The Real Reason Why People Quit Their Jobs

Employers need to know why people quit their jobs — and how to keep them from doing so. It costs money to recruit, hire and train replacements for employees who jump ship. And that’s not even figuring the cost of losing the institutional knowledge that seasoned employees have and new hires don’t.

So why might you decide to look for a new job (or stay where you are)? According to a recent survey from Randstad USA, it comes down to a combination of factors, including practical concerns like salary and personal experiences like working for a great boss.

“Today’s workers have high expectations — and the tight talent market suggests employers should be listening closely,” said Jim Link, chief human resources officer of Randstad North America. “While salary and PTO will always be factors in attraction, engagement and retention, the intangible benefits and day-to-day experiences at work have risen in importance. If the full spectrum of values — emotional, financial and lifestyle — aren’t being met, workers will easily find opportunities elsewhere.”

personal Issues Matter More Than You Might Think

Raises, perks and flexibility still matter to workers. The majority of those surveyed (82 percent) said that they’d leave their employer if they weren’t offered a yearly raise. Sixty-four percent would consider making a change to pursue a job in a better location, while 36 percent said they wouldn’t consider a job at an employer that offered fewer than 15 paid vacation days. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they were considering leaving their job because their employer didn’t allow them to work from home.

However, relationships and work environment were also important to respondents:

  • 58 percent said they’d take a job that paid less if they liked the boss
  • 60 percent have left jobs or would leave a job because they didn’t like their manager
  • 59 percent said their current employer values profits over the people who work for them
  • 58 percent would leave a job because of office politics
  • 38 percent want to leave their current job because of a toxic work environment or bad cultural fit

Why People Quit Their Jobs
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The Importance of Respect

“Why people quit really boils down to one word. Disrespect,” writes Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, at Inc. “…When employees are not respected or valued as workers and human beings, when they are not served well and developed as people and professionals, when obstacles aren’t cleared from their paths so they can perform well, when their voices aren’t heard or are ignored, they experience disengagement, as early as weeks into a new job.”

PayScale’s research on employee engagement shows when workers feel appreciated, they’re more like to report being satisfied with their employer and less likely to say that they plan to leave in the next six months.

Per our report:

An employee who strongly agreed with the appreciation statement [“I feel appreciated at work.”] is around 55 percent as likely to leave as the neutral employee, whereas an employee who strongly disagreed is 2.1 times more likely to leave.

Unless you’re the CEO or business owner, you can’t fix every issue making your workers feel disrespected and thus disengaged. But if you manage people, even on an ad hoc basis, you have some power to make your workplace better and more effective — and your favorite coworkers less likely to leave.

Why People Quit Their Jobs
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How to Be a Better Boss

Really Listen

Communication requires at least two people: a sender and a receiver. Unfortunately, most of us are better at being the former than the latter. (As Fran Lebowitz famously said, “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”)

To demonstrate respect for your team, hone your listening skills. Practice active listening. Withhold judgment and resist the urge to interrupt. Paraphrase what the speaker says to you, to make sure you’re understanding them correctly, e.g., “So what you’re saying is that this stage of the project typically takes two weeks to complete.” Follow up with questions. Above all, keep an open mind.

“When employees feel listened to, they are less likely to feel emotionally exhausted and less likely to quit their job,” writes Marissa King, professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, at The Wall Street Journal. “They are also more likely to trust — and like — their bosses, and feel committed to them. More than just being an effective tool to gather information and increase commitment, listening can be a powerful motivator.”

Say Thank You

Companies tend to over-complicate the issue of expressing employee appreciation. While your team members might enjoy seeing their name on an office “wall of fame” or getting gift cards to their favorite restaurant or store, don’t ignore the power of simply saying, “Thank you.” (And meaning it, of course.)

In an article at the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Magazine, several HR leaders shared their tips for making employees feel appreciated. Cynthia R.H. King, SHRM-CP, an HR director, offered the following:

The one mainstay in my bag of ideas is to say a simple “thank you” at the end of the day to those you manage.

I learned this from a man who understood human nature better than anyone I ever knew: Mayor Peter Torigian of the city of Peabody, Mass. I served as director of human resources under the mayor. The lessons he taught me about appreciation of others’ efforts have stayed with me through the years.

Two to three times a week he would spend about 30 minutes in different areas of City Hall to say hello and to thank each employee. If someone was not in the office, he would leave a note saying “thank you” in his unique scrawl. …He was a master at making people feel important and appreciated.

Communicate Pay Process

In surveys, most people say that they feel underpaid — even if they’re paid at or above market rate. PayScale’s research shows that two-thirds of people who are paid appropriately according to the market feel that they’re underpaid. Since people who feel underpaid are more likely to leave their jobs, this is a big problem for employers and managers.

The good news is that better communication about pay can help offset the effects of that perception, even when employees are correct about how their paychecks stack up against their peers’.

“We discovered that transparent conversations about money can actually mitigate low pay,” writes Dave Smith, Chief Product & Strategy Officer at PayScale, in a column at Harvard Business Review. “So, if an employer pays lower than the market average for a position, but communicates clearly about the reasons for the smaller paycheck, 82% of employees we surveyed still felt satisfied with their work.”

Change a Toxic Culture

toxic boss
HaPe_Gera/Flickr

Over a third of respondents in the Randstad survey said that they’d leave a job because of a toxic work culture. As a leader, you have a chance to make your culture more positive.

The first step is to accept responsibility.

“Resolution begins with leadership discovering how their own actions or inaction fanned the toxic fumes,” writes Meghan Butler at Fast Company. “Taking time out to think strategically versus responding reactively under stress is key. Leaders need to recognize their own fears, insecurities, and road blocks before they can identify the same among their team.”

Resist the urge to “clam up or blow up” under pressure. Obviously, working for someone who tends to fly off the handle is tough on morale. Beyond that, behavior is contagious. If you send the message that it’s OK to treat team members disrespectfully, you can’t be surprised when people hear you and act on it.

Model both diligence and boundaries. Do what you say you’re going to do, but avoid overcommitting, which can lead either to disappointing your team and putting yourself under impossible amounts of pressure.

Take Time Off

Above all else, make sure you observe good work-life balance. Take your vacation days and avoid getting into the habit of logging on to do “just one more thing” after hours. Remember, your team is looking at you to determine what’s expected. If you never take a rest, they won’t either.

And rest is important. The last thing you want is for your team to get the idea that the ideal employee at your company is one who works all the time and never takes a break. That’s bad for morale and productivity. Eventually, it can lead to burnout and people leaving their jobs.

“I noticed my staff taking a lot of ‘sick’ time even though they didn’t appear to be ill,” says Greg Nickolson, managing partner of Technology Solutions in Tucson, Ariz, speaking with Entrepreneur. “Performance was sub-par, meaning efficiency and productivity was noticeably lacking. After some research and discussions with a few staff members, I concluded that they were just burned out.”

So: take your paid time off, stay home when you’re sick and stay offline when the workday is done. You’ll be more productive personally and help your team be more effective. Plus, you’ll all be happier at work.

Tell Us What You Think

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