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Common Reasons for Leaving – And How to Avoid Them

Posted on: April 23, 2018

Categories: Featured | Hiring

By Tracy Chandonnet, Manager of Organizational Development

With unemployment hovering around 4%, we are firmly entrenched in a job seekers market. Companies are finding talent acquisition and retention increasingly challenging and find themselves asking what can be done to keep talent on board and attract new faces at the same time.  A good way to start is by looking at the reasons employees leave.  In our interviews with active candidates we ask this very question and found the following reoccurring themes:

  • No hope for career growth and/or development
  • Relationship with boss
  • Lack of trust/confidence in leadership
  • Job is not as expected – doesn’t match skills/talents
  • Compensation
  • Little to no feedback/coaching
  • Feeling devalued/unrecognized
  • Feeling overworked/stressed

Of these common reasons for vacating a job – which do organizational leaders have control over?  If you answered all of them, you’d be correct.  So, are we saying that whenever somebody bolts for a bigger paycheck, you simply counteroffer with more pay?   No.  In fact, on the list above, compensation is somewhat symbiotic, as it is almost always accompanied with something else (and often something else from the list).  Tacking additional dollars onto the paycheck of an employee who wants to leave generally doesn’t work for that reason.  But, what about the others?  What can companies do to address “root causes” to retain the best employees and attract new ones?  Our advice – they should start with a bit of top down reflection.

Are you managing or leading?

Looking deeper into the reasons above, it’s easy to see they can be directly correlated to the relationship between company leadership and employees.  So, are “people” problems at the heart of turnover?  In many cases, we’d say yes.  Managing an organization and leading the people who work for it are two different things.  Managing, by definition, is “having executive or supervisory control or authority”.  Sounds a bit stuffy, right?  Managing often focuses on the “big picture” of the business – the planning, processes, and procedures necessary to meet goals, manage customer and stakeholder expectations and stay competitive.  Managers are necessary to an organization; however, because their focus tends to be more on the bottom line, many managers aren’t the best at dealing with the “people” side of the business – and that’s where the issues above can creep in. 

Leading, like managing, works towards the goal of company success, but in a different way.  Managers get people to do the job, leaders get people to want to do it.  Managers may set the direction of the business, but leaders motivate and inspire employees to want to go in the same direction.  When you look at the list of reasons for leaving, there’s clearly a human element attached to them and leaders are in the position to make the biggest impact – but how? 


First and foremost, communication is key.  In almost every case above, an ounce of effective communication could offer a pound of prevention.  Leaders should talk openly with employees and encourage them to share concerns without fear of judgement or retaliation.  Only through dialogue can leaders learn what motivates employees, what struggles they’re having, where their talents and interests lie and what their goals are.  Leaders know that listening is more important than speaking.  Through listening and questioning, leaders can uncover issues and deal with them before they escalate.

Earn trust and respect.

Often the result of good communication, leaders seek to earn the trust and respect of employees.  This is accomplished in many ways, but starts with honesty, integrity and leading by example.  Leaders “walk the walk” and possess the self-awareness necessary to know their own strengths and weaknesses and how they are perceived by others – and they care about said perception.  Leaders show up, do what they say they will do and deliver the feedback and conversations employees need to grow and develop – even when it isn’t fun.


Finally, leaders motivate.  Coaching, training, career counseling, engaging, recognizing and presenting leadership opportunities are all vital keys to keeping employees engaged and making them successful.  By taking an active role in the development of employees, a leader creates opportunities to develop their strengths and address their weaknesses.  Employees notice when leaders vest themselves in their current and future success with the company and in their career and reward the employer with their best effort day in and day out. 

Leading can be learned.

To be clear, companies need both effective managers and good leaders to be successful for the long haul.  The good news?  Managers who aren’t natural leaders can learn how to lead – and again, reflection is a great place to start.  A recent Forbes article on the topic stated: “Anyone can learn to lead, but not in the manner of the archaic carrot-and-stick ‘I make the rules!’ brand of leadership. Leadership in the new millennium is soft, not hard. It’s quiet, not loud. It’s human. It’s based on trust.”  By looking not just at the “what, when and how” and taking a deeper delve into the “who and why” – the human element, leaders can create an organization where the common reasons for turnover we’ve shared here become a rarity.

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