Why Good Employees Quit

James Lintern

May 2015 ⋅ 3 min read

If you run a business, watching your best employees walk out of the door one after the other is no laughing matter - particularly if they're your most experienced and most effective staff. So, why do good employees quit? You could probably fill a book with a list of reasons, but here are a few that might shed some light on the problem.

1. Poor management

There’s a saying, “People don’t leave companies, they leave their managers” showing that good leadership is crucial to keeping talented people. If staff have a poor opinion of their boss and feel that he or she doesn’t care, then morale can plummet. Just because someone works hard, it doesn't mean they have the ability to lead people or make a good supervisor, manager or team leader.

Businesses need to make sure that the people they place in management roles have the skills to engage with staff, give them a sense of purpose to help them feel they make a difference. That can be a win-win situation because creating a happy work environment can increase productivity and retain staff.

2. Poor rewards

If rewards and appreciation are limited or non-existent, staff can feel they are not being compensated enough for their work. A feeling of being under appreciated will only lead to resentment and dissatisfaction. Some employees may say 'enough is enough' and leave. Rewarding staff is not always about a bigger pay packet or an unexpected bonus (although who would say no?).

Employees can be rewarded in many different ways. It might boil down to offering more paid leave, corporate recognition in a press release, or simply telling someone in a memo or to their face what a fantastic job they have done. The efficacy of each method depends on the context and the employee's personality. An employee who is thinking about leaving may decide to stay after all if they feel appreciated.

3. Poor promotion opportunities

Many people quit because they feel they are overlooked for promotion time and again, and begin think they have no good prospects at the company. Also, hiring and promoting for favouritism is a recipe for alienating well-performing employees. When someone is busting a gut and sees undeserving employees who don’t work as hard as they do get the juicy promotions, it’s like a kick in the teeth.

Even the most loyal of employees will be annoyed if a senior position is given to the boss’s best friend’s sister or brother who is clearly not qualified to do the job. It’s important for management to bear in mind the impact their decisions may have on their staff. And in some cases, it may be important to share reasons for certain promotions or appointments if they aren't immediately apparent to other staff.

4. Churn and burn

You may have heard the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Sometimes being a good worker can be more of a curse than a blessing. Extra work is often heaped on those who are reliable and will get the job done instead of those who are lazy and unreliable.

It’s easy for people to start to feel overwhelmed when they are given more responsibility that a boss thinks they can handle. This can lead to burnout. People need a good work/life balance to have the time to spend with family, have fun and pursue other interests. It’s good that a boss recognises that a staff member is hardworking, but in the end they have to strike the right balance.

5. Poor work atmosphere

In today’s fast-paced world, a long commute and then working eight hours chained to your desk, machine or the shop floor is not very attractive to many employees. And if there's a bad atmosphere at work, this makes it even less appealing. The rot will soon set in and people will leave. Businesses may need to be more proactive and look at ways to improve their work environment if they are to attract new talent and keep the talent they already have.

The ability to engage and retain talented people is an important skill for managers, and communicating with staff is a good way to find out what it takes for them to remain loyal. Hopefully, employers will bear this in mind and take steps to stop good employees quitting. Remember, prevention is always better than cure!