50 Ways a Manager can get Employees to Quit


March 27, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

I know some of you are list hounds, so if you’d rather skip the monologue, scroll down a bit.

A month ago I shared some specific ways to get ahead at work. For me it worked, I got promoted within my IT group and was actually bumped up 2 spots. As I mentioned in that post, I was promoted directly by a VP (my boss’ boss), which was unusual. Since then my boss was let go basically because anarchy broke out in the group and people were quitting daily. However, it got me thinking. What if I didn’t have a VP that recognized my efforts? When does the atmosphere at work get so backstabbing and bureaucratic, that there is no good process to overcome it? What if a star employee wants to grow but management doesn’t know what to do or how to take advantage of the enthusiasm and motivation?

Those are all questions that I will address over the next few weeks because they are best answered individually. However, there are several things that mid-level managers can do to keep employees happy and there are even more things they can do to irritate them to the point of quitting or becoming a virus.

I polled the other guys in my group and we built a damn good list of things that our IT manager did that led to him losing his $100K/year job. Note that I left a few specific things out because I don’t need anyone getting pinched. If you repeat these things successfully, you too will get your team to hate you. If you are a reporting to someone that does these things, print this and do the old Office Space under the door routine.

    • Assign enough projects with tight deadlines so that your team has no choice but to work a 60 hour week while you only work 30 hours 
  • Cap overtime pay. 
  • Do not offer project pay. 
  • Constantly underestimate the time it takes to get things done and then penalize employees’ bonuses because they didn’t hit the goal.
  • Talk more than you listen. 
  • Tell the team to begin planning for tons of deployments but never obtain the budget to actually implement any of them. 
  • Don’t trust written time cards. Make employees email you when they get to the office so you can see a timestamp when they get in. 
  • Always take sides in disputes instead of moderating. 
  • Avoid looking people in the eye. 
  • Reprimand employees in front of the entire team. 
  • Hire someone that is very weak to take the place of a veteran and expect the same results from the team. 
  • Reprimand Mark but don’t reprimand Tony when he makes the same error. 
  • Consistency is good. Never ask you employees if they are challenged enough or want to take on more responsibility. 
  • Make promises to internal customers but have no idea on the elements involved in getting the task done. 
  • You know that Tony is a slacker, but he is really cool to hang out with so keep him around and give him good reviews.
  • Suzy can take 20 minute breaks instead of 10 because she’s a little cuter than Paul. 
  • Give your employees 2nd tier systems to work with but expect top tier results. 
  • Never cross train anybody on anything. The skills they walked in with are the skills they are leaving with. 
  • Mandate a new policy without consulting a single person that will have to live with it. 
  • Give employees low raises because the more you save, the higher your bonus. 
  • When talking to an employee on the phone, type away at your email. That’s a great time to catch-up! 
  • When someone comes to you with an issue regarding another employee, use a lot of big words to explain the situation but really take no interest or action.
  • Create a desk cleanliness policy.
  • When Suzy comes in late and leaves early, and we complain, do nothing about it. 
  • Instead of offering to help hands-on, watch from a distance and provide support over email. 
  • Mandate that the entire team use a single to-do list application simply because you think it’s best. 
  • Make your best employees train the newbies for weeks at a time but insist that all deadlines be met. 
  • Never answer your cell phone.
  • Never be the on-call guy to share in the team burden. 
  • Have a group of employees that you get a long with and go out to lunch with while those that you don’t like get left out. 
  • Send employees lots of chain letters, poems and other crap spam when they are hard at work. 
  • Constantly give your employees vague project plans and get pissed when the result is not what you wanted. 
  • Refuse to upgrade a system after the entire team asks for it and then be sure not to give a valid reason. 
  • Blame everything on your boss because no one will ever call you on it. 
  • Make all men wear ties. 
  • Do not let employees expense cell phone use but require a cell phone number for the on-call guy.
  • Shut off access to Google and Ebay because it’s not “required for work”. 
  • Never let employees hangout and use the corp. network to play games after hours. 
  • Tell employees to do plan B because you will save $11 even though plan A is the safer, more efficient way to go.


  • I don’t care what they are working on. No one should get a monitor larger than yours 


  • Insist employees come to your wife’s silly Barbecue. 
  • Give advice on topics you are only partially educated in. 
  • When the kudos are handed out, you should take the credit because you managed the team. Do not give credit to anyone else. 
  • Monitor all phone use. 
  • Charge someone .25 days off for a dentist appointment. 
  • Lecture the team at least weekly. 
  • Hold team meetings to provide updates even though the updates only pertain to one-third of team. 
  • Buy the team lunch and always forget that Vegan in the corner…he’ll come around. 
  • Make the team fill out self evaluations but provide very vague feedback on what they type. 
  • Sleep with that girl Suzy on the team. No one will suspect she’s getting preferential treatment. 
  • Call the redhead guy on the team Rusty. Everyone will laugh and you are sure to win their hearts.
  • Make sure the cubicles are as close to each other as physically possible. The open areas surrounding the group will be used eventually. 
  • Make the entire team read a book and then set aside 3 hours to discuss it. This is sure to increase productivity. 
  • Let a couple people work from the house, but provide no reason for it or ways for others to obtain the right. 
  • Insist that employees complete projects that even you admit are worthless.

Like I mentioned, I had more but it was too close to home. If you have any intention of becoming a manager, don’t do these things. I don’t care if you are in charge of the frozen foods at the grocery store…don’t make people feel worthless and don’t undermine their abilities. If you are just starting out as a manager there are 2 books that you should consider reading. One is Becoming a Successful Manager and the other, which is my favorite, is The First Time Manager.


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