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Twelve Reasons Your Employees May Be Leaving

 November 15, 2018   By Aleta Norris


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Twelve Reasons Your Employees May Be Leaving

A common challenge faced by organizations today is turnover of talent. This is a painful reality, particularly given the shortage of talent.

People are on the move; that is just the fact of the matter. I don’t know about you, but we have a difficult time keeping our customer database current. Thank heavens for LinkedIn. This helps us all keep track of one another.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article that I read, 4.4 years is now the average tenure of a job. Now I get it that some people stay longer. As we talk with customers, there is a strong consensus: if you can get your employees across the one-year mark, you have a pretty high likelihood of keeping them for longer than a couple of years.

The highest percentage of turnover takes place during year one.

Retention of your talent is an on-purpose, intentional kind of a thing. Do you have a pretty good handle on why people leave? If you don’t, the list below may help.

  1. Things do not feel fair or just.
    A couple of examples of unjust scenarios: under-performers who get away with underperforming, or co-workers who are given more favorable work. Employees look for consistency in processes and expectations. If this doesn’t exist, resentment can build.

  2. Unfavorable work.
    People want to do interesting work. If day-after-day employees do not have the opportunity to do work that is preferable to them, it is difficult to be on fire about their job. People who are not on fire are not apt to stick around.

    Even if you can not always honor preferences, do you at least know what they are?

  3. Lack of autonomy.
    About half of the workforce will lean toward wanting to do work with quite a lot of freedom. “Tell me what to do, and then let me figure out how to do it.” For some, it may be even more than that. “Tell me what the goal is, and then let me decide what to do and how to do it.”  If these types of people are micro-managed, that will be unappealing.

  4. Disrespect.
    There was a time when we operated on a different code of conduct in the workplace, where employees would just kind of suck it up if they were being mistreated.

    Today employees have too many choices, and they are much more interested in being in an environment with an undercurrent of respect, kindness, patience and support. Of course, these things are never meant to absolve employees of responsibility. Respect, though, should be non-negotiable.

  5. Feeling under-valued.
    Most of the sense of being under-valued is associated with feeling invisible, not being appreciated or regarded. A leadership philosophy of “No news is good news” also contributes. Employees want to hear that they are valued and contributing.

  6. Exhaustion.
    Many employees are asked to do the work of two or three people. This may be a result of being short staffed, or it may be related to growth-related projects.

    Recently, a director-level leader of a Fortune 100 company shared with me, “I don’t recall this level of exhaustion in my entire career. I don’t know how much longer I can stay here.”

    It’s understandable to have periods of time where employees really need to step up. This should not be an ongoing situation, however. Many employees won’t talk about this with their employer; they will simply go out and start looking for something more balanced.

  7. Low morale.
    “It doesn’t feel good around here.” Employees do not want to work at a place where people are grumpy, unhappy and ungrateful. If it doesn’t feel good, that permeates peoples’ lives. They carry it home with them.  

    I don’t know how you feel about this, but I think life is short. Everyone should have an opportunity to be somewhere where they can be happy, fulfilled and on fire.

  8. Unhappiness at work.
    Do not underestimate this. Your employees will assess their satisfaction with the tie to happiness. Weekend conversations over a beer might include simple phrases like “I’m not happy where I’m at.” Or “I’m really happy with my new job.”  Happiness is a thing.

    I remember several years ago, a vice president of operations said to me, “I don’t care about happy.”  This feels like a reckless opinion. People are actively seeking happiness in their lives. 

  9. Lack of growth and progress.
    This is a big challenge. Employees want to know where they can grow to.

    Years ago, I just happened to talk with two engineers, both early in their careers. They were with different employers and each at about the three-year mark. One engineer was very happy. He had been given micro promotions by his leader year over year. These were driven by the creativity of his leader.

  10. Lack of openness to their ideas.
    Employees want to be able to share ideas. Too often, though, they’re shut down with the common “That ‘s not how we do things here.”

    Research has shown that after only six weeks, a new employee will stop trying. Once someone feels their ideas do not matter, that may be the beginning of disenchantment. Disenchanted people eventually leave. 

  11. Poor organizational structures and processes.
    Some organizations are kind of a mess, plain and simple.  Meetings start late and end late, people are not given the opportunity for growth and development, no feedback mechanisms are in place, members of the senior team are not collaborative, and there are no advancement plans in place. It’s different for every organization but could be summed up with a statement like, “Just not very impressive.” 

  12. An opportunity arises.
    Many employees are open to exploring opportunities. It might be a phone call from a recruiter or a chat with someone at a luncheon. Employees who are not wildly happy and fulfilled will entertain these conversations.

I encourage you to know why your people are leaving. If you do not conduct exit interviews, it would be a good practice to add. Also, be sure to have these conducted by a neutral party, preferably not your HR manager.

Stay Interviews

One more practice I recommend is to conduct stay interviews. On a regular basis, talk with your employees about the things that are favorably enticing them to stay. If you don’t want them to leave, what will it take for them to stay? 

I’ll end with a story. Years ago, a senior-level leader called me, excited that he had successfully recruited a top performer in the engineering space, one who was sought after by a number of competitors, as well.  The senior manager asked me, “What can I do to keep him?” My reply, “Ask him.”  

At Living As A Leader, we offer a Leadership Development Series designed to produce leaders that can positively shape the cultural environment, reduce turnover and achieve crucial business initiatives. We do this by providing training, coaching and consulting with a focus on pragmatic communication tools for leaders at all levels of your organization.

For more information, contact Steph Kotlarek at

About the Author

Aleta Norris

Principal and Co-Founder, Living As A Leader®

Aleta Norris is an expert leadership coach and trainer with 30 years of experience developing leaders. She is also a highly sought-after speaker for annual meetings, keynote engagements, panel discussions and networking groups.

Email Aleta Aleta's Bio



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