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Updated Nov 16, 2023

12 Reasons Employees Quit (and How to Prevent It)

What's causing your employees to leave? Check out these top reasons and solutions so you can retain your staff.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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The Great Resignation hasn’t slowed much since the phenomenon started in March 2020. According to Zippia, about 4 million Americans quit their jobs each month in 2022 alone. The accommodation and food sectors, as well as leisure and hospitality, are the industries seeing the highest rates of quitting. While some sectors have had less turnover than others, no business is immune to this steady wave of resignations. 

So what is causing these high employee turnover rates, and how can you mitigate it? We’ve compiled the top reasons employees quit and how to get ahead of these issues in your workplace so you can retain your staff.

Reasons why employees quit 

The reasons why employees quit include in-office personnel problems and out-of-office personal strife. Here are a dozen common scenarios that drive staff resignations.

1. Their work arrangements aren’t flexible.

graphic of a businessperson at a desk with a clock chained to their ankle

Most employees expect a more relaxed schedule these days. They’re not looking for a typical 9-to-5 gig that requires them to be in the office every day. If a company offers a more lenient structure, workers are more likely to choose to work for that organization and ditch an employer who doesn’t grant such flexibility.

2. Their boss lacks empathy.

It’s discouraging to work for a manager who rarely shows compassion. The absence of empathy creates an environment where negative feelings and frustration can fester. If you’re not making an effort to support and understand your employees, they will find better leadership elsewhere. 

3. They feel disengaged.

If your staffers have a difficult time finding meaning in their work, they won’t stay with your company for very long. According to Gallup, only one-third of employees in the United States feel engaged in their work, and when engagement drops, the job search begins. These employees typically become less productive, and various aspects of their performance start to decline, including attendance. 

4. They feel undervalued.

graphic of a person sleeping on a work desk

No one wants their performance to go unnoticed, monetarily or verbally, especially if they’re putting in extra hours or working harder than other employees. Many workers feel demoralized by a lack of appreciation and eventually reach a breaking point. A study by Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of employees left their jobs in 2021 due to low salaries. 

5. They feel underused.

When people report feeling underused at their job, they’re not only referring to the volume of work but also the type of work they’re doing. Many employees want to do work that is meaningful or challenges them to expand their skills. When work is no longer stimulating, they’ll seek new opportunities. 

6. They are overstressed or overworked.

While it makes sense to reward high achievers with more responsibilities, be careful. Employees who are overwhelmed with the increasing demands of their job may leave for what they feel are greener and lighter pastures.

Did You Know?Did you know
According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, employee stress is at an all-time high globally. Among all regions surveyed, the U.S. and Canada have the second-highest stress levels — 50 percent of workers surveyed reported that stress fills up the majority of each day.

7. They have no opportunities to advance.

Most people accept a job offer hoping they will one day move up in the company. But when they hit the two-year mark and there’s no talk about a promotion, they usually get antsy. Employees may want to leave because they aren’t given the chance or resources to grow in current or new roles. Depriving your team of advancement opportunities is a surefire way to lose top talent.

8. They’re burned out.

graphic of a businessperson lying on their back on a large battery

Burnout is dangerous for your employees and your business. Team members who have burned out lack energy, passion and motivation to do their work. These employees often disengage by implementing a quiet quitting approach, either in response to burnout or as a preventive measure against burnout in a stressful work environment. Some, however, may opt to quit altogether. 

FYIDid you know
Leaders should keep an eye out for early signs of quiet quitting and manage the decline in employee engagement before it’s too late. 

9. The company’s culture is poor.

A positive company culture is crucial. Now more than ever, workers want to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. But not all businesses have a welcoming atmosphere. A survey conducted by FlexJobs found that 73 percent of job seekers view poor company culture as a strong enough reason to quit a job or avoid working for a company. 

10. They feel a lack of trust and autonomy.

A positive employee-manager relationship requires trust and leads to better outcomes in the workplace. Team members thrive when their supervisors trust them and they have sufficient autonomy to do their jobs. When leaders micromanage employees, workers feel anxious and are unable to work effectively.

11. Other good employees have left.

graphic of a person with a packed box quitting a job

Whether it’s due to an effective leader striking out on their own or a well-liked team member taking a new job, workers may no longer feel a connection to the company if their colleagues depart, which may ultimately prompt them to exit, too. Your business may even experience a wave of two-week notices because employees want to leave what they perceive to be a sinking ship. 

12. There is a change in their personal life.

There are many changes in one’s personal life that necessitate finding a new job. A person may move to a new state (or country), whether it’s for themselves, their family or a significant other. Changes in health or family also cause employees to leave the workforce or seek a more flexible position. Co-workers becoming romantically involved can also lead to one or both employees leaving — couples may want to adjust their relationship dynamic by taking separate jobs. And if the relationship doesn’t last, working with an ex can be enough to make a person quit.

TipBottom line
Track the reasons your best employees are walking away. Work with your HR team and company leaders to create concrete plans for improving employee retention by addressing the most common exit reasons.

How to prevent employees from quitting

While not all departures are preventable, there are specific strategies you can implement to increase your odds of retaining employees. If nothing else, you’ll at least want to maintain a positive relationship as they head for the door.

Offer remote or hybrid options.

Flexibility is highly valued by today’s workforce, especially when many workers got a taste of remote-work life during the pandemic. When FlexJobs surveyed people about their job search, they found 58 percent are focused on landing a fully remote job, and 39 percent are looking for a flexible hybrid schedule. Only 3 percent expressed interest in a fully on-site commitment. In fact, 24 percent of workers are willing to take as much as a 20 percent pay cut if it means they gain the freedom to work remotely. Employers should offer a variety of schedules and remote or hybrid work plans to keep employees satisfied with their work arrangements. 

Lead with empathy.

graphic of two colleagues conversing

Empathy is crucial for leaders, especially if you manage a team of skilled workers and want to keep them on board long term. As a manager or boss, you should care about your staffers as people, not just employees. If you do, your employees will be more willing to go the extra mile. 

Set your employees up for fulfillment in their current roles.

Talk to your employees and, when needed, help them rediscover purpose in their work. Give them new or increased responsibilities. Find out what piques their interest, and let them have a say in their responsibilities. Offer opportunities for professional development.

Did You Know?Did you know
Focus on strategies to engage and motivate your employees. Open communication and active listening will help you tune into what your team members need to be satisfied in their roles.

Provide fair compensation and reward your best employees.

There will always be a clear correlation between compensation and employee satisfaction. business.com’s survey on job experiences, expectations and satisfaction shows that a lack of competitive pay continues to be the biggest motivator for people seeking employment elsewhere. Similarly, great compensation remains the top driver of employee satisfaction and the strongest tactic to convince employees to stay. 

Manage your team’s bandwidth.

Make sure your team has a balanced workload. As employees quit, their work is often piled on the team members left behind as a stop-gap solution. Don’t let this uneven distribution of work turn into a long-term arrangement without additional compensation. Keep your staff updated on recruitment and ensure work is appropriately reassigned as you onboard new employees. If you increase an employee’s responsibilities, pair that with a promotion, raise or other tangible benefits.

Focus on health and well-being.

graphic of a person using a watering can to tend to plants inside of a large silhouette of a head

According to Jobvite, 63 percent of job seekers have started focusing more on their mental health since the pandemic. The top mental health-related benefits in Businessolver’s 2022 State of Workplace Empathy Study are an open-door policy for conversations with HR and managers, flexible work hours, expanded coverage for mental health services, and the ability to take breaks from the work environment. 

To ensure your employees feel fulfilled and secure at work, communicate with them and encourage them to be honest with you. If they come to you with concerns and issues, don’t just say you’ll solve them — follow through. Do what you can to aid their well-being personally and professionally.

Sammi Caramela contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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