Employees Are Unhappy As They Quit Their Job — Are You Surprised?

© microimages - Fotolia.com
© microimages - Fotolia.com

We’ve heard it before: employees are unhappy.

Many want to leave their current positions. And those that are leaving wouldn’t recommend their employer to anyone.

The number of employees who would give their employer a thumbs down rose from 42 percent in 2008 to over 75 percent today, according to the latest numbers from the Corporate Executive Board.

To some executives, this may still be news, but to any astute observer this continues to be a trend that won’t go away anytime soon. The question in my mind is: if there are so many people disenchanted with work, where will they work next when there is a good chance they may be going to a similarly situated company?

Another statistic of the disgruntled employee

The Wall Street Journal recently ran the results of exit surveys done by the Corporate Executive Board and it came back with some less than stellar news:

More than three-quarters of departing employees say they wouldn’t recommend their employer to others, the worst percentage in at least five years, according to exit interviews aggregated by the Corporate Executive Board Co., a research and advisory services firm.

In 2008, just as the recession began, only 42 percent of employees said they wouldn’t recommend their employer. The 2011 data were based on exit surveys of more than 4,300 employees from 80 companies, most with more than $2 billion in annual revenue.”

That’s a huge increase in employees unhappy with the way they were treated by their company. Almost a 100 percent increase in the percentage of people unhappy as they leave.

Something tells me these companies weren’t taken by surprise with these actions, though.

Certainly exit surveys can reveal interesting tidbits about a manager or some processes (when a former employee is comfortable to give feedback candidly), I’m guessing most of the HR people in these companies know the feedback already. And certainly in its aggregate form, the data is fascinating to watch (notice there’s no dip in the increase, even as the job market as been improving).

Where are these employees going?

The question I’ve always had is this: if so many people are unhappy at their jobs, where are the good ones at? And if you are a good company with a good reputation that pays close to the norm, how could you have any problems hiring in this environment?

It still seems as though hiring is still the same, even for market leaders with good reputations. Or at the very least, highly qualified people aren’t just flocking to them.

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I wonder how much of it is a grass is greener situation, too? Certainly a workplace can become stale, especially under the pressures of stricter than usual budgets, layoffs around you, and limited pay increases and bonuses.

While it certainly feels like people should be thankful just to have a job, people only feel that way for so long. When I worked at a place that was, let’s say, less than an ideal employer, we hired someone off of a 80-plus week stint on unemployment only to have them leave for a burger joint a few months later. How quick it can be to go from “any job would be great at this point” to “boy, I think I could do better.”

What are HR pros doing about it?

As I’ve asked almost every time I’ve written about this issue, I wonder what HR pros are doing about the issue? If you work for a company where these people will tell their friends not to pursue opportunities with you, what do you plan on doing about it?

You don’t need a survey to figure it out either. Will you thaw frozen pay? Will you finally address that linchpin manager who also makes everyone around them leave? Will you address major cultural issues that have been left to linger in the recession?

And maybe most importantly, what are you waiting for? The evidence has been mounting for over a year.

If your goal is to shed those folks who have grown tired of the company and reinvigorate it with fresh blood, you better do it with some intention and tolerance for some short term pain. Just ask every fan of a sports team that goes through a “rebuilding year.”


3 Comments on “Employees Are Unhappy As They Quit Their Job — Are You Surprised?

  1. The truth according to research is that on a given day-29% of your staff are engaged and eager to work hard for the company, 54% are disengaged and are there just to draw a paycheck, 17% disengaged and looking for a new opportunity. So fully 71% of your staff is disengaged at anytime. These numbers hold true no matter what type of business. What we must do is work to create a corporate culture in which leaders understand what it takes to create engaged team members. 

    This is accomplished by small changes that yield great results. Top leaders should “walk among us” getting a feel for what it’s like to work for the company; empowering everyone to speak freely and share the reality of life within the company. Corporate culture is not just having picnics, it’s about finding the things that hold a company back and then cultivating an environment of evolution towards the values that matter to the company.

    1. I’ve learned these things from Lisa Jackson, at Corporate Culture Pros whose videos have assisted me in gaining an understanding of the issues behind corporate culture change.

  2. Can’t say I’m surprised when 71% of companies track assess employee engagement at the exit interview. If you don’t care to find out how engaged your employees are with your organization until they’ve already communicated they are ready to walk, you clearly communicate to employees you don’t care about the company culture you’ve created for them to work in. That’s just one of the startling findings from our most recent employee recognition tracker survey conducted with SHRM.

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