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6 Unexpected Reasons Employees Quit, Even When You Thought They Were Happy

Learn to spot these subtle signs to avoid the heartaches and headaches of sudden employee exits.

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BY Scott Mautz - 05 Mar 2019

reasons why employees quit

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Finding talent is hard. Losing it is hard to take. It's even harder when you feel blindsided.

You already know why disgruntled employees turn sour-- a terrible boss, a toxic work environment, out-of-whack work-life-balance. It's the departures that come out of nowhere that leave you puzzled and incorrectly assuming, "Exits like these are just a fact of life".

Actually, you don't have to be resigned to unexpected resignations. You can better spot and preemptively act on these headaches and heartaches if you know the signs.

Here are six not-so-obvious reasons employees call it quits on you/your company.

1. A better narrative appears.

For many of us, our job isn't just a job. It's a series of robust chapters in the story of our life. Too few leaders think of their employee's narratives; what role is the job playing in their life? How is it weaving into the overall fabric of who they are and the story they want their life to tell?

When employees leave a job they're reasonably happy at, something triggered a reevaluation. Perhaps a personal crisis. Maybe watching someone else exit the company.

Whatever the reason, today's workforce is increasingly expecting more from their job than just a paycheck. A good enough job is no longer good enough. They want it to be a part of their legacy, a worthy and worthwhile part of the overall story they want to tell before "The End".

You can unearth how their job is fitting into their overall life by asking. I conducted employee reviews that were as focused on the employee's fulfillment as their feats.

2. It's not just how they're recognized, but who else is.

You know how devastating a lack of recognition can be. Beyond that, it's a good reminder to tailor how you recognize each person. Not everyone wants to stand up for applause at the monthly town hall. You discover preferences by asking.

But what's missing here is that employees get just as demotivated about who else is recognized, for what. Unmerited rewards and recognition based on unclear or inconsistent criteria are surprisingly poisonous.

In conducting research for my book Find the Fire, I found that 680 out of 1000 survey respondents got just as upset over rewards and recognition foibles involving others as about themselves. Remember this alliteration: Clear and consistent criteria are critical.

3. "How we work is changing but who I work for isn't."

This is a quote from a respondent in my book research--it refers to the stifling absence of flexibility many feel in today's Industrial Revolution driven 9 to 5 format.

The desire for work from wherever flexibility is growing at a blistering rate while overall flexibility in or at work has become the new corner office. Employees see examples of other companies enabling a flexible workplace and they get envious. Enough so to leave.

Start by managing by objective, not observation, and equip flexibility with productivity and collaboration tools.

4. Changing career goals are met with unbending job definitions.

Career aspirations change. Period. If you're under 50 you've already had on average 12 different jobs. But at the same time, role definitions remain far too rigid.

Wait. Aren't we told in Manager 101 the importance of having clear job descriptions? Yup. But clear and uncompromising are two different things.

Research shows employees want to be able to reshape their work, to add new responsibilities and modify old ones to create work that's more meaningful to them. So think about starting with the employee and designing work to fit them versus the other way around.

5. The speed of business doesn't match the impulse for impact.

Speed kills. And lack of speed kills morale--in any company. Don't underestimate the acidic effect of progress slowed by processes, hierarchy, and politics.

I left corporate to run to something rather than from something, but that said, I certainly don't miss how slow...my...company...was. More than ever, employees want to have an impact--right now.

The best thing you can do as a leader to enable speed (even within a massive hierarchy) is to grant autonomy and trust as a default.

6. Work became a one-way contract.

Even happy employees can quietly come to feel that the underlying tone at their company is: "Provide for us and prove yourself. Constantly." When it comes to personal learning and growth, it can feel more like: "You must help me grow. I might help you grow".

Stagnation may not be the first thing employees pinpoint as the source of quiet unrest. But this one-way relationship form of indentured servitude will eventually taint any employee outlook. So ensure your employees get opportunities to grow and feel cared for as a whole person.

Use this insight to get these issues in your sights. Then take action--before employees do.

 

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