The 6 Real Reasons Exceptional Employees Quit

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Woman quitting


Natalia Marulanda
Natalia Marulanda10
DEI Advocate. Pizza Enthusiast.
I still remember the day I walked into my first big, corporate job. I was filled with a sense of optimism and opportunity, and I was so excited to be part of a company where so many people would kill to work. Everyone around me buzzed with the same enthusiasm, and we all fed off of each other’s energy. I felt lucky, accomplished, and ready to take on the world.
A few months into my new job, however, I was unexpectedly hit with a dreaded word that I came to know well over the coming years: reorganization. This particular reorganization involved some major changes that radically shifted the culture of my company. Before I knew it, some of my smartest and most talented co-workers were walking out the door. Over the coming months, it felt like there was a revolving door of talent. It was frustrating and demoralizing. Eventually, I, too, walked away.
This story probably sounds familiar to a lot of people. While at one point in time it was customary for people to stay with their companies for life, today people are much more likely to seek out greener pastures if their employers are not meeting their needs. An over-abundance of turnover can be prevented, though, if company leadership makes the effort to prioritize workers’ needs and, therefore, their job satisfaction. The best place to start? Understanding what has historically led to a high turnover rate at other companies.
Below, here are six common reasons good employees leave their jobs.   

1. They don’t get recognized for good work.

When I put my heart and soul into my work, I do so primarily for a sense of personal fulfillment. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t also need validation and recognition from my boss for my efforts. Employees who feel that their work is valued are more likely to stay in their jobs, while those who feel that they are being underappreciated are much more likely to jump ship. Employers can recognize good work in different ways — verbal praise, public recognition, or a raise or bonus.

2. They are burned out.

Every manager loves a hard worker; someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and get things done. But, often, managers make the mistake of overworking their strong talent, wanting them to produce more and more. Research has shown that when a person exceeds 50 hours of work a week, the quality of their work begins to decline. So, while it’s tempting to go to your star employee every time you need something done, doing so may, in fact, be counterproductive and could contribute to the reasons they feel burned out and eventually quit.

3. They are not given growth opportunities.

Imagine doing the same tasks over and over again without ever having the opportunity to try your hand at new challenges. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? People are not machines, and we all want to feel that we are growing and advancing in our roles — not stuck in a dead-end job without room for movement. Companies that don’t provide their employees with growth opportunities are at risk of losing them early. It’s important for managers to check in with their teams to gauge their level of engagement and for companies to map out employees’ career development within the company if they want them to stick around for the long haul.

4. They are micromanaged.

I once had a boss who I used to un-lovingly refer to as the “Micromanager in Chief.” She was a nice person, but she insisted on being involved in every aspect of my work. She wanted to be cc’d on every e-mail, participate in all of my client calls, and give me step-by-step instructions for completing even the simplest of tasks. It was suffocating, and it didn’t take long before it became too much for me to handle. Managers act as quality control for the work product of their team, so it’s understandable that they want to keep a close eye on what their employees are doing. But, when it gets to the point of micromanaging an employee’s every move, it has the effect of making employee feel like a baby who can’t be trusted. The best managers understand that if you want to keep your employees, you have to trust them to do the job you hired them to do.

5. The company has a toxic culture

There’s been no shortage in news recently of companies that are rife with sexual harassment, bias, and a generally toxic culture. Unsurprisingly, these companies have seen an exodus of talent. Nobody wants to walk into work every day and feel unsafe or disrespected. To avoid a toxic work environment, employers should enforce – and reinforce – their stated values, starting with top management. They should be transparent, responsive, and fair. To look the other way when they receive complaints of unsavory behavior, or worse, to engage in it themselves, is a sure way to lose your best employees.

6. They don’t have flexibility.

Ah, that ever-elusive work-life balance. Technology has made it so that we can work anytime and from anywhere. The 20th century model of work that had people sitting at their desks from 9-5 simply isn’t relevant anymore. Not to mention, the way we approach work at home is changing as well. Women have traditionally taken on most of the housework and have been the primary caregivers for their children and aging parents. But, men are increasingly doing more in the home and participating in caregiving as well. Surprisingly (or maybe not), they report even higher levels of work-life conflict than women. Flexibility benefits everyone, and companies that understand this will be rewarded with a more loyal and engaged workforce that will give them a competitive advantage over those who fail to adapt to the new way of working.
Natalia Marulanda is a former practicing attorney who currently works on women's initiatives at a law firm New York City. She also runs The Girl Power Code, a blog dedicated to empowering women in the workplace and in their daily lives.