The Boss Card (why good people quit)

The current and past couple years, our economy has been tough on the workplace.  Layoffs, terminations, downsizing, “right-sizing,” etc, has plagued even the strongest of The American Blue Chips.  We know why these people are leaving us.  We asked them to go.  Yet, what about the people that quit? Every year thousands of Americans just up and quit their jobs.  Many of which, because they know they are about to be fired, but equally as many quit and we don’t always know why.

I had a client recently that was experiencing a high turnover rate with an administrative position.  Some were fired, but more quit this position than were pink slipped.  My first question was Why? Why are the people who seem capable of performing, leaving? Her response, “I guess they can’t hack it.”  Obviously.  I then asked this question, “What have you done to make people quit?”There was no response to this question except this common response what I call “The Boss Card.”  She said,” It doesn’t matter what I do, I sign the checks.”

Haven’t we all heard this response before?   Any and every time that I hear a leader, manager or owner use “The Boss Card” I cringe a little.  The reason is this: Every time a leader uses the boss card it pulls ownership away from the employee.  See, every leader wants their staff to take initiative, get results, be productive, meet deadlines and clean the bathrooms.  Yet every time a leader plays The Boss Card, he inadvertently tells the employee that they are a body, a clock puncher, a servant and before long the Boss ends up with an office full of clock punchers. When The Boss Card gets played, then your employees will come 3 minutes late and leave 4 minutes early, take an hour and ten minute lunch and the bathrooms will always be a mess.

However, when I encounter a great leader, they refuse to play this card.  Instead, they place the responsibility and ownership on the employee. The paradox of it is that it empowers the employee.  The reason is this: We are all looking for a place to belong, to do work that is bigger than ourselves, to do work that has purpose.  Being a great leader is not paying more money than the competition or giving cash bonuses.  It’s providing an atmosphere where a group of people can share in working toward a common goal.  To maintain a culture that good people are NOT easily replaceable. Not to pander, but because they truly are NOT easy to replace.  It is this atmosphere that attracts great people and great employees.

For the leaders that play The Boss Card, they are the ones that suffer the most.  They usually are heavily stressed and just look exhausted, at least behind closed doors.  They are trying to solve so many problems for everybody that they are not getting any work done themselves.  The answers to most of the problems can be solved by the employees if The Boss would simply empower them to make decisions.  Yet every one of these “Bosses” tell me the same thing: “They can’t handle this” or “I can’t trust them with this.”  The truth is, the leader doesn’t actually know if they can or cannot.

Have you ever watched those TV shows where the kids are monsters or the dog is a terror, the bottom line is that it’s never the kid or dog with the problem, it’s the parent/ owner.  This is the same in business.


A memo for the leader:

General George Patton said “don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.”


  • This is not YOUR business, company, division or corp.  It belongs to everyone, you just happen to be the one ultimately responsible for it.  You can only call something yours if you do not need anyone else to run it.
  • Anytime an employee has a problem, ask them what they are going to do to help solve it.
  • Incentivize initiative and responsibility.  By the way, incentivize doesn’t always have to be money.  It’s more about recognition that $$.  We need “At a Boys” more than the cash, but the cash certainly helps too.
  • If you have a mid level manager or supervisor playing The Boss Card (ie. your poorest performing branch, division) give them 30 days to flip it around.  You will know if they have made the changes by the attitude of the employees under them.  Oh, and check the bathrooms.
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