Unethical managers cause Canadians to quit their jobs … even in a recession

Every indicator points to tough job market, but a recent Canada-wide workplace survey reveals many employees would rather leave their safe positions than work for a boss they can’t trust.

The poll of 1,600 employees and employers across various industries was conducted by staffing firm David Aplin Recruiting in Calgary.

It found the overriding reason why workers would quit their jobs voluntarily is a perception of lack of honesty, integrity, and ethics in the company’s leadership.

“This was a surprising find and a pretty harsh feedback,” said Jeff Aplin, executive vice-president at David Aplin.

When asked to indicate factors that first caused them to start “seriously thinking about leaving their organization” the top five answers given by employees were:

  1. Lack of trust in senior leaders
  2. Insufficient pay
  3. Unhealthy or undesirable workplace culture
  4. Lack of honesty, integrity and ethics
  5. Lack of opportunity for training and development

Aplin says recent high-profile cases of corporate leaders being tried or jailed for various unlawful business practices has sharpened the focus morals and ethics in the business place.

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The focus on trust and integrity has been amplified by the economic recession and scandals involving the likes of Conrad Black and Bernard Madoff, Aplin said.

“People are taking a harder look at their superior’s integrity and telling themselves: I don’t want to work for a dishonest person.”

The survey also found employees and employers aren’t on the same page on the issue of voluntary exit.

When managers and human resources professionals were asked to list factors that lead employees to voluntarily quit, their top five answers were:

  1. Insufficient pay
  2. Unexpected job or career opportunity
  3. Decision to change careers
  4. Lack of work-life balance
  5. Lack of opportunity for training and development


“Management doesn’t seem to get it,” said Aplin.

Employers, he said, tended to focus on the “pull factors”, or conditions in another workplace that would attract an employee. “They were emphasizing the greener pastures idea.”

However, they seemed to be ignoring the “push factors” — conditions in the current workplace that drive workers out the door. “They weren’t taking personal responsibility for the situation.”  

Interestingly, the survey shows that less than half (44 per cent) of HR professionals view voluntary turnover as a problem.

However, 53 per cent of employees polled said the thought that they may leave their employers has caused them to put less effort in their jobs.

This disconnect between management and workers perceptions is a bad sign, Aplin suggested. “It means managers aren’t in tune with their employees.”

He said many businesses may be setting themselves up for an exodus of much needed talent — one that would cost the company big bucks.    

The recruitment expert estimates that cost of turnover typically runs to between 75 per cent and 200 per cent of the leaving employee’s annual salary.

So for example, should an IT professional with an annual salary of $60,000 leave, it could cost the company anywhere from $60,000 to $90,000 in lost productivity, skills and knowledge as well as recruitment, on-boarding and training expenses.

“This is a wake up call for management.”  

Aplin advises senior executives and managers to start getting better acquainted with employees. “There’s a huge gap in the perception of priorities of each group and that can only be bridged by open communication.”

For instance, he said, rather than communicating through e-mails and memos, supervisors, managers and executives should consider face-to-face meetings with employees.

A clearly defined policy on business ethics and integrity — to which everyone is accountable — would also help.

Another recruiting expert, however, doesn’t believe too many workers would be quitting their jobs right now.

Given the dismal state of the economy, companies are more likely to be shedding staff than workers leaving their jobs voluntarily, noted Kevin Dee, CEO of Eagle Professional Resources Inc., an IT staffing and placement firm based in Ottawa.

And those staffers who are thinking of quitting their current jobs are also probably influenced by economic factors, noted Dee, who helps many large organizations such as utilities, oil and gas companies and banks with their staffing needs.  

The burden of increased workloads, or stress due to job uncertainty and reduced income are afflicting workers in nearly every sector, Dee noted.

And IT isn’t exempt.

Many IT professionals, he said, are feeling they’re at the end of their tether and probably thinking they can do better at another place or by setting up their own consulting business.

“My advice is hang in there.”  

For those bent on leaving, Dee said, it’s better to wait a while before making the big move.

“By fall this year, we might have clearer view of any signs of recovery. When the economy picks up many firms that shed workers will be in the hiring mode again.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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