Why Employees Quit

In order for the relationship between manager and employee to be emotionally rewarding, it must be based on the things that individuals want and need; it has to evolve and grow, and it must enable the employee to feel effective in the execution of his or her duties.

It is the role of the manager that most influences an employee’s decision to stay or depart from an organization.

People will leave if they don’t like their manager—even when they are well paid, receive recognition and have a chance to learn and grow. In fact, disliking or not respecting the “boss” is the primary reason for talent loss. Reasons for employee departures cited in major research studies, are, in descending order:

Reasons Employees Quit

  • Employee/manager relationship
  • Inability to use core skills
  • Unable to impact the organization’s goals, mission
  • Frequent reorganizations; lack of control over career
  • Inability to “grow and develop”
  • Employee/organization values misaligned
  • Lack of resources to do the job
  • Unclear expectations
  • Lack of flexibility; no ‘whole life balance’
  • Salary/benefits

It is very important to know that the above factors are often NOT the ones mentioned in attrition studies published by individual organizations. Additionally, this information does not match the data (reasons for departing) frequently obtained during an employee’s exit interview.

The rationale for this discrepancy is that exit interviews are often conducted by the departing employee’s manager or Human Resource Manager. Typically, employees are hesitant to tell these ‘company representatives’ the truth about their decision to leave for fear of ‘burning bridges’ or “getting a bad reference”.

A research study conducted at a large multinational technical firm showed that a significant number of employees (96 percent of those interviewed) admitted they did not provide the “real” reason for departure. For these individuals, acknowledging that their manager was the primary reason they left seemed “too risky”. Instead, they chose to give reasons such as:

Untrue Reasons Employees Give When Quitting Their Job

  • Better opportunity
  • Industry change
  • Better working conditions
  • Lack of development

As noted by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, “First Break All the Rules”, a talented employee “may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, it generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor”.

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This article is an excerpt from the white paper “Employee Motivation, Commitment, and Retention”.  Review the executive summary or view the full white paper.