Saturday, 22 September 2012

Employee Retention: 5 Reasons Why I Would Leave Your Company

I am going to take a different approach with this topic.

Rather than concentrate on theoretical frameworks aggressively promoted by well-meaning but often out-of-touch academia, I am going to address this issue from a 'practical' point of view -  based on observations, ongoing trends and quite frankly, with common sense.

I was once employed and I am now 'self-employed'. (If you consider managing my blog and having the freedom to produce articles of interest as 'work' but without the financial rewards, then I suppose I could be thus labelled). I also have friends, acquaintances and networks of people who are currently employed. What may come as a surprise to some is this - beneath the surface a lot of people are unhappy about many elements of their jobs.

Now for those job-hunting, the overwhelming desire to get hired, (for a variety of reasons, top among which would be financial independence), may supersede the undesirable alternative: not being employed and thereby not enjoying the relative 'security' of a salary. To such people, this post might seem irrelevant. However, it is worth considering certain facts so as to be better equipped to make decisions for the time you do get hired and when, (at some point in your career), you do become disillusioned with the organisation for which you work, dissatisfied with your job, or both.

I realise that there are a variety of factors that would determine if an employee will stay in an organisation or if he will exit. Reasons could range from the effect of economics, (high inflation and an economic downturn could mean a creeping rise in unemployment), to a personal propensity towards commitment. Commitment is a crucial factor of employee retention. Simply put, if I am not committed to your organisation for whatever reasons - exacerbated if I perceive you, as my employer or immediate supervisor, to be lacking in organisational support - then I am likely to leave your organisation.

It is also fair to point out however, that some employees may actually continue to stay in the organisation even in the face of consistent stress, threats/intimidation and cuts to their salaries, simply because there are no immediate alternatives. People who fall into this category, especially in Nigeria, tend to be those with family obligations or those with huge financial pressures. Here again, economics becomes the deciding factor.  

In order thus to address the issue of employee retention, we actually need to consider the reasons why employees leave in the first instance. Excluding the option of what I would term ‘natural progression’ – for instance, leaving an often lucrative job to follow one’s passion,  or to champion a worthy cause or to become an entrepreneur/innovator - below are the five most common reasons:

1) Endemic inter-personal grievances

Netscape reports about this  Gallup poll  which was taken of more than 1 million employed U.S. workers. It was concluded that the foremost reason why people quit their jobs, (surprise, surprise), was because of a bad boss or immediate supervisor.

People also tended to leave managers rather than the companies. More importantly, (and managers should take heed), poorly-managed work groupswere on average, 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well-managed groups.

In my opinion, an explanation for this development  may  not be  because the immediate supervisors or bosses lacked crucial inter-personal skills leading to disrespect, verbal abuse, harassment and/or the indiscriminate use of power, but really because of two reasons:

A) Ineffective avenues for checking unacceptable attitudes and behaviours.

B) Absence of specific penalties and consequences for perpetrators.

It also does not help if supervisors use 'scare tactics', thinking that via threats and intimidation, they could get results.

The Employee speaks:

Supposing that  I work  in   a company, whereby despite attestations to the contrary, there is no strong work ethic about dealing with inter-personal conflicts, (especially those involving discrimination and harassment); or  there only exists a system whereby grievances are recorded but not thoroughly investigated; my worth in  that company is diminished. I have a right to be treated with professional courtesy and if I do not receive the respect due to me, I would leave your organisation. 

If my grievances are serious, cutting deep and leading to emotional or psychological  problems, even after my exit, I may resort to legal means in order to get your organisation to admit guilt, negligence or both. Recalling that during my stint in your organisation, that there were whispers of this endemic problem, I may have a strong case. Given also the fact that your organisation, (fortunately or unfortunately), operates in the United States, where there is a 'thriving' litigation culture, I may investigate further and locate previous victims. Armed with our lawyers, we may launch a class action suit against your organisation. Should the lawsuit become publicised, leading to unrelenting media frenzy and an almost instantaneous drop in the value of  your company's stock, (costing you million of dollars), you can be assured that your corporate reputation will not escape unscathed, whatever the outcome of the legal drama.

2) Economics, economics, economics!

The Employee speaks:


The shifting employment patterns, effects of globalisation, capitalism or whatever, would mean that I am my first priority. Gone are the days of lifetime employment. Employees and organisations are becoming more self-seeking in their approaches to the employment relationship. So, as is echoed by many researchers, Coyle-Shapiro (2000), being one of them: I will be retained to the extent that I add value to your organisation.

On the flip side, if another company offers me more favourable terms - a more enticing compensation package; additional benefits and holidays; a healthy work-life balance and perceived organisational support - then I am leaving your organisation.

It is not personal and no, I would not be emotionally blackmailed by you telling me that I "owe" you. I have paid my debt by working for you for X years to the best of my ability, and more often than not, with high stress levels. Besides, giving you the mandatory notice allows you to quickly replace me, which is what you would do anyway.

3) Slow career progression

This is often the concern of the experienced, ambitious employee and is applicable to such workers around the globe. Whilst recent graduates might not discriminate against the choice of their first job and might not be concerned about performing the same duties for three consecutive years, (because they believe that amassing 'experience' would be more important to their careers in the future), seasoned professionals are motivated by rapid career progression.

The Employee speaks:

So if I, as an ambitious and competent geologist, with over twenty years of experience in the oil industry, am hired to a senior position and not given an opportunity to head the exploration unit - even after my expressed interest and after four years of exemplary service and of raving performance reviews -  then I am leaving your organisation. I have already gained the experience and knowledge in the industry and would be readily sought after by other companies.

Furthermore, I have a string of accomplishments to my name, so why should I be stuck in your organisation, conceptualising and making useful inferences from numerous geo-physical data, (which by the way I could do, even in a sleep-deprived state), with no foreseeable advancement in my career?

Besides you as my employer, have reneged on the perceived obligation of rapid career advancement which was formed during the hiring/socialisation stage*. If I had known that you had no intentions of providing me with opportunities for career growth by X period, I would not have accepted your offer in the first place.

4) Weak or non-existent corporate structure

This ranges from a lack of operational structure to arbitrary decision-making processes and may be manifested in certain local companies whereby 'absolute power' is reserved for the CEO. This may not be immediately evident to the employee when he begins work but over time, the lack of an effective structure increases stress levels. Moreover, arbitrary decisions threaten the employee's peace of mind. A notable absence of appropriate training and development programmes also reduces performance levels.

The Employee speaks:


Now in such a situation whereby you, as my employer, do not supply the necessary tools, training and support for me to be efficient in my role, I would leave your organisation for your competitors which provide me with the desirables: mentoring, training and development, company resources to perform my duties etc.

It is unfair that you would expect me to use personal resources to train myself, to buy official stationery, to use my car for company-related duties, (with little or inconsistent reimbursements), or to perform other official duties, when the goal is to increase profitability levels for your company.

I also do not appreciate arbitrary decisions which cannot be appealed, such as stripping me of my benefits or sudden cuts to my salary, because my unit did not meet a certain target, when all suggestions made to you, the Management, for improvement of my unit's Key Performance Indicators have never been addressed nor implemented. I cannot be expected to work miracles in such an environment and I refuse to use unethical or even criminal means to get the results you demand.

Due to the weak corporate structure, I have become unhappy in my job even from the first day. Consequently, I may not even bother to hand over my notice because I feel you are not worth that consideration. I may simply quit.


5) Lack of overall perceived organisational support

This point is actually inherent in almost all the reasons employees list for exiting organisations. It is also a well-documented theme which researchers use in their various studies. Perceived organisational support, (POS), refers to the way the organisation cares (or not) about the well-being of its employees. In my opinion, POS could mean the little things: creating and enforcing a 'listening' culture for employee concerns;  paying the employee for overtime hours during specific projects; or setting up in-house day care centres; (thereby allowing new mothers access to their infants throughout the work day, which helps to reduce  anxiety or guilt). It could also include compassionate gestures such as supporting the employee during times of personal loss/tragedies by arranging the funeral rites of family members, or offering programmes to help employees overcome destructive addictions etc.

The lack of POS however, does not endear the organisation to the employee.

The Employee speaks:

I may get the distinct feeling, (from your actions and cues at the workplace), that you, as my employer, are not truly concerned about my well-being and that our relationship is simply 'transactional'; (based on a basic principle of financial awards being exchanged for execution of duties); and not 'relational', (which also includes an inter-personal element). I may thus consider myself  'expendable'  in your company.

Because of the notion of  'every man for himself', I would not trust that in times of a major organisational change, that I would be automatically retained, despite my contributions  to your company.

Since  I am also not convinced that you would consider my unique circumstances, and given that I have no emotional attachment to you, I may readily leave your organisation as a precautionary action against outright retrenchment and sacks, or simply because I have received a better offer elsewhere.


Like I stated earlier, it is important to know the main reasons why employees leave organisations. Insights therein should help in formulating employee retention systems. Simply put - knowing what is 'broken' is crucial to building a stronger plan.  So in this sense, the title of this post is not self-contradictory.

The five reasons given are in no way exhaustive as it is sometimes difficult to ascertain why one employee would leave a company and another, in similar circumstances, would stay. However, considering the reasons from an employee's viewpoint could be interesting to employers who are sometimes 'out of touch' with reality.

Furthermore, the points raised in this post provide implications for more effective communications between the organisation and employee. This is because poor communication actually impedes dialogue which is necessary in times of conflict. Unresolved conflict easily leads to negative outcomes for the company such as high turnover and embittered workers, whose unfavourable assessment of the organisation might halt its attraction of future high-calibre professionals.

In this age whereby corporate reputations could be negatively impacted in a few hours by social media platforms, or whereby YouTube contents could wreck havoc on perceptions or GoPro’s dynamic footage could cause privacy concerns, it is in the organisation's best interest to ensure that the number of 'aggrieved' employees exiting is kept to the barest minimum. Employee retention programmes should thus be accorded greater importance in the organisation's business strategy for better organisational effectiveness.


*Implications of the 'psychological contract' as coined in organisational behavioural science. It is an unwritten and perceptual agreement which emerges when an employee believes that his contributions oblige the organisation to reciprocate in some similar fashion.   

N.B- Images courtesy of Animations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and 


  1. I do agree that upon a conflict between the employee and his/her manager, the organization should investigate not only the employee, but the boss. As quite often it is as i read on that article. ''an employee does not quit the organization, but his/her manager''

  2. Thanks Juan for your comment.

    Hopefully this article would shed light on the points raised to the extent that the organisations would begin to pay closer attention to the well-being and satisfaction levels of their employees. This development would increase motivation levels and translate to higher productivity; a win-win situation for both parties...

  3. Miinie G (Via Google +)26 September 2012 at 22:59

    Lucille, this article is so spot on that I don't have words! Feel exactly the same way and think that employers should really rethink their staff retention strategy. Yes, we are in a sluggish employment market but there is nothing to be gained from high staff turn over; it is antithetic to productivity. I admire you for making the right choice for yourself....Can't wait to read more from your blog :-)

    1. Hello Miinie G,

      Thank you for your kind words and for taking out the time to read the article.

      My reason for writing it is simple: I hoped to shed light on the reasons why people, (including myself), leave organisations purely from an employee's point of view.

      Hopefully 'Corporateville' would take note and formulate strategies specifically geared to address the stated problems, thereby creating stronger and more relevant employee retention programmes. Contrary to popular belief, employees really want to stay, (if conditions are right), instead of having the 'hassle' of seeking employment elsewhere, especially if the unemployment rate is high.

      Kindly browse through my blog to view other articles which have been posted since March 2012.

      I look forward to hearing from you again and thank you once again for taking out the time to comment. Perhaps you could be kind as to post subsequent comments directly on the blog. That would enable you see other reactions to my articles...

  4. Brilliant article! I mean this is so practical, sometimes some of the stuff said on here is actually what is whispered in corridors among employees, but I like the fact that its uncomplicated , simple and direct , most times employers hide behind statistics, numbers and perceptions, without actually feeling the emotional pulse of the workforce! At the end of the day it comes down to how do you keep your staff motivated and you know to answer that you need to feel the pulse of your work force and find practical solutions, not propose theories which dont always apply in every environment.

    1. Thanks Anonymous of 27th September for you kind comment.

      Let's hope that management would begin to ask employees the right question to feel the "emotional pulse" of the workforce as you have stated. This is crucial as it is a well-known fact that happy and motivated employees improve productivity and by extension, increase organisational effectiveness.

  5. Spot on! Is all I can say. I would also like to add that most organizations go overboard in propagating their values to employees… Respect, Integrity, Transparency...blah …blah. However, when it comes to implementation they are way off base. In short they don’t “walk the talk” it is one big SHAM.
    The lawmakers become the lawbreakers!!!
    Sad, but true

  6. @ Anonymous of 19 October - Thanks for your comment.

    It is true that often, leaders simply do not practice what they preach. Perhaps re-thinking how they manage their organisations is necessary for greater effectiveness.

    I would be posting a piece soon on leadership so kindly bookmark this site. It promises to spark a lot of strong opinions and hopefully, more dialogue....

    Also feel free to join this site and become a member. Details can be found on the homepage.

  7. An Amazing piece, providing great insight!

  8. @ S - Thank you for reading the article and for commenting.

  9. This is so spot on. Many employers have the notion that it is a prerogative of theirs to subject employees to inhumane conditions. In today's workplace doing your job is not enough, brown-nosing will earn you more points than being efficient at your craft. The workplace is indeed filled with many unhappy and dissatisfied people with little or no options...

  10. Thank you for your comment.

    I agree with you.

    Isn't it such a shame that despite revelations from numerous research, evidence of high turnover rates AND existence of competitors, that some organisations, both big and small, think that the solution would be to hire two new employees for every two who exit? They often do not consider the long-term effect of losing top talents over a certain period.

    Hopefully, this article would help those in Management to understand the employee's thought process and strive to fix what is 'broken'. Sometimes, this is as simple as really listenening to the concerns of the employees, especially as it relates to their work environment. Besides it is just good business sense to keep your employees happy, motivated and committed to your company.


  11. Your reasons for employees leaving their jobs in organizations are not dissimilar to what we find when we do exit and engagmentn surveys for clients. We know that 80-85% of the time the trigger for people leave is due to their direct manager/supervisor. From there you can find all the reasons you note - unfair treatment, favoritism, poor relationships - blaming, credit taking, and on and on.

    While the company might hear at the HR exit interview the person is leaving to look after a sick family member, return to school, go travelling or take a new job - all of which might be true, we get a different picture at times when they tell us what actually triggered the desire to leave.

    Company downsizing is another facet of this. If a company downsizes and cuts staff this sets off a long term chain of events that can lead to top performers finding an exit. We have seen this work like this. Company reduces staff but the perceptions of top performers who are left now working harder and seeing learning, growth and advancement opportunities diminish are that too many cut were the good ones. Then business picks up and they rehire new folks who turn out to be not as good as those they terminated and of course they are new and don't know the business so at times can't contribute fully. This then triggers top performers to find a new role.

    The opposite is true too. We were approached to do exit surveys of a large number of former employees of this Fortune 500 company. This single business unit was being decimated daily and the numbers ran way over the norm for any unit across the globe. The 2008 financial tsunami hit and this firm reduced costs by 10% (huge dollars) but held their long standing view that they don't cut staff. They only replaced critical front line staff and managers took a small pay cut. After this first tsunami was over they found their engagement scores for this unit surprisingly quite high to quote their HR VP.

    I was not surprised and said so. While there were only critical staff replacements being made there were no layoff casualties where staff could complain they let go of the wrong people. The loyalty of their firm to their employees during a time when dissatisfied staff had little choice but to keep working there led to a resurgence of morale and now this unit is back to normal attrition.

    1. Greg - Many thanks for such a detailed response and for citing a very relevant case study.

      As you have indicated, a lot of the reasons people leave is linked to unfair treatment.

      However, I think the prevailing culture of the land might make it rather difficult for companies to find out the REAL reasons for their employees leaving.

      In Nigeria for example, in the 'exit interview' (if there is one), the employee is likely to give the 'standard' reasons such as: a career shift, work pressures, family obligations etc. for his exit. However, he would tell his family and friends that he could neither tolerate his bosses, nor work in an environment whereby the poor company structure made it difficult to function properly etc. Only trusted confidantes would know the true reasons for his exit. No one wants to 'burn' his bridges for the future.

      Thanks again for your insight and I hope we hear from you soon in relation to other articles on this blog.


  12. An employee is looking for several options in an organization such as; good developing opportunities, involvement, good working atmosphere and many others. If employees are not getting any kind of suitable opportunities, then they are looking for different options to quit company. Here also in this above article we have found some suitable options on how to take care of employees and their development.
    Leadership Coach

  13. Hello Steve,

    Right you are!

    If employees don't get what they perceive they deserve, and not necessarily all they want,(there's a difference), then they would leave.

    Thanks for commenting.

  14. Retention strategies are important because they help create a positive work environment and strengthen an employee's commitment to the organization.
    Staff Recruitment Agency in Hosur | Legal Liaisoning Consultant in Hosur

    1. I agree. Thanks for reading and come back soon!


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