Why People Quit Their Jobs and How To Prevent It

Why would people quit their jobs? During low unemployment, it’s not surprising that some companies are now trying to lure away excellent employees from their competition. Meanwhile, others are desperately trying to keep who they have from wandering off somewhere else. The good news is that people leave for pretty similar reasons- reasons that can be prevented. In the end, people are driven by mastery, autonomy, and purpose.

Also related: What Motivates You? Interview Question 


Low Pay vs. Mastery

When Daniel Pink did a study on what motivated people, he found that higher pay and bonuses only resulted in better results when the task was basic mechanical tasks. If the job involves creativity, cognitive thinking, decision-making, or higher-order thinking, then higher pay resulted in lower performance. If you don’t pay people enough, they won’t be motivated. Daniel Pink suggests that companies pay enough that the issue of money is no longer an issue.

When the competition is offering regular bonuses and raises, along with yearly reviews, then that news is going to get out. If most of the competition offers more for the same expectations of your current employees, you’d better reevaluate the pay. When an employee can find a job earning 20-25% more somewhere else, it makes an enormous difference. Salary has a direct correlation to retention. Since your best employees have stronger mobility than the others, compensation then becomes an important expression of how much the company values their contributions- and a yardstick for their impact. Reward those who have mastered what you have them do.

Once you’ve paid them enough to stay, make sure that there is a clear ladder for their careers. No one wants to stay in a dead-end position, so show them how they can grow within the company. Show them that mastering these skills is helpful for them.


No Purpose

Your best people want to do more than the bare minimum. If there is no way for them to advance their careers and grow, they will not be motivated to do any better than the bare minimum. Your best people will quit if they’re still being asked to do the same boring stuff years later, so give them a good purpose. Winners like to win, and that means upward mobility, opportunities for recognition, and overcoming challenges. If your company doesn’t value, reward, and promote key players, then warning signs will appear such as disinterest, sick days, less than stellar work, and reduced communication.

Without a solid purpose of doing something, it’s demoralizing to continue the work. To keep good people, it’s important that they understand why what they do matters. If it’s production work, it’s important that there’s a clear understanding of how people will use this product and how it helps. It’s important that people understand that their work is useful so that they are motivated to keep returning every day. This motivation is easy to see in teachers and medical personnel. They’re able to see that they’re making a difference in the world right in front of them. That same motivation works on all employees.


How To Present Purpose

For instance, someone has to clean sewage when the sewage pumps or septic tanks break down. Known as one of the dirtiest jobs in the United States, it’s amazing anyone does that job. With a salary of 30k a year, no one is going to make a fortune doing this job. So what’s their motivation? They’re keeping the public safe from diseases. Wastewater can contaminate the local environment and the local drinking supply. They’re reducing disease transmission and are crucial to any working society!

People need to feel as though they’re part of something bigger than themselves and that their contributions matter, whether that’s showing compliments from happy customers, reminding everyone of great numbers, or just getting everyone together for a group activity once in a while. After all, work takes up most of everyone’s hours during the week, so be sure to show how everyone’s contribution makes a difference and see a rise in morale! Show them you care.


Value vs. Autonomy

The best employees quit when they don’t feel valued and heard within the company. As the saying goes, ‘people leave bosses, not companies. All people want to be respected. People quit their jobs when they don’t feel valued. Autonomy is the right to a person’s ability to act on their own interests and values. It’s important for people to know that they have choices. Telling people what to do “because I say so” doesn’t command any respect or motivate anyone. It’s crucial that people understand that they are valuable at the company. Once they’re trained in the position, they actually are valuable. After all, training new people is more expensive than giving raises.

Autonomy is the reason why being micromanaged demotivates employees and makes them quit. Without a culture of trust, employees have no autonomy and it quickly becomes a culture of fear.


No one wants to work where their work isn’t valued, without a purpose, or without any way to climb out of low-paying positions.  It’s only expected that people will make decisions in their own self-interest. It’s important that companies show their employees why the employees should want to stay.

If you’re having trouble finding people for positions, contact us.


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