I have always believed that when a good employee leaves it is a failure of the manager. Managers are responsible because they have four key responsibilities:
- They are responsible to set clear objectives
- They are responsible to insure that employees are compensated at market rates or better
- They are responsible to develop their subordinates
- They are responsible to behave in a way consistent with employee expectations, which to some degree is a function of the country/culture in which you are located
Managers are also expected to be fair and wise. Wise is the harder requirement. "Not all smart men are wise but all wise men are smart". Fair and wise can make up for failings in 1-4 above.
However, short of consistent departures of good staff, there is little feedback for a manager to know how well he is managing subordinates. One way to address this issue would be to have a formal process for subordinates to review their bosses. Daniel Tunkelang has a good article on LinkedIn about this topic.
In all my years in management I have never been through a subordinate review of my performance, but in my teaching I frequently ask students for suggestions to improve the course and my teaching. The students really enjoy such an exercise, critiquing the professor, and their feedback is extremely helpful.
Except for references to sarcasm, my teaching style appears to be working reasonably well. Yesterday's discussion of my sarcasm led one student to say "you are not sarcastic, you are just extremely blunt". Very encouraging for the process of student feedback that the student felt comfortable enough to be so honest and trusting. Would be nice to see such behavior in management reviews.
Note: Interesting article on research into sarcasm by P. Valerie Dauphin is here. Summary of research is below.
“With speaker intent in mind [from all points of view] sarcasm is used as a means of verbal aggression; with victim’s reactions in mind, sarcasm is taken as a more severe form of criticism than found when criticism is directly expressed."