Horrible bosses drive away top talent - survey

Cape Town - Most companies think they need to spend a great deal of money on big, complex leadership interventions and management system changes delivered by large consulting businesses when in reality, it all boils down to some basics about communication, transparency, trust and respect.

According to Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, this is one of the biggest surprises in the latest Jack Hammer Executive Report. The report investigated the challenges faced by businesses in attracting and retaining top executives while ensuring continued transformation.

The report found the greatest drain on talent is a lack of quality leadership at the top.

"Executives are saying they just want to be treated well, feel fairly remunerated and respect the people who lead them. These are not complicated matters," Goodman-Bhyat told Fin24.

"The data is there to support something we have always known: treat top talent well. Yet, in the corporate environment the people element gets lost amid self-serving behaviour, ambition and career drives. The clawing up the corporate ladder often means you have to disregard some basic values."

Companies should therefore not only keep tabs on leaders' bottom line results, but also on the morale and performance within the teams they manage, according to Goodman-Bhyat.

READ: Zuma vows clampdown on job agencies, temporary work

Top reasons to hit the road

According to Goodman-Bhyat, the top bad behaviours in leaders which will make a company’s top talent hit the road are a real or perceived lack of integrity, inconsistency and unfulfilled promises, internal politicking and back-stabbing behaviour and unfair or unrealistic demands which become invasive to personal life.

The report found the vast majority of top executives would consider changing jobs to get away from a bad leader. More than 97% said it was of the utmost importance to them to respect and work well with their direct superiors in an organisation, and that leadership concerns would definitely contribute to a decision to look at career options elsewhere.

Half of the respondents said they would leave their company if they did not receive a promotion within a specified period of time, but 91% said elements of organisational culture such as work cohesion, teamwork, trust and collaboration – or rather the lack thereof – would be cause enough to consider alternative job opportunities.

READ: Leadership matters

Bad leadership a recipe for bad business

The value of leadership as a determinant of the success of a company has, therefore, never been more pronounced than it is today, according to Goodman-Bhyat.

“It is crystal clear throughout both the public and the private sectors: bad leadership is a recipe for bad business and dismal performance."

She pointed out that recent research from the London Business School indicates organisational performance is directly impacted by the mindset of the leader.

“Great leaders earn great reputations and attract great people. This ultimately translates into the bottom line, which is why there is a clear commercial imperative for great leadership," said Goodman-Bhyat.

"A leader who is not able to galvanise a team will soon see productivity, motivation, retention and business suffer. Just as great leadership reputations draw the best talent, so bad leadership will push even the best, most motivated talent away."

According to Jenny Boxall of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, managers who empathise and show compassion towards staff are crucial to building a successful organisation.

She said recent research from Stanford University indicates that a “softer” management style results in healthier and happier employees, lowering the heart rate, blood pressure and strengthening the immune system.

Thoughtful and compassionate managers are more effective and help to create engaged employees, according to Boxall.

ALSO READ: Employee bonus share scheme and tax

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