Should I Stay or Should I Go: Why Employees Quit and How Employers Can Retain Them

Updated: Jul 11, 2018



October 2017


For some, quitting a job is a well-thought-out, decisive career move.

For others, it’s a split-second reaction to an adverse situation.

Either way, leaving a job can be closely followed by confusion and regret.

Did I make a huge mistake? What if I hate my new job? Was I truly unhappy? Was there something I could have done differently? Would my boss have been willing to work to find a satisfactory resolution? Would my old company take me back? Why did I feel that quitting was the only option?


These are all common questions following the strategic (or emotional) decision to change jobs. In an earlier article, we concluded that regardless of the job or individual, the reasons for quitting are consistent across the board:


Reason #1: Toxic Work Environment Reason #2: Limited Work/Life Balance Reason #3: Poor Compensation Reason #4: Rare Recognition Reason #6: Zero Mobility Reason #7: Unfulfilled Goals Reason #8: Inept Management


Furthermore, it’s worth noting: it doesn’t matter if these reasons are true, only that they are true for the individual who has decided to quit. Now, let’s assume these past employees are genuine workers with honest motivations. If employers know the reason for the resignation and value the employee who is leaving, the reasonable conclusion is this:

What can employers do to retain these employees, or incentivize them to return after they’ve already resigned?


We all have doubts. Even the individuals who are most certain of their decisions second-guess themselves at one point or another. In fact, “a recent surveypolled 4,505 U.S. job seekers and found 76 percent of full-time employees are open to new career positions.” Wow — 3/4th’s of employees could leave at any point in time, even the happy ones.


There are two huge clichés particularly fitting in this situation:


Cliché #1: The grass is greener.


Cliché #2: Hindsight is 20/20.


At one point or another, every single working individual will wonder if there’s a better opportunity elsewhere. The way to effectively retain — or win back — winning employees is to acknowledge these common causes of quitting and address these grievances with creative, actionable solutions.


An organization’s greatest assets are its people. If the people are unsatisfied or malcontent, it will negatively impact the organization. So, it comes down to one thing: retention, retention, retention (so much so, it merits repeat). Strive to preemptively change negative mindsets by doing the following:


Solution #1: Keep lines of communication wide open.


The decision to quit is a personal one, but as an employer or boss, don’t take it personally. It isn’t a personal affront (usually). The relationship between the manager and the managed will not spiral into resentment provided that a good manager always leaves the door open to discussion, free from judgement. Ensuring open communications from the get-go provides a foundation for the relationship and encourages employees to speak up about any frustrations and allow managers to offer solutions before the situation becomes a problem.


Solution #2: Reset expectations.


Expectations play a huge role in the decision-making process. So, when it comes to the day-to-day demands of a job, it’s important that the expectations of the employee line up with the expectations of the employer.


Anna Sidana, VP of marketing at Simply Hired, agrees. “I believe the biggest reason someone would regret changing careers or jobs is because they expected something other than what they got,” she explains. (Forbes)


Employers should make sure to periodically reevaluate expectations between the employer and the employee and adjust for any discrepancies between the two. Above all, people crave stability and consistency in their daily lives. When everyone is on the same page, surprises (especially unwelcome ones such as a “sudden” resignation) are less likely to happen.


Solution #3: Give them what they want, but also what they deserve.


If an employee feels they deserve a reward, recognize it.

If an employee consistently does exceptional work, reward it.

If an employee feels overworked and underpaid, evaluate it.

If an employee feels ignored, address it.

If an employee feels stuck, change it.

If an employee wants competition, encourage it.

To keep employees both happy and motivated sometimes requires concessions on the employer’s end. This could mean higher compensation, shorter hours, overtime pay, a promotion, or even a more difficult problem. To perform and grow, employees need to be challenged. To evolve and exceed expectations, employees need to innovate. Like any relationship, it takes two. The employee and the employer must work together, problem-solve, and periodically reevaluate based on the needs of the individual and the organization, respectively.


As Entrepreneur so aptly put it: “No one likes to see a quality individual leave for another organization. And, in many cases, this is preventable.”


What does it take? Work.

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