What Is *Your* Impact on Staff Retention?

I got an email from a colleague who was thinking about leaving her practice–she was torn between loving the work and despising her manager. Despising her manager was winning. Mostly she just wanted to vent, but she was asking with great seriousness if there was anything she could do to change her manager. And my experience is, no, there isn’t. The people I most enjoy working for are the people I most enjoy working with and those folks bring some fundamental qualities to the table that I need in order to feel like I can positively contribute to a project or a team. But I can’t force people to have those qualities–I can only seek them out whenever possible (and I am immensely grateful that I have the luxury to do this). There’s a reason that I tend to work with/for the same people over and over. You cannot overemphasize the importance of a positive culture of leadership and management (be it leading/managing projects or people).

Since we can’t change individuals, perhaps we can change culture a bit. The impact of management on staff retention is something we talk about a lot when we talk about sustainability. You cannot talk about retention, in fact, unless you also look at the nexus between staff satisfaction and program leadership. So I love this piece from the business world, Employees Leave Managers, Not Companies, that really speaks to why staff walk away from what might otherwise be satisfying jobs. I am a big fan of the suggestion at the end of the piece to use the list of results from the quoted study as a checklist of sorts. While it may be uncomfortable for a manager to undergo this level of self-assessment, keep in mind that this piece doesn’t look at character traits, necessarily, so much as behaviors, which are perhaps easier to consider a bit more objectively.


  1. November 30, -0001 | 12:00 am

    Sarah Tucker

    Yes, yes, yes! This is such a critical part of the Sustainability discussion. Even when they themselves feel trapped in a larger unhealthy environment, managers have so much more power than they realize.

  2. November 30, -0001 | 12:00 am

    Sherri Thornton

    I attended the SANE Sustainability course and it was awesome!! I learned so much and go by the motto: Only ask of your staff what you are willing to give or do yourself!!!

  3. November 30, -0001 | 12:00 am


    Thanks, Sherri, for the great feedback. Looking forward to starting the next class this summer! And I agree that that is a great motto when it comes to staffing and managing!