The Great Resignation: People Quit Jobs Not Bosses

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Greener Pastures

“People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” That’s a very popular phrase and one that will get you reactions on social media. It’s also crap. At least as a blanket statement about why people are leaving jobs right now.

There’s truth in the phrase, of course, but it falls WAY short of what leaders are experiencing in just about every organization. Regardless of how great a boss you've been.

The danger is if we take it at face value, then every leader should be ashamed of themselves when someone quits. “It’s your fault, says so right there—people quit bosses. Do better.”

Patrick and I have posted on LinkedIn, written blogs, and even published a podcast about The Great Resignation. It’s a wild time to be in leadership.

Here’s something we have found to be true: If you lose an employee over something you can’t offer, it’s not your fault. They didn’t quit their boss, they quit the job.


An Offer They Can’t Refuse

There are insightful articles from The Atlantic, USA Today, Inc Magazine, and many others about what’s happening nationally with people quitting. Burnout (White collar/Blue collar/Covid), shortage of talent, remote work options...etc.

That’s not this blog.

I work at a company (CCB Technology) that has an average tenure of around 12 years. We’ve lost 20% of our staff in the last 9 months. Both of those things are true. For a company that’s been around 30 years and prides itself on having a healthy culture—this has been a very confusing time.

So why have people left?

Our Executive team had to brace ourselves as we looked at each other and asked, “Is it us? Why are we bleeding good people?”. We found a few themes and made some moves.


Major reasons people left:

1.   Money

2.   Money & fully remote work environment

3.   Money & just needed a change

A pattern began to develop, so we looked deeper into the biggest factor--money. We wondered, “Are people leaving us over a $5k bump?” One of the benefits of having trusting relationships with employees is that most of them told their manager what the other company was offering – without being asked. Several were even apologetic that it was something they just couldn’t turn down.


Another pattern rose, these offers were BONKERS.



25-75% increases over what they were currently making. We investigated our pay structure and found we were competitive with our wages in the marketplace...then the marketplace changed. The tension of CCB being a small business was acutely felt. We just can’t give someone a $35k raise. Even if we love them.

Not all hope is lost though.


The Great Reshuffle

Losing 20% of our staff doesn’t tell the whole story any more than “people quit bosses” does.

  • One person purchased a coffee shop with her husband, a dream come true for her.
  • One person was let go, which was very much earned.
  • Another had a rough day and quit with no backup plan. Just walked out.
  • And another retired.


On paper, those folks left CCB but they didn’t quit their boss. (The one that walked out had their direct supervisor asking for more information and offering to help. No explanation, just done.)

There’s more, we’ve also had a stiff uptick in interviewing and onboarding new employees in the last 30 days. I mean, what else are we going to do amirite?

We also fought back by settling into who we are as a company vs. trying to be something we’re not. For example, we like our employees to physically be together. Even if it’s not every day.

So we do a hybrid schedule of Tuesday/Wednesday in the office. We also kicked up the fun. Our Marketing team scheduled weekly company times around food, drink, and Farkle. (I’m sorry, what?) And the Sales team is accruing points that can be used during an auction later this year. Next week we're having a company-wide paper airplane flying contest.


But what about the money?? Where we could afford it, employees got raises, received bonuses, or saw their incentive plans more lucrative as goals were hit. Fortunately for the company, Patrick had been wise with the finances and that rainy day fund was available.

Liking who you work with is very important, but there’s something money says about value without speaking any words.


Ideas and Encouragement

It’s painful to lose people. It’s worse to go through it and not learn anything. It’s a wonderful thing to learn from someone else’s pain!

  • Conduct exit interviews
    • What can you learn from what this employee said?
    • Be direct with your questions but standardize a template
    • Send to the employee beforehand with an explanation of how the exit interview is structured and what it’s for
  • Figure out what you can stomach
    • Can you give raises?
    • If this person leaves, can you balance the load?
    • Are you a company that can function with a remote workforce?
  • Communicate with the company
    • People are going to talk, close the story loop for them.
    • Share as much as you can
    • Be resolute in the company’s future
  • Be present
    • Don’t freakin’ hide in your office hoping it’ll blow over
    • If your nose is bloody and your eye is blackened, it’s because you’re in a fight
  • Put your oxygen mask on first
    • You can’t give what you don’t have
    • Keep exercising. Keep drinking water. Keep laughing.


The Great Resignation highlights leadership. It matters how we act when we’re unsure of outcomes but sure of the struggle. Know who you are. Lean into your trusting teams. Keep fighting. Breathe.


The IOL Community exists to Equip, Connect and Grow leaders.

We’re with you as you push forward!

Need more? 

Listen to Tod Bolsinger talk about how to lead in uncharted territory.
Listen to Patrick Booth talk about The Great Resignation: Fight Like A Small Business

Check out the IOL Community Groups to connect with like-minded leaders!

Go to our YouTube and LinkedIn pages for more encouraging content. 


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