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Why Do Employees Leave?

Written by: Hillary Sorenson
Published on: Sep 18, 2017

Employee at desk picture

The average employee stays in a job position for 4.4 years, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Long gone are the years when people would stay in a position for decades at a time, as the average person born between 1977-1997 will have 15 to 20 jobs in their lifetime. This job-hopping creates problems for both employees and employers. Continuous turnover makes it difficult for employers to sufficiently train, while employees find it difficult to advance in their chosen career.

A high turnover rate isn’t the fundamental problem. Employees leave for various reasons, but there is a subtle trend that employers need to be aware of if they plan on keeping their employees. Fortunately, people don’t up and quit their job  because they hate their boss. Carly Guthrie, a San Francisco Bay HR Consultant said, “That’s actually pretty rare. Generally, almost everyone gets a sense of mismatched chemistry during the hiring process,” she said during an interview with First Round Review. “If someone leaves because of their boss, that’s a failure in the company’s hiring process — an employee didn’t get enough exposure to their boss during the [hiring] process.”

If An Employee Doesn’t Leave Because of Their Boss, Why Do They Leave?

Employees leave because employers don’t respect their time. Guthrie explained that “a really good CEO thinks about the bigger picture and realizes people have lives out of work. That’s the number one way to prevent people from feeling like they might want to be somewhere else.” Guthrie emphasized that between the hours of 5 PM Friday to 9 AM on Monday, that time belongs to the employee and the employee alone.

Businessman relaxing

A loss of confidence in the company is another reason people leave. If the career path becomes muddled and unclear, employees lose the ability to create goals and this causes a loss in confidence in the overall game. People want to feel secure, and they want to believe in that what they are doing has meaning. “[If] you don’t believe in the company or concept anymore, you lose confidence in the marketability or leadership,” Guthrie said .

In 2013, Forbes cited an Accenture study that discovered 43 percent of people left their job because of a lack of recognition. Employees shouldn’t require hand-holding, but an occasional ‘good job,’ is encouraged. Just as people want to feel secure, they also want to know that the work they do is valued by the employer. Studies have shown that acknowledgement creates more motivation than raises.  

The same Accenture study also revealed that 35 percent of people leave because ofinternal politics between employees or from higher up. The average employee spends 25 percent of their week working with other employees. If internal politics are affecting the team, it’s likely someone is going to bow out. People leave when they are unhappy and the quickest way someone becomes unhappy is when conflict arrises.

Touchpad, document and pen

Lastly, employees leave because employers don’t trust them. Guthrie cited a new  retention strategy that allows companies to keep employees happy. A flexible schedule and an opportunity to work from home is a good way to retain more employees. But for it to work, mutual trust and respect needs to exist. “It’s human nature to think, ‘I don’t see this person in the office, so I subconsciously assume they don’t work as hard.’ Managers need to communicate clearly to employees (and themselves) that they are results-oriented, while employees need to trust that it’s important and justified when managers ask for them to be in the office,” Guthrie said. She asserted that respecting time and abilities is perhaps one of the most important ways of making this strategy work.

Employers shouldn’t have to fear a high turnover rate and by adopting these techniques, they don’t have to. Employers and employees can work in harmony for many years to come if they respect one another’s boundaries, remain goal oriented, recognize each other’s work, keep internal conflict to a minimum, and always trust that the work is going to get done.