Do Managers Really Influence Employee Turnover?

Topic(s): job satisfaction, leadership, management, turnover
Publication: Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 2018
Article: Quitting the Boss? The Role of Manager Influence Tactics and Employee Emotional Engagement in Voluntary Turnover
Authors: C.S. Reina, K.M. Rogers, S.J. Peterson, K. Byron, and P.W. Hom
Reviewed by: Justin Upchurch

It is no secret that employee turnover can be very costly, especially if an organization has high attrition rates. As a result, it would do employers well to understand what drives employees to voluntarily leave. For instance, employees often cite manager behavior as the primary reason for quitting their jobs. However, is this really the case?

While reports in the media are replete with claims that employees leave their organizations because of managers and managerial behavior, scholarly research rarely sustains such claims. However, a recent study (Reina, Rogers, Peterson, Byron, and Hom, 2018) contributes to the turnover research by explaining the relationship between managerial behaviors and voluntary employee turnover by focusing on two different managerial influence tactics and emotional engagement.


The authors of the study examined a form of managerial influence tactics known as “downward influence tactics,” which are leaders’ attempts to motivate followers to carry out their requests. Specifically, the authors focus on two downward tactics that most likely impact employee decisions to leave or stay – (1) pressure tactics, which some managers may use to demand or control certain employee behavior, and (2) inspirational appeals, which some managers use to appeal to employees’ values, goals, and aspirations.

These two tactics are highlighted in this study for several reasons, one being that past research indicates that pressure tactics and inspirational appeals are commonly used in downward relationships by managers to influence an employee’s affect (or mood), motivation, and behavior. Through this study, the authors sought to determine if managers’ influence tactics are related to employee turnover, in that (a) managerial pressure positively influences employee turnover (i.e., more pressure is associated with more turnover) and (b) managerial inspirational appeal negatively influences employee turnover (i.e., more inspiration is associated with less turnover).


In addition to measuring the effect of managerial influence tactics on employee turnover, the authors of the study wanted to see if emotional engagement would explain the relationship, if any, between managerial influence tactics (i.e., pressure tactics and inspirational appeals). Even more so, the authors were interested in seeing if emotional engagement helped explain the relationship between managerial influence tactics and employee turnover above and beyond that of job satisfaction. Emotional engagement is a motivational state that reflects how intensely and persistently employees emotionally invest themselves in their roles.

With regards to managerial influence tactics, the researchers found that there is a positive relationship with job satisfaction and emotional engagement when managers use inspirational appeal (i.e., inspiration was associated with higher job satisfaction and engagement). Furthermore, when managers relied more on inspirational appeal as a tactic, the relationship with employee voluntary turnover was reduced. In other words, the reasoning for employees leaving had less to do with the manager.

As expected, when managers use pressure tactics, the researchers found that it is more likely that employee job satisfaction and emotional engagement with their job will decrease. In addition, the researchers learned that when managers relied more on pressure tactics to influence employees, their behavior was more likely to be related to an employee voluntarily leaving.


What do these findings mean for managers and organizations? First, the authors suggest that managers seeking to reduce turnover and keep their best talent should pay closer attention to which type of influence tactics they use to lead their employees. Secondly, the authors say that organizations would do well to educate managers, through training and development programs, on the overall impact they have on their employees, and the specific differences that pressure tactics and inspirational appeals can have on employee engagement. Overall, the results of this research suggest that certain managerial behaviors (i.e., pressure tactics and inspirational appeals) can influence an employee’s decision to leave or stay, and that emotional engagement explained the relationship between the two types of influence tactics and employee turnover more so than job satisfaction.


Reina, C. S., Rogers, K. M., Peterson, S. J., Byron, K., & Hom, P. W. (n.d.). Quitting the Boss? The Role of Manager Influence Tactics and Employee Emotional Engagement in Voluntary Turnover. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies25(1), 5–18.