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thinking about leaving when he asked for more responsibility, but was
turned down. He knew he had proved himself in his current position. The
disappointment was made even more bitter because he had lived abroad
for a year, apart from his wife and son, and he felt the company owed him
a new opportunity. Instead of getting the job he wanted, he was transferred
to another department. That™s when he made the decision to leave.
The second period in the deliberation process is the time between the
employee™s decision to leave and the actual leaving. As you might expect,
the chances of a manager re-recruiting and successful gaining renewed
commitment from an employee are not as great during this second period
as they might have been during the ¬rst. This is why it is important for
managers to be alert to the signs that an employee is just starting to disen-
gage when there is still time to do something about it.
Since most disengagements begin with some kind of shocking event
like those listed above, managers need to keep their antennae up for signals
that a valued employee may have recently received a disappointing shock
Or better yet, because it is often hard to read the feelings of employees

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

from the looks on their faces, managers should simply sit down with their
direct reports on a regular basis and ask, ˜˜how are things with you?™™ Such
simple, caring questions can help avoid turnovers like the one mentioned
above, opening up discussions that can lead to a resolution of the precipitat-
ing issue.
Or, perhaps the employees could have done more on their own initia-
tive to resolve the situations. Or, maybe they had done all they could.
It may even have been impossible for the managers to accommodate the
employees™ wishes. We will never know. The point is, if the manager does
not regularly initiate such discussions, and they never happen, it is the
manager and the organization that risk suffering the loss of talent and the
high costs of turnover.
When we consider the gradual, unfolding nature of employee disen-
gagement and that, as research reveals, 75 percent of employees are disen-
gaged, there can be but one conclusion: The need for managers to initiate
action to engage and re-engage employees is urgent, and the daily opportu-
nity to do so is ever-present.

1. Adapted with permission from T.W. Lee, et al., ˜˜An Unfolding Model
of Employee Turnover,™™ Academy of Management Journal 39 (1996):


Why They Leave:
What the Research Reveals
Sometimes if we cut
through the brain and
get to the gut, we learn
the truth.

— ”J F©-®

of all the reasons for leaving voluntarily
If you compiled an alphabetical list
from the exit surveys of dozens of organizations, it would look something
like this:
Advancement opportunity
Better-paying job
Career change
Commuting time or distance
Concerns about organization™s future
Con¬‚ict with coworker
Discrimination based on race, gender, religion, etc.
Dishonest or unethical leaders or managers
Distrust of, or loss of con¬dence in, senior leaders
Excessive workload
Fear of job elimination
Geographic location of the job
Health concerns
Ideas not welcomed
Immediate supervisor
The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

Inability to master the job
In¬‚exible work hours
Insuf¬cient challenge
Insuf¬cient or inappropriate training
Insuf¬cient resources to do the job
Job elimination
Job itself
Job responsibilities
Job security
Limited earnings potential
Little or no bonus
Little or no empowerment
Little or no growth or developmental opportunity
Little or no performance feedback
Negative work environment
No authority to do the job
No career path
No consequences for nonperformers
No way to voice concerns
Not allowed to complete the job
Not allowed to do the job my own way
Not paid competitively
Not paid in proportion to contributions
Not recognized for contributions
Organization culture
Organization instability or turmoil
Organization politics
Outdated or inadequate equipment
Physical facility noisy, dirty, hot, or cramped
Poor communication
Poor teamwork
Return to school
Sexual harassment
Spouse relocation
Timeliness of pay increases
Too many changes
Treated poorly

W T L: W  R R¬ 19

Uncaring leadership
Unfair pay increases
Unfair performance appraisal process
Unfair promotion practices
Unfair rules, policies, or procedures
Unwanted change in job duties
Unwanted relocation
Vacation policy
Work-life imbalance

These 67 reasons were, in fact, taken from exit survey responses
completed by thousands of exiting employees. When you take away the
unpreventable reasons (though some may have preventable origins)”
advancement opportunity, better-paying job, career change, commuting
time/distance, geographic location of job, job elimination, retirement, re-
turn to school, self-employment, and spouse relocation”you are still left
with 57 preventable reasons for voluntary turnover.
While reading and categorizing the comments from among 3,149 em-
ployees who voluntarily left their employers, as surveyed by Saratoga,1 I
could not help being touched by the emotions expressed in them”
disappointment, frustration, anger, disillusionment, resentment, betrayal, to
name the most common. It occurred to me that very few of the ˜˜reasons™™
for turnover were based on reasoned thinking”they were mostly rooted
in strong feelings.
As I analyzed and grouped the reasons for leaving, looking for common
denominators, and peeling off layers from the onion in search of root
causes, it became clear that employees begin to disengage and think about
leaving when one or more of four fundamental human needs are not being

1. The Need for Trust: Expecting the company and management to
deliver on its promises, to be honest and open in all communica-
tions with you, to invest in you, to treat you fairly, and to compen-
sate you fairly and on time.
2. The Need to Have Hope: Believing that you will be able to grow,
develop your skills on the job and through training, and have the
opportunity for advancement or career progress leading to higher
3. The Need to Feel a Sense of Worth: Feeling con¬dent that if you
work hard, do your best, demonstrate commitment, and make

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

meaningful contributions, you will be recognized and rewarded
accordingly. Feeling worthy also means that you will be shown
respect and regarded as a valued asset, not as a cost, to the organiza-
4. The Need to Feel Competent: Expecting that you will be matched
to a job that makes good use of your talents and is challenging,
receive the necessary training to perform the job capably, see the
end results of your work, and obtain regular feedback on your

Why Employees Say They Leave
When we look at the reasons employees give for leaving in Saratoga™s con-
¬dential third-party exit surveys,2 it becomes obvious that these basic psy-
chic needs are not being met. As we see in the pie chart of reasons for
leaving (Figure 3-1), the responses to the question ˜˜Why did you leave?™™
were classi¬ed into the following groups:

1. Limited Career Growth or Promotional Opportunity (16 percent), indi-
cating a lack of hope.
2. Lack of Respect from or Support by Supervisor (13 percent), indicating
a lack of trust or con¬dence.
3. Compensation (12 percent), indicating an issue of worth or value.
4. Job Duties Boring or Unchallenging (11 percent), indicating a lack of
competence and ful¬llment in the work itself.
5. Supervisor™s Lack of Leadership Skills (9 percent), indicating a lack of
trust and con¬dence.
6. Work Hours (6 percent), including comments ranging from unde-
sirable work schedule, to in¬‚exibility, to overtime (too much or
too little), to undesirable shift”reasons indicating a lack of worth,
inasmuch as the organization, in their minds, did not view their
satisfaction as important enough to warrant a change.
7. Unavoidable Reasons (5 percent), generally considered unprevent-
able by the organization and including excessive commuting dis-
tance, retirement, birth of a child, child-care issues, relocation,
other family issues, career change, too much travel, return to
school, and death or illness in the family.

Figure 3-1.
Why they left. Source: Previously unpublished Saratoga Institute research.
Supervisor”Lacked technical Discrimination, 1%
Harassment, 1%
skills, 1%

P oor Senior Leadership, 2% Benefits, 1%

Supervisor”incompetent, 2%
Coworkers' Attitudes, 1%
Training, 3%
Limited Career / P romotion
Opportunities, 16%
P oor Working Conditions, 3%

Supervisor” oor employee
Relations, 4% Supervisor”Lacked Respect /
Support, 13%
Supervisor”Displayed Favoritism,

Not Recognized for M y
Contribution, 4%

Unavoidable Reasons, 5%

Compensation, 12%
Work Hours, 6%

Job Duties Boring / No Challenge,
Supervisor”Lacked Leadership
Skills, 9%



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