The Top 10 Reasons That Your Employees Really Quit

Ever wonder why your employees really quit? A study of nearly 20,000 job quitters reveals some rather intriguing facts.

The data

The myth: 89 percent of employers believe that employees leave because of money.

The reality: 88 percent of employees leave because of things other than money.

According to the study, here are the top 10 reasons employees quit:

  1. Limited career opportunities (16 percent)
  2. Lack of respect/support from supervisor (13 percent)
  3. Money (12 percent)
  4. Lack of interesting/challenging job duties (11 percent)
  5. Lack of leadership from supervisor (9 percent)
  6. Bad work hours (6 percent)
  7. Unavoidable reasons (5 percent)
  8. Bad employee relations by supervisor (4 percent)
  9. Favoritism by supervisor (4 percent)
  10. Lack of recognition for contributions (4 percent)

How to keep every one of your employees

The above data ties in rather nicely with the facts and figures presented in my last webinar, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Employee Engagement. (Here‘s a summary if you just want the highlights.)

Most notably:

  • Only 29 percent of employees are truly engaged (Gallup);
  • Disengaged employees are five times more likely to leave than engaged employees (Cornell);
  • Despite all the investment and attention in recent years, engagement is actually decreasing (Gallup, Conference Board); and
  • Pay doesn’t rank among the top four (4) engagement drivers (Right Management).

The top 10 list above makes it 187 percent clear that supervisors play a humongous role in whether employees leave or stay. As we often say here on the Blawg, it’s all about LOVE: treating your employees the way you’d like to be treated. According to the experts, the No. 1 thing managers can do to make employees stay is “value” them (Right Management), “care” about them (Monster/Unum) and be “genuinely interested in their well-being” (Towers Watson).

How to keep employee happy and engaged

But exactly how do do that? Here in one handy chart is a summary of approximately 85,927 hours of engagement research — something we call THE MAGICAL WHEEL OF ENGAGEMENT:

Article Continues Below

Employees desperately want their leaders to:

  • ENVISION a bold, clear and inspirational future;
  • EMPATHIZE with them to understand their motivations and strengths;
  • ENHANCE their skills through education, exposure and experience;
  • EMPOWER them to do meaningful work;
  • EVALUATE them on a truthful and timely basis;
  • ENCOURAGE them as much as humanly possible

If you do those six things, your employees will feel the LOVE and will stay with you forever. If you don’t, they won’t.

For more detail on each spoke in the magical wheel, click here.

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at


17 Comments on “The Top 10 Reasons That Your Employees Really Quit

    1. While many of the top reasons are manager-related, not all 10 are.  Like it or not, if you go chasing capable, ambitious employees, you will not be able to meet the career opportunity needs of all of them.  Personalised development plans only go so far when everyone wants to be a manager.  And money is often determined by the Company, rather than just “the manager”.  P&L and other things come into the equation.  And, of course, “Unavoidable reasons” are unavoidable.  It’s also an assumption to say that “Bad work hours” are manager behaviour-related.  That said, using something like the wheel of engagement is likely to retain more employees than by not using it.

  1. I really like the form and content of The Magic Wheel of Engagement you’ve articulated.

    That said, I do want to quibble with your claim about “treating your employees the way you’d like to be treated”. This is, of course, the golden rule, and is widely applied, but may not be the most effective strategy, as it assumes that others want what we want (and want to be recognized the way we would want to be recognized).

    Tom Rath (a senior member of the Gallup research organization) and his late grandfather Donald Clifton (who some regard as “the father of positive psychology”) argued for a reverse golden rule in “filling the buckets” of employees, i.e., providing positive feedback. FWIW, I described reversing of the golden rule a bit further in my review of their book, How Full is Your Bucket?:

    This is powerful: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” The golden rule applies insofar that we all want to have our buckets filled, but how to effectively fill someone else’s bucket must be individualized. I remember growing up, often being given gifts that other people wanted me to have, and one of the many new perspectives my wife has helped me understand is the importance of focusing on what others want in my gift-giving.

    1. Joe, could not agree more. The Golden Rule allows managers to determine their own behaviors and as we know too many managers’ behaviors are ill-advised. Some people call the reversed Golden Rule the Platinum Rule. 

  2. Mark
    The Magic Wheel of Engagement is simple and well articulated model / tool to help managers in their breeding of employees discretionary effort.

    ENVISION a bold, clear and inspirational future;
    EMPATHIZE with them to understand their motivations and strengths;
    ENHANCE their skills through education, exposure and experience;
    EMPOWER them to do meaningful work;
    EVALUATE them on a truthful and timely basis;
    ENCOURAGE them as much as humanly possible

  3. This article highlights an important misconception among
    employers: that their employees will be satisfied as long as their financial
    needs are met. This misconception leads to lower morale and decreased
    productivity, which ultimately affects the bottom line. Employers need to
    address employees’ wide-ranging needs as human beings, including their overall
    health and well-being. Read Bob Fabbio’s recent blog on five steps to
    healthier, happier employees:

  4. And just going through the motions on the ENVISION part won’t ‘cut the mustard’ either.  you can’t just quote the vision/ideal of the company and not mean it.  This ‘reason why you are in business’ cuts to the very heart of all the people involved with the company, staff, management, owners, clients, world.  If it’s just about making money you better pay your staff HEAPS cos that’s all it will be about.

  5. Hi Mark
    I was just wondering if you could confirm if this data was sourced from a specific occupational group/industry or was this a cross section of job functions and uindustries.  Who was this study conducted by?  I would be interest in sharing the data with my management group and keen to provide specifics and create relevance where I can.

  6. I do agree with most of the reasons. Its true. Apart from money all the other factors play a very important role in quitting.

  7. You don’t need ten reasons here. I think two gets it done. 1) The job sucks 2) The boss sucks. Don’t get me wrong. This is still a fine post. Keep up the good work.

  8. Knowing and understanding employees makes all the difference… treat them the way THEY like to be treated, not the way YOU as their supervisor like to be treated. The inward view being promoted here is a basis for many of these top 10.

  9. I wonder how this changes based on age groups. As a 27 year old, money is not as important to me as career opportunities, but I suspect that changes over time.

  10. I think the more a company focuses on the bottom line that is what I focus on for myself. When they pinch pennies and give the bonus to the upper management then I think about all my pennies and how I helped save theirs and I got none.

  11. Nice read. I wonder, how come “lack of recognition for contributions” was ranked as 4 percent?? how come the value calls recognition loses its power?

  12. Thanks for the great article. I believe every employee needs to recognize their purpose for doing what they are doing. The sense of purpose in itself will get the employees engaged in his/her role in the organization with great enthusiasm. The challenge that I personally see in my surroundings that gives rise to disengagement is they are looking things as (What’s In It for Me) wiifm.
    Leaders play a pivotal role in getting their comrades to recognize the purpose and benefit they bring to the organization within their role.

  13. Well…Hmmm…I just left a 12 hour a day 3/4 day work week for a 5 hour day work week. The boss is a bit annoying, but I get to operate a CNC machine and am learning some of the principles of it…Makes it interesting.

    I hated the other job as: 1. Graveyard. 2. Co-workers barely could speak english. 3. Management didn’t like suggestions and preferred to be addressed as “Mr. (I kid you NOT) 4. No chance of being hired.

    With this job: 1. Everyone speak english (And we curse when we get hurt) 2, The boss will consider suggestions and likes it when we think of a better way to do things.3. I call him by his first name. 4. He pays weekly. 5. I get benefits from the state so I don;t worry about healthcare.

    Yes, just chilling more now.

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