so that Ashley decided to stay at Cucumber Melon.

Apply This Case Study

  1. What do you take away from this?
  2. Who do you resonate with more: the previous supervisor or the new supervisor?
  3. If you were Ashley’s previous supervisor, would you do the same? What would you do differently?
  4. If you were upper management, how would you handle this?
  5. If you were the new supervisor, what would be your plan of action?
  6. Is your company in a similar situation of experiencing high turnover and a lack of employee engagement? If so, let’s talk about what the root cause could be. Set up a time to talk here!

Jessica Lorello, HR Operations Specialist