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Why Your Best Employees Leave

June 20, 2019   By Glenn Marczewski


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Why Your Best Employees Leave

You’ve tried adding a foosball table, paying for monthly escape room outings and sports events for your team and increasing 401(k) matching.

You still can’t figure out why your employees quit.

Ok, maybe you saw it coming with a couple of employees. Perhaps you were a bit hasty in hiring them because you just needed to fill a position fast.

What about the star employees? They do good work. They even seem to be passionate about what they do.

Why do good employees leave?

Getting to the root cause of why employees leave is the first step to reducing turnover in your organization.

Before I share the reasons your best employees are leaving, I want to share my story of why, to the surprise of my general manager, I left my position at my previous employer:

Why I quit a “good” job:

I had what I thought to be a clear career trajectory at my last company. The CEO promoted me to management within my first few months and was grooming two colleagues and me to take over after he retired.

Energized and hungry, my colleagues and I helped grow the business, hired new employees and created space for the CEO to only come into the office about once a week.

When the CEO eventually retired, a general manager was brought in to replace him.

The new GM called our entire office into the conference room and pointed to the new company organizational chart displayed on the TV screen.

I looked at my name and discovered that I was no longer in a top leadership position and a new sales manager would be brought in to manage my colleagues and me.

It was hard to figure out which was more devastating, the new demotion, or how it was communicated.

My colleagues and I each met with the GM to ask how we could add more value to the company, develop our careers and propose new initiatives to help grow the business. He told us we were doing just fine and dismissed each of our proposals and ideas.

Frustrated, I took the retired former CEO out to lunch to learn what I could do to get my career path back on track. Thankfully, he was honest and told me my current management role had no upward trajectory.

Soon after, my general manager was shocked to receive my letter of resignation.

It is more common than you might think for leaders to be blindsided when they receive their employee's two-week notice.

You may have had this same reaction as a leader when employees have resigned and wondered what you could have done differently.

Here are three of the top reasons your best employees are leaving:

1.  Loss of Trust.

Trust starts with you. Can your employees trust that you will listen to their ideas, even if you don’t agree with them? Can your direct reports trust you to be respectful when they speak up in a meeting?

Living As A Leader coach/facilitator Rick Piraino wrote of an experience he had with a Leadership Development Series participant:

“I had one leader tell me that he had a boss who, maybe five years ago, had humiliated him in public."

I asked, “Did this leader apologize?" And the participant said, "No."

I also asked, "Five years later, has the leader ever publicly humiliated you again?"

"No," the leader replied. I asked the participant what his level of trust was with this leader.

The participant replied, "I always have an eye out for this guy because I never know what he's capable of, I don’t trust him"

Can your employees trust you? Do they know whether you will follow through and do what you say you will?

Trust isn’t usually lost all at once.  Loss of trust is typically a result of a series of small disappointments over time, such as canceling and rescheduling a meeting with your employee more than twice, or not delivering on the promise to order the new resources your employees have repeatedly requested.

This is especially true if you’ve been extending the timeline on a promotion you had mentioned to an employee. After a while, the employee will stop chasing the “carrot” and look elsewhere for greener pastures.

2.  Undefined career development plan (or no plan at all)

As I illustrated in my story above, your best employees want clear communication about what to expect regarding their career advancement. They want to know that if they are going to go the extra mile, they are going to be recognized and rewarded. This doesn’t just include verbal recognition or monetary reward. This includes earning new titles and promotions.

3.  Poor Communication

Communication is more than the words you speak. Poor communication can be caused by what you don’t say. It can also be caused by a failure to respond in a timely manner.

  • Do you respond to your employees within one business day?
  • Are you spending time getting to know your direct reports?
  • Do employees only hear from you when you need something or when they’ve made a mistake?
  • Have you communicated the expectations you have for their roles?

So what is the common thread in all of these causes of employee turnover?

You are.

As a leader, you can set the tone for a culture of trust, accountability, dependability, positive work culture, respectful communication and so much more.

How can you get your employees to stay?
  1. Ask them what it will take to get them to stay
    It sounds so simple, but it can be highly effective. It’s better to find out now while you can still do something about it rather than find out by reading the employee’s exit survey.
  2. Invest in development
    1. Invest in your employees
      1. Many employees are looking for a clear development path. Your star employees want to further their skills and stretch themselves.
      2. Much of the emerging workforce is seeking out development independently. Consider giving them a budget to seek out further training.
    2. Invest in yourself
      1. Chances are you were promoted to leadership because of your technical skills and had to pick up the leadership skills by chance.
      2. If you have more experience leading people, it may be time for a refresher and to gain some new skills.
  3. Give them more recognition
    1. Catch them doing good work and praise them for it.
    2. Too often, leaders practice what author Bill Sims Jr. refers to as “leave alone/zap.”

"It's the default method of management for every supervisor on the planet. When people do things right, we leave them alone and say nothing. When they screw up, we zap them." – Bill Sims, Green Beans & Ice Cream: The Remarkable Power of Positive Reinforcement

Bill Sims, Green Beans & Ice Cream: The Remarkable Power of Positive Reinforcement

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 Collins at

*Living As a Leader is an Amazon Affiliate partner and makes a small commission from Amazon for purchases made from these links.

About the Author

Glenn Marczewski

Marketing and Communications Manager, Living As A Leader®

As a copywriter, blogger, videographer, editor, graphic designer, musician and sound engineer, Glenn brings his diverse creative arts background into every aspect of his role as Marketing and Communications Manager.

Email Gelnn Glenn's Bio



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