Beware the Ides of March: 3 Ways Your Company is the Julius Caesar of Employee Turnover

Leadership can be deadly. The unfortunate demise of Caesar, the Roman Emperor assassinated by his own senators, exemplifies how bad things can get when leaders ignore employees. If the following sounds like your organization, you may be bound for some employee turnover this Ides of March.

Ignoring the Predictions

Caesar’s death was foreshadowed by a soothsayer who predicted that the bright day would bring forth the adder. Still he chose to turn a deaf ear to how effective his leadership was. While the ancient Romans relied on fortunetellers, modern day leaders have more scientific methods to predict low employee morale. Talent analytics using employee benchmarks, HR metrics, and turnover rates can capture the wavering vital signs of a company. Companies who take advantage of predictive analytics are more accurate in how they retain staff, decrease employee turnover, improve company brand, and increase productivity. Ignoring predictions in today’s workplace will at minimum, create patterns of workplace inefficiency, and at worst, create a modern day Ides of March where turnover and C-Suite changes put the company’s future at stake.

Failing to Solicit Feedback

Caesar was unaware of how poor employee-employer relations were within his organization. In modern times, formal and informal performance assessments, upwards evaluations, 360 degree feedback, and exit interviews give managers insight into employee appreciation and trust. The 360 degree survey, for example, is a developmental (rather than punitive) tool which allows leaders to see their impact over a period of time. In Caesar’s case, he failed to solicit feedback before and after his reforms. It is especially important to be in tune with employee sentiment before and after key company initiatives. When done well it drives cultural change, and also allows us to measure the progress and ROI. Companies who don’t pay attention to how their people feel will eventually find out the hard way.

Undervaluing High Performers

Brutus, Caesar’s second in command, was the one whose betrayal dealt the most powerful blow. As the poignant “Et tu, Brute?” conveys, Caesar was in the dark about his performance from the colleague he valued most. Critical to success for any business is preserving human capital. In most organizations, a few aspects are universal. Provide developmental opportunities, work/life balance, and actively solicit feedback from the most influential people at the company. Failing to acknowledge the importance of human capital can inspire staff to take their talents elsewhere, often into the hands of competition. Employee turnover of key staff can incite a wave of disloyalty that inspires coworkers to take to the street.

Whether it is ancient Rome or the modern day call center, hospital, or office, managerial dysfunction happens even to the strongest of leaders. While not as carnal as the Ides of March, systemic employee turnover can be devastating.

Employee Retention Idea #42

Start small with your big data and heed your predictions! Take advantage of the data you collect already and trend it over a timeline of 3, 6, and 12 months. Compare organizational metrics currently tracked (e.g. headcount, separations, and performance appraisal scores) across years. Is it up, flat, or turning down? Do you see any red flag trends in the last 2 or 3 years? Bite-sized data reviews (one to two metrics at a time) help you stay in front of any new down-trending finds before they stab you in the back.

The good news is retention is a science. To hear more about how you can leverage predictive analytics or feedback to retain top talent, ask the employee retention experts.


Posted: 3/14/2017

Supervisory Approaches Impact Voluntary Turnover

Leadership styles impact employees’ attitudes toward your company and the level of voluntary turnover that occurs.

“For the most part unhappy employees do not leave companies- they leave bosses. [T]he supervisor is an icon for the company as a whole…” – Stan Beecham & Michael Grant, Supervision (June 2003, Vol. 64)

Supervisors may not realize that they wield powerful influences on their employees’ attitudes toward your company. A lack of dialogue in this relationship can influence competent employees to leave. With reduced resources and tighter budgets, supervisors who communicate effectively and honestly with direct reports establish more productive workplaces and reduce the cost of turnover. If there is an absence of attentiveness to the concerns of employees, poor performance may result. Consequently, a dangerous spiral follows. Failing to identify the reasons for poor performances, supervisors are reinforcing behaviors that result in undesirable outcomes.

Feedback of individual performance, based on objective criteria, should be given regularly. If feedback is given haphazardly talented employees may feel demoralized and poor performers may assume that their work is acceptable.

Management Behavior of a High Performing Company

Progressive employers are beginning to hold managers accountable for retaining talented employees. In doing so, managers will focus on relationships as essential for their success as well as for the success of the company. Careful assessment of direct reports’ work-related behaviors and addressing their performance alleviates tension and facilitates desired outcomes. Both formal and informal performance assessments are being used to maintain productive relationships. Regular discussions of employees’ ideas about the organization can give supervisors insight into the departure drivers of each direct report. This dynamic gives supervisors an opportunity to explore their employees’ career goals and initiatives. Proactive exchanges with employees create the ideal opportunities to demonstrate how the employees’ goals align with that of the organization.

A trusting relationship between a supervisor and employee is vital in shaping how the employee views the organization. Consistently behaving with integrity will cue your direct reports that the same is expected of them; failing to follow-through with actions promised to your employees will devalue their relationship with you and the company. Giving employees meaningful work and the autonomy to complete assignments is a clear sign of your confidence in them. Conversely, micromanaging employees can indicate that your have little confidence in their potential and spur voluntary turnover.

Attracting and Retaining Human Capital: Developing Strong Leaders

Trust, between leaders and employees, is an often overlooked element of retention strategies. With proper attention paid to attracting and retaining human capital, organizations can build strong leadership teams that improve talent management.

“Participative decision making may send a message that the leader enacting the program has confidence in, and concern and respect for, the subordinate; it may also affect followers’ overall perceptions about the character of the leader.” – Kurt Dirks & Donald Ferrin, Journal of Applied Psychology, August Vol. 87 No. 4

The Origin of Anti-Leadership Behaviors

Employees’ trust in leadership is predicated on their faith that leaders will exhibit honesty and meet their expectations. If there is disconnect or friction between a leader and his direct report, that tension can lead to a host of negative consequences. That particular relationship can lead an employee to produce poor work outcomes, decrease motivation, decrease loyalty toward the organization, and a high likelihood that the employee will leave. A distressed employee can also impact his colleagues’ work by failing to meet deadlines or by executing tasks poorly. Therefore, organizations need to take a comprehensive approach when developing leaders so that an unconstructive relationship that develops between a leader and an employee, the antagonism does not have a domino effect on the entire organization. By viewing those fractious relationships as minor problems, executives may unwittingly create workplace that allows anti-leadership behaviors to emerge.

In their research article, “Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and implications for research and practice,” the authors Kurt Dirks and Donald Ferrin found that trust in leadership has a strong relationship to work attitudes, organizational citizenship behaviors, and job performance. The trust that employees have in leaders colors how they interpret their leaders’ actions and motives for those actions. Leaders who are supportive of some employees, but display little interest in others, signal to the latter that the organization does not appreciate their efforts. Those employees may lose trust in the leader as well as the organization, and likely show signs of turnover intentions.

Invest in Attracting and Retaining Talent

Leaders can build strong relationships with followers by instituting a corporate culture that rewards clearly and equitably. For example, including employees in the decision-making process or using their input when creating recognition programs or project assignments. Leaders who put into effect supportive practices will have a positive influence on their employees’ behavior toward the organization. Behaving consistently and with integrity is essential for leaders to maintain productive relationships with employees. This in turn will keep employees from expending energy on trying to infer the leader’s opinion of their work, rather than investing their efforts on their performance.

To hear more about designing talent management programs at your company, email


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Avoiding Managerial Dysfunction in your Workplace

“The workplace, like the home, can become psychologically toxic if dysfunctional people are in charge.” – Adrian Furnham, Financial Times, November 29, 2000

What supervisory behavior impacts voluntary turnover?

Yes, your company’s organizational climate and productivity are significantly impacted by supervisory behaviors. Seasoned managers are assumed to be skilled,reliable, and knowledgeable. However, many are not able to translate those valuable assets into managerial communication or employee motivation.

Often overlooked, managers may not exhibit counter-productive behaviors until they are settled into the organization or promoted into higher positions. Managers employing an autocratic leadership style are unsuccessful at building long-term commitment with their subordinates, and the organizational climate can become toxic and unproductive if they advocate an environment built on fear. However, it may not always be their fault. Some managers are never taught to address the needs of their people and cannot handle the stressors of the new position. These are the hallmarks of this management style that you can recognize:

  1. Inconsistent, unpredictable messages that lack clarity (which creates insecurity among direct reports);
  2. Lack of emotional control when encountering a stressful situation;
  3. Inflexibility when managers repeat mistakes and do not take steps to improve or learn new skills. To often, these characteristics are compounded with
  4. A lack of mentoring knowledge; or
  5. Disinterest in guiding their direct reports’ long-term career goals.

Solutions for leadership development.

Essentially, the above-described managers focus on how team performance reflects on them rather than acknowledging the effort and quality that went into the finished product. Managers who fail to see (or recognize) individual contribution will stifle productivity and creativity amongst their team. They also cost the firm talented employees. If left unaddressed, it can lead to mass exodus or anti-leaders in the ranks.

New hires (especially Gen X/Y) take cues from their direct supervisors. Management must be aware of the influence that it has over employees’ burgeoning leadership potential. Learning how to master interpersonal skills gives managers the ability to control their influence as well as motivate talented employees. Setting clear, specific, and realistic goals and rewarding open communication creates a supportive environment that produces high quality work from a loyal employee base.