2 Foolproof Ways to Ruin Employee Engagement and Cause Turnover

2 Foolproof Ways to Ruin Employee Engagement and Cause Turnover 150 150 Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP

Can we agree leaders bear most of the responsibility for employee engagement and turnover? Gallup research tells us that managers are at least 70% of the reason why employees are disengaged. (Adkins, 2015)  Employees eventually leave because they are disengaged and, according to Gallup, 70% of the time the relationship between the employee and his/her manager is not optimal.  Employees expect that relationship to be optimal and when it is not it leads to disengagement.

Turnover is expensive.  Some data claims the cost can be as high as 1-1/2 to 2 times the lost employee’s salary. (Bersin, 2013)  This cost does not show up on the profit and loss statement.  Why?  It’s not measurable.  Often the most important improvement factors in an organization are immeasurable. Turnover is measurable, but the actual cost is impossible to calculate.  For example, how do you measure the loss of knowledge to the organization?  How do you measure the loss of productivity while replacing that knowledge?  How do you measure the damage to customer relationships?  Albert Einstein said it well, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” 

If we can all agree the root cause of most disengagement and turnover is a poor-quality relationship with the direct manager, what is the manager doing or not doing to cause the poor-quality relationship?  If we knew this, we could help managers take immediate action to correct it.  Let’s consider two ways managers/leaders ruin employee engagement and cause turnover.  First, they stop keeping their word.  Second, they allow high performance employees to break their word.

Just this week Andrew McCabe was fired from the FBI by Attorney General Jeff Sessions only hours before he was eligible for his pension.  The firing was justified by reports from both the Inspector General (OIG) and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), both which reported on allegations of misconduct by Andrew McCabe.  Some argued that the firing was unnecessary and damaged the credibility of the FBI and the morale of the hard-working employees of the FBI.  Others argued that it was not only justified but it was about time and it protected the morale of the FBI staff.

Whatever your political inclinations, the main point is leaders must be impeccable with their integrity behavior if they want to protect relationships, employee engagement, and prevent turnover. Furthermore, they must always hold all staff to that same high standard. If they waiver from a high standard, trust is damaged.  If they turn a blond eye when others break the standard, trust is damaged.

Impeccable with Integrity

Buckminster Fuller once said, “Integrity is the essence of everything successful…and…If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference.” Here is where leaders must begin their development. They must behave with integrity by managing their agreements and telling the truth. There are two statements describing behavior to get us started and keep to us busy the rest of our lives.

Two Simple Statements Which Are Not Easy

The first statement is, “Make only agreements you intend to keep.”  An agreement (or promise and/or commitment) is defined as a task which is specific measurable and time sensitive and where you believe you can deliver the desired result.  This means we must think about our commitments and promises to be sure we can keep them before we say “yes.”  Otherwise, we must say “no!  I can’t do that.”  The Bible asks the question, who should you trust, the person who tells you what you want to hear and then fails to deliver?  Or, do we trust the person who tells you “no” right upfront?   The answer is obvious.  It’s the person who is willing to say no.

The second statement is, “Communicate when you can’t keep agreements to those who need to know.”  If a leader realizes their agreement might be broken, they must communicate immediately to protect their integrity.  These two statements function as a unit to protect integrity in a typically chaotic environment of any organization.

Hold All Staff Accountable to that Same High Standard

One of the most destructive actions (or lack of action) by leaders is to turn a blind eye to broken integrity because an employee is a high performer.    Just recently, Kristian Saucier, the former U.S. Navy sailor who served a year behind bars for taking photos of classified areas in a nuclear submarine, was pardoned by President Trump.  Part of the justification for this action was Hillary Clinton was shown to have mishandled classified information with her email activity during her work as Secretary of State. (Gerstein, 2016) 

This is an example of a double standard in how actions of leaders can create the perception that laws (or standards) are sometimes applied.  This has had a major impact on the credibility of the FBI.  According to a recent poll, sixty-three percent of polled voters believe that the FBI has been resisting providing information to Congress. (Penn, 2017)

Simple and Not Easy

Leaders bear most of the responsibility for employee engagement and turnover.  Their job is simple. Behave with integrity and hold others to the same standard.  This is not easy. It requires sacrifice and discipline.  Although it is not easy, if our leaders cannot be consistent and disciplined, perhaps they are not meant to be leaders.  If we are serious about employee engagement and in reducing turnover, we need high quality leaders with high quality standards.  What do we have if we don’t have integrity? How can we perform? How can we influence others? How can we possibly engage others?

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review: https://www.c-suitetv.com/video/best-seller-tv-wally-hauck-stop-the-leadership-malpractice/

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.


Adkins, J. H. (2015, April 5). Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers. Retrieved from Gallup Business Journal: http://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/182321/employees-lot-managers.aspx

Bersin, J. (2013, August 16). Employee Retention Now a Big Issue: Why the Tide has Turned. Retrieved from www.linkedin.com: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130816200159-131079-employee-retention-now-a-big-issue-why-the-tide-has-turned/

Gerstein, J. (2016, August 15). Citing Clinton, sailor seeks leniency in submarine photos case. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar: https://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2016/08/sailor-seeks-leniency-in-submarine-photos-case-by-citing-clinton-226995

Penn, M. (2017, December 15). Poll Shows Mueller, FBI Face Crisis in Public Confidence. Retrieved from www.realclearpolitics.com: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/2017/12/15/poll_shows_mueller_fbi_face_crisis_in_public_confidence_429160.html