Why Do Product Managers Quit?

700+ product managers reveal their biggest reasons for quitting a PM job.

With great responsibility, comes great stress.

Due to its versatility, the role of a product manager is extremely challenging. Although this career is also very rewarding and fulfilling, it can often be frustrating for many reasons.

But, what are the main reasons that push product managers off the edge and make them quit their PM roles? We conducted a small study to find out.

stressed man at laptop

How Did We Collect Data?

The main idea was to ask product managers in major product management Facebook groups why they decided to quit their PM role, or if they have never done it, why they would consider quitting.

As we wanted to speed up the data collection process and make it as easy as possible for people to answer the question, we first did short research to find out some of the most common reasons for quitting a product manager job. 

We created a poll in 6 Facebook groups related to product management – the biggest being the Product School’s Product Managers community that’s counting over 42 thousand members. 

We offered the following answers:

  • Bad company management and leadership
  • Dysfunctional processes
  • Lack of challenge and growth opportunities
  • Lack of clarity in your role
  • Overwhelm by responsibilities
  • Uncooperative team
  • Uninspiring product

Poll takers could check more than one answer or submit their own answers.

Our goal was to collect at least 200 data points before we could start working on the article. 

The Results

After 3 weeks, we’ve collected over 750 votes from all six Facebook groups. 

The incredible response from the people gave us the insight we needed into the biggest pain points and challenges product managers are facing every day.

But it showed us one more thing – this impressive number of product managers who shared their feedback on quitting their PM jobs revealed this is a topic that definitely deserves more attention. 

After counting the votes, these were the 6 biggest reasons why product managers quit:

#6 Uncooperative Team

Being a product manager means you’ll be spending a lot of time managing people. Depending on the size of your team, that may be just a few people, but it may also be a few hundred.

As a product manager, you are the node connecting all teams related to product creation, which sometimes even includes marketing, sales and support teams. That means you’ll have to collaborate with lots of people, all day, every day. 

If you love your team and enjoy working with them, your job will be easy. But if you have a toxic and uncooperative team that undermines you at every step and questions your every decision, it can be a huge problem. 

With 31 votes, having an uncooperative team landed on the sixth spot of the most common reasons why product managers quit. 

Team working

#5 Dysfunctional Processes

According to a 2016 study done by 280Group, almost half of product managers don’t like their company’s product management process, and 60% of organizations have no intention of changing their process. 

That’s an alarming fact. It means that most companies don’t have a standard, well-functioning product management process in place. Product managers are then forced to make do with outdated systems, navigate various tools their company is using and adjust to a process that’s not really bringing results.

All of this is making a product manager’s job much harder than it should be and it can easily be solved with an optimized product management framework

That’s why dysfunctional processes are the 5th most common reason why product managers quit – with 31 votes in our poll. (We gave this answer a slight advantage since it got more votes in Product School’s Facebook community.)

#4 Uninspiring Product

The fourth biggest reason why product managers leave their jobs lies in the product itself. And this one doesn’t need much explanation – if a product manager isn’t passionate about the product he or she is helping create, it’s time to move on. 

A product manager has a great amount of responsibility when it comes to their product. They’re at the forefront of product creation and they need to make sure that product goals turn into reality.

Naturally, as a product manager, you want to be proud of what you’re building. Ideally, your product should be innovative and truly valuable for the people using it, and it should make a genuine impact on the world. 

If the product doesn’t tick these boxes, it’s a solid reason to leave a PM gig. In fact, 46 of product managers in our poll mention exactly this being the reason they quit. 

man looking at whiteboard

#3 Lack of Clarity in Your Role

Product managers are expected to be the “jacks-of-all-trades.” They need to have numerous skills such as organization skills, people skills, communication skills, management skills, as well as some coding knowledge, strategic thinking, empathy, authority, etc. 

For that reason, and since the role of a product manager is still relatively new in software companies, this role differs from organization to organization. Unfortunately, that also means that if you were responsible for one set of tasks in your previous job, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same responsibilities in your next position.

Many product managers find themselves confused and overwhelmed by the responsibilities thrown at them. They’re not sure what falls under their job and what doesn’t, which is the stepping stone to many problems along the way. 

With 55 votes, this lack of clarity in product management roles is the third biggest reason why PMs leave their jobs.

#2 Lack of Challenge and Growth Opportunities

The role of a product manager is very dynamic. As a PM, you’ll probably be doing tons of different tasks during the day, and each day will be an opportunity to learn something new, solve a problem or overcome an obstacle.

The job of a product manager is challenging, but that’s what makes it exciting. However, this is not always the case. And many product managers we asked have listed precisely the lack of challenge and growth opportunities as the main reason why they would quit – 129 to be exact. 

One interesting fact that may contribute to this result comes from a study done by Pragmatic Marketing in 2016. According to the study, only 28% of product managers’ time is spent on strategizing, most of their time is spent on execution. 

That tells us that product managers are often not hired to do their job – instead, they’re hired to implement somebody else’s strategy. That way they don’t have the opportunity to take risks and to grow – they are forced to stay boxed in, or to leave looking for a better job.

woman at laptop

#1 Bad Company Management and Leadership

“People don’t leave companies, people leave managers,” one product manager cleverly concluded in our poll, and most product managers seem to agree. Bad company management and leadership got 431 votes which clearly makes it the number one reason why PMs leave their jobs.

The thing with bad management is that it can lead to many different problems for the product manager, but also for the whole team.

Bad management can mean you have a strict supervisor who wants to keep everything under control. It can mean you won’t feel guided well or appreciated enough. Maybe you’ll constantly have to fight management on any decisions you try to make. Or the general atmosphere in the team can be so toxic that you hate going to work every morning even though you truly believe in the product. 

Finally, bad management and leadership can eventually lead to all other reasons we listed in the poll – from the lack of challenge and growth opportunities to the lack of clarity in your role and dysfunctional processes.

Plenty of Room for Improvement

After conducting our short study, one thing became clear. Product managers across the world agreed that bad management is the biggest reason that would make them pack their things and leave their jobs, so there’s definitely room for improvement in the management department. 

Especially considering that a fully optimized product management process could increase company profits by over 34% while the majority of leaders have very little idea of the value product manager actually bring to their business. It’s time for some changes. 

Meet the Author

Jovana

Jovana Zoric is a product marketing manager at Infinity. Having worked as a content writer and marketer since 2011, she has helped numerous businesses thrive. In Infinity, she’s found a new mission – building the best work management app.

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