Top 10 Reasons for Leaving a Job: What Managers Should Know

Office worker packing their personal belonging from their desk into a cardboard box.

As a manager, the departure of an employee can be a stressful time. The event means lowered productivity, extra time and energy spent seeking a replacement, and even uncovering difficult truths about the work environment they’ve left. While employees leave jobs for a variety of reasons, it’s crucial for managers to understand those considered most common.

The Top 10 Reasons People Leave Their Jobs

Employers should care about the well-being and professional growth of their workers. If they don’t, they risk the real chance of losing talented and reliable people. Here are 10 common reasons why employees decide to show themselves the door.

1. Better opportunities

A better opportunity is a legitimate reason to put in your two weeks’ notice. Today’s workers are unlikely to stay at the same company throughout their career. Perhaps they found a position with more opportunity for professional growth. Or got offered their dream job. Maybe they were overqualified for the position to begin with or have found a more permanent role they’d like to explore. Employees often leave because another employer offers something their current one can’t provide.

2. Pay

Pay is another very common reason for departure. Employees jump ship when they aren’t making the money they want. They may realize they are being underpaid relative to the market, or simply get offered to do the same work at a better rate. Maybe their new employer offers exceptional benefits. Sometimes there simply isn’t opportunity to get a raise in their current role. Employees must often weigh their desire for long-term career growth with their need for higher compensation.

3. Work environment

Doing something for forty hours a week can be challenging no matter your role. But working in a place that is unfriendly, uncomfortable, far away or a bad fit cultural fit can make it worse. Maybe they’ve been expected to work far more hours than they were initially promised. Perhaps office politics and difficult co-workers have finally gotten the best of them. The environment in which someone works matters and can be a factor in some employees calling it quits.

4. Dislike of their current work

Sometimes people reach a point where they no longer enjoy the work they do. Perhaps they feel as if their responsibilities are no longer challenging. Or else they’ve lost interest in the field.

Companies often deny employees the agency they’d like in putting new ideas into practice. For talented and ambitious people, this can be frustrating. If this is the reason your employee decides to leave, working out a way to change their responsibilities might be a ticket to keeping them around.

5. A career change

It’s difficult to imagine doing the same thing your whole life. Some employees find themselves wanting to change fields, but don’t have the option of doing so at their current workplace. Still others want to go back to school, or pursue goals unrelated to their career (say, traveling or retirement). Whatever the reason, your organization may no longer be the place they want to spend their work time.

6. Burnout

Burnout is incredibly common. A job requiring you to travel too much? Or work nights? It takes their toll. Employees leave when the stresses of their jobs exceed their desire or capacity to manage them successfully. Finding work-life balance is important, and these individuals are making an active attempt to recover it.

7. Lack of appreciation

Don’t underestimate how badly it feels not to be noticed. When your organization runs smoothly, it can be easy to forget how hard your employees work. Workers can leave jobs when they feel as though management doesn’t fully appreciate their talents, competence and ability to grow. This can lead to unprofessionalism, low morale, and — yes — turnover.

8. They have entrepreneurial goals

Sometimes talented and driven employees will want to strike out on their own. If your employee wants to start a business or breathe new life into their freelance career, make sure they understand the legal limitations they face in doing so, such as not using trade secrets. If everything legal is in order, keep in contact with these people. You might find a new business partner down the road.

9. Personal reasons

This is a broad category that includes plenty of legitimate scenarios. Your employee might have received a serious diagnosis and require treatment. They might need to take time out of the workforce to care for an ailing family member. Maybe they just had a child. The best way to handle this scenario is to ensure that they understand what benefits they’re entitled to and what legal obligations they have to your company. Then, wish them well.

10. They have a bad boss

As uncomfortable as it is to hear, a bad boss is a major reason that employees leave their jobs. Tell-tale signs of a manager who’s making things difficult include poor communication and listening skills, micromanagement and an inability to share information. In addition to having strong manager ethics, it’s important to make sure you’re trained in effective management skills so that you don’t become the reason a good employee puts in their notice. Earning a specialized degree in management or a related field can help you become the boss your employees deserve.

What to Do When Your Employee Resigns

Good management training includes mastering the delicate work of handling employee separations. Here are some tips to help this process go smoothly:

Act professionally

As a leader, you should always be the first to act with dignity, respect and professionalism. If you don’t, other employees will notice and remember your behavior. Make sure you congratulate the employee on their new career move and express gratitude for their work. Offer any assistance they might need during the transition and to be a future reference should they need it. You can even schedule a small going away event if you’d like. Stay empathetic and remember that it’s professional, not personal.

Get things in order

The departure of an employee calls for certain legal obligation and transitional responsibilities. Balance Careers offers a helpful checklist of things to be done when a worker gives their notice:

  • If the employee hasn’t already done so, notify your Human Resources department.
  • Ask your employee to write an official letter of resignation if you haven’t already received one.
  • Plan for the employee’s termination from access to your organization’s digital network. Make sure to obtain the employee’s relevant passwords.
  • Prepare to deactivate the employee’s building or property access.
  • Make sure the employee returns company property such as laptops, keys, ID badges or books.
  • Ensure that you meet all legal requirements of termination, such as vacation pay, unused sick time and adherence to other benefits.
  • Verify with your employee that they understand any confidentiality or non-compete agreements they’ve signed.

Additionally, you also want to make sure they transfer any specialized knowledge they may have that your company will need. For example, knowing how to run a certain computer program. Ask them to train another staff member or write things down. Once they leave, you don’t want that knowledge to leave with them.

Conduct an exit interview

Exit interviews give both you and your departing employee the opportunity to review and reflect. You’ll have the chance to ask honest questions about their experience at your company and ways to improve your organization. They’ll have the opportunity to give frank and honest answers­, which is something that’s much harder to get from current employees.

Start your interview in a way that puts the person at ease. Partake in light discussion and assure them that their honesty will have no negative consequences.

The Balance recommended some useful exit interview questions, which may include:

  • Why did you start looking for new employment in the first place?
  • Did you share your concerns with anyone in the company prior to your decision to leave? How did they respond?
  • What did you value about working at our company? What did you dislike?
  • Did you feel as though you had the resources and support you needed to do your job? If not, what was missing?
  • What is your experience of employee morale at this organization? Employee motivation?
  • Did you understand and feel a part of the company mission and goals?
  • What skills and qualities should we seek in your replacement?

At the end of the exit interview, make sure to reinforce the fact that the individual contributed and added value during their time at the organization.

Understanding the Impact of Employee Departure

When an employee has finished their exit interview and cleaned out their cubicle, what financial impact will it have on that company? According to the Work Institute, a big one. The Institute estimated that employers paid $600 billion in turnover costs in 2018. By 2020, that number is estimated to reach $68 billion. Furthermore, about 40 percent of employees left within 12 months of being hired — the highest turnover rate in eight years. To replace them can cost between 100 and 300 percent of the employee’s base salary.

In order to reduce spending, boost retention and improve morale, managers must have a thorough understanding of what makes a great work environment and how to bring out the best in their workers. This training often comes with earning the right advanced degree, such as the online Master of Science in Management at Brescia University. Programs like the MSM provide individuals with the skills they need to become successful leaders in the workforce. Because our degree can be completed in as little as two years, graduates can quickly and efficiently go further their careers.

Additional sources: Inc, Michael Page, Fortune, Forbes