From a management standpoint, one of the hardest and most frustrating things is seeing good employees quit. Sometimes there’s little management can do, as an employee may simply see very appealing opportunities elsewhere. (Example: When I was a young man I left an excellent job to hike the Appalachian Trail, which was what I wanted to do at that point in my life—and there was nothing the company could’ve offered that would’ve changed my mind.) But many times, there are things managers can do to prevent top talent from quitting.
So why do these employees leave? Here are four powerful reasons good employees quit:
Lack of vision for the future
The 2019 Employee Engagement Report showed the issue often involves a lack of belief in the company’s future and senior leadership.
How employees feel about an organization’s management and future matters a great deal. According to the study, the top reason employees remain with a company is: “The senior leadership of my organization has communicated a vision of the future that motivates me.” On the flip side of this coin, the absence of a clear, positive vision can easily lead to retention problems.
Trouble with a manager
Beyond high-level vision issues, management at its grassroots core is a relationship business. As I wrote in “The Type B Manager: “A good relationship with a manager makes a bad job bearable, but a bad relationship with a manager can make a good job a misery.
People leave bad managers. A direct manager usually has a great deal of influence over one’s day-to-day experience of work. When persistent friction occurs, employees often end up “voting with their feet.” And leave.
This is a subset of the point above. While difficult relationships with managers can take many forms, micromanagement is definitely high on the list. As studies (as well as common sense) have shown, micromanagement is a nettlesome personal style that rarely goes over well with those on the receiving end.
People generally like to work with at least a bit of autonomy and freedom. When management gets over-involved in too many nitty-gritty details, it just gets under employees’ skin. This is especially true for high dominance employees who are behaviorally-wired to drive and take ownership.
Lack of development opportunities
Talented employees want to grow and advance; it’s human nature. Good managers (and smart organizations) appreciate this and provide challenging, interesting work, and meaningful career paths. A chance to learn and better oneself. While it can be all too easy for management to ignore this important function when caught up in day-to-day operational details, research has shown that lack of development opportunities is a leading cause of unwanted exits of top young talent.
Future vision, constructive relationships, micromanagement, and employee development—all of these are within management’s power to control. I’ve long believed management is more art than science. Whatever steps you can take as a manager to keep good people around are steps in the right direction.
Victor Lipman is a management trainer and author. His online courses on Udemy include The Manager’s Mindset and his book is “The Type B Manager.” He has more than 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience. He has contributed regularly to Forbes and Psychology Today, and his work has appeared in the Harvard Business Review.
Ultimate Engagement Toolkit
Resources to better understand, measure, and improve engagement in your organization.
Increase engagement with these 7 steps
Company culture quiz
Find out how strong your culture is and practical ways to improve it.