Why do employees really quit?

Winning the Retention Game

I’ve done a lot of research over the years to drill down to the most likely reason for employees to quit and answer the question, “How do you stop the bleeding?” As in bleeding money. The cost of employee turnover is exorbitant, with some recent estimates putting the price at $45,000 to $150,000 to replace an employee. The data from my research on employee retention is astounding and not entirely positive.

Gallup CEO Jim Clifton once said in a profound statement something that they’ll probably never teach you in business school. “The single biggest decision you make in your job — bigger than all the rest — is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits –nothing.” Everything rises and falls on the strength of leaders. Looking into Gallup’s crystal ball, they’re saying that the number one predictor for turnover is not giving your employees enough opportunities for progress and development. The beauty of Gallup’s research is that it tells companies where to look for problems, and how those problems can be corrected, if managers have the courage to fix them. Drilling down on the research, let’s look at what the best leaders avoid doing to keep their best people from quitting. 

  • Squashing the Talents and Strengths of Team Members
    • Not recognizing their unique strengths and talents beyond a job description, and how that translates to high performance, is certainly an engagement killer.
    • People love to use their unique talents and gifts. The best leaders will leverage close relationships with employees by finding out what their strengths are, and bringing out the best in their employees.
    • In fact, when managers help employees develop through their strengths and natural talents, they are more than twice as likely to engage their team members.
  • Not Communicating Enough
    • The second common mistake that leads to turnover is lack of communication. Employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them.
    • But mere transactions between managers and employees are not enough. See, employees value communication from their manager not just about the job or task at hand, but also about what happens in their lives outside of work.
    • Studies are saying that employees who feel as though their manager is invested in them as people are more likely to be engaged. The key: be authentic.
  • Hoarding information.
    • The real reason leaders hoard and withhold information: it’s about power and control. And control is one of the most effective ways to kill trust.
    • The reverse of this is a leader who acts responsibly by sharing information and being transparent with his team.
    • Warren Bennis, in Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor, cites a 2005 study finding that a group of 27 U.S. companies noted as “most transparent” beat the S&P 500 by 11.3 percent.
    • This takes the rarefied air of vulnerability — a leadership game changer.
  • A micro-managed environment. We all know what this looks like, so lets focus on how to avoid such a place.
    • First, ask yourself: am I putting the spotlight on my team members by focusing on their development? Do I truly value my people?
    • Secondly, are you giving your staff consistent feedback, and equally important, are you listening to feedback that will further support staff needs, and improve yourself (and your business, I might add) as a leader?
    • Lastly, are you letting them give input, express their creativity and allowing them to make decisions on their own?
  • Failing to listen.
    • I’m not talking about giving someone attention and nodding your head. Let me put this into a business context. When a manager fails to listen to the collective voice of the team in pursuing a vision, chances are team members will not feel cared for, respected, or valued.
    • When a manager doesn’t solicit the opinions of others, especially during change because change is often scary, trust begins to erode and morale goes in the tank.
    • So we’re talking about a leader that has to stop getting the last word, a leader that allows for others to give input to important initiatives. The only way to do that is to first listen receptively.


Eliminating many of these things will help you keep your best people from leaving you. And it all starts with looking within yourself first, having good self-awareness to define your present reality, and then figure out what leadership behaviors need to be learned and practiced. While there are various reasons for people quitting their jobs, truth is, when you pinpoint the causes, a large percentage point back to the manager (some estimate managers are responsible for up to 60 percent of all the reasons people quit). Gallup research has already proved that the immediate manager is the likely culprit.  Utilizing a company wide integrated human resource philosophy can help reduce these causes.

For more thoughts on human resource management, view the free video entitled Human Resource Management.

Copyright ©JMT 2020

One response to “Why do employees really quit?”

  1. […] Some of these perks and thoughts about remote work, flexible schedules, compressed workweeks and telecommuting options are trending. Many are attractive, no-cost benefits to offer (if done correctly). They are a great recruiting tool for a small business. And they are a great way to retain your best workers in these times of tight labor supply. So the key to employee retention and hiring is to be sensitive to the varying needs of your varied workforce. Beyond that, talent retention is not a great mystery. To read more about why employees really quit, read the blog thought at https://smallbusinessthoughts.com/2021/02/08/why-do-employees-really-quit/. […]

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