The Grey Chronicles


7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

Using a voluminous amount of interview and survey data, Leigh Branham isolates each reason, tells companies what to look for, and translates the needs and desires of employers and employees into a common language, enabling companies and their most valued human resources to better understand one another.

“Reason #1: The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected ”

Annotations: Some stay and adapt, some disengage and stay, and many disengage and leave. At the root of their disenchantment is an expectation that was not met. Why? Because aside from the written contract, a newly-hired employee also expects the job based on his own psychological contract—an implicit contract
between an individual and the organization which specifies what each expects to give and receive from each other in a relationship. When an employee realizes that the employer cannot meet a key expectation in the contract, there is often a feeling of having been betrayed, as if a real contract has been broken in bad faith. To avoid this: Conduct realistic job previews with every job candidate. With every potential hire, initiate a frank and open
discussion of job activities, performance expectations, immediate work team, working conditions, rules, policies,
work culture, management style, the organization’s financial stability or other topics where surprises need to be minimized. If the company lose candidates by divulging the truth about the job or workplace, the company probably would have lost them anyway shortly after hiring them.

“Reason #2: The Mismatch Between Job and Person ”

Annotations: While many obstacles come to mind, the greatest of them all is a basic lack of understanding about the nature of human talent. Some managers believe employees are interchangeable parts to be moved into whatever slots most need to be filled. Others believe skills and knowledge are more important than talent.

“Reason #3: Too Little Coaching and Feedback ”

Annotations: Performance coaching and feedback are essential for employees because they help employees answer four basic questions: 1. Where are we going as a company? 2. How are we going to get there? 3. How do you expect me to contribute? 4. How am I doing? Thus, a performance appraisal is necessary, but these appraisals should not be done on simply with vague objectives that tie performance rank to pay scale.

“Reason #4: Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities ”

Annotations: Downsizing has changed the loyalty contract between
employee and employer, and it has also heightened the level of stress over job security. Focusing on short-term, bottom-line results has created pressure on management to reduce costs and push workers to do more with less. Thus, give employees access to job descriptions, listings of competencies, and educational requirements they will need to qualify for other positions within the company. Create higher-level technical positions with increasing responsibility and commensurate pay. Keep employees informed about the company’s strategy, direction and talent need forecasts. Hire from within whenever possible. Keep the career development and performance appraisal processes separate. Build an effective talent review and succession management process. Don’t fear the possibility of training employees that then leave the company. Train employees so they can leave, or else they’ll leave. What if the company don’t train them and they stay?

“Reason #5: Feeling Devalued And Unrecognized ”

Annotations: Managers might be reluctant to recognize employees for a number of reasons: not knowing how to, failed to pay enough attention to the performance of their people to know when something worth recognizing has been done, or have crises in confidence. Reward employees at a high enough level to motivate
higher performance. Use cash payouts for on-the-spot recognition. Monitor the pay system to ensure fairness, efficiency, consistency and accuracy. Share information as soon as possible to avoid rumor-mongering in the ranks.

“Reason #6: Stress From Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance ”

Annotations: Things there are to be stressed about in the workplace—overwork, personality
conflicts, forced overtime, disorganized supervisors, gossip, harassment, prejudice and so many others. Workers get
stressed when they must sacrifice family time to work extra hours, when they must deal with the insensitivity of some
co-workers, and when they really need a personal day but cannot. These are the people who consistently work late, work through lunch, work through sickness, take work home and express frustration in myriad unhealthy ways. Encourage fun in the workplace. Treat them in such a way that they never want to leave. Empower them, not attempt to control them. Build a culture that values spontaneous acts of caring.

“Reason #7: Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders ”

Annotations: These issues manifest themselves in the effort and conduct exhibited by the work force, in a lack of enthusiasm in the workplace, and in the increasing complaints and questions about policies and practices. Also, it is visible in managers who begin to question the decisions and actions of senior leaders, or even in active resistance to leader initiatives and change efforts. Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan
and the competence to achieve it. Back up words with actions. If the company practices an authoritarian, micromanaging style, get rid of it.


Branham, Leigh (2005). 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Pennsylvania, USA: American Management Association, June 2005. 238 pp.back to text


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