What Exit Interviews Reveal About Why Employees Leave

David Witt, writing in the Blanchard LeaderChat blog, recently highlighted the top 10 reasons why employees quit — from the employees’ perspective.

And, this is very different than the employer perspective in which “9 out of 10 will tell you it’s about the money.”

From a PwC study of 19,000+ employees who completed exit interviews with PwC clients, the results are clear:


As David points out:

Better compensation is only a part of the reason why people leave an organization.  In most cases it is a symptom of a more complex need that people have to work for an organization that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts.  Don’t take your people for granted.  While you may not be able to provide the pay increases you were able to in the past, there is nothing stopping you from showing that you care for your people, are interested in their long term development, and are committed to their careers.”

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Moreover, five out of the 10 reasons are directly related to supervisor skills or lack thereof (I include recognition for contributions in this category as too often this is fully reliant on the supervisor).

Indeed, employees do leave managers, not companies.

What have your reasons been for leaving organizations during your career?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


8 Comments on “What Exit Interviews Reveal About Why Employees Leave

  1. It doesn’t me surprise that “limited career/promotion opportunities” was number one. It’s safe and not personal. I wonder how honest these exiting employees really were when they might need a reference in the future, don’t want to burn a bridge, or just don’t feel what they have to say will make a difference.

  2. I’ve always been a big believer in the notion that people leave managers, not companies. Generally speaking, most people will stay in a job they dislike and/or are bored with if they have a great working relationship with their manager. On the flip side, most people will leave a great job if the mojo is just bad with their manager.

    Personally, I have always been a bit skeptical of exit interviews because I’m not sure that employees are being 100% honest when surveyed. How do you really know if you’re getting good data? If you have doubts about whether the data you have is good, how do you action against it?

    Just sayin…

    1. I agree with Seth as organizations are managed by people and depending on the individuals interpersonal skills if positive will harnest good working relationships for the team.  A negative chemistry just as with personal relationships will never last.

      I still think that there is a relevance for exit interviews though as the organization can acquire great insites to make adjustments or maintain and improve what is going well.

  3. I don’t put much faith in exit interviews even when conducted by big box consulting firms that are a household name like PwC et al.    People don’t want to burn bridges —- more so today in this interconnected world.   We are careful on Facebook, etc.   and I venture to say we are careful in exit interviews.

    I’m a much bigger fan of “stay” interviews.

    1. I agree with Jacque. Most exiting employees will have the foresight to realize that they will likely need a reference from their supervisor at some point in the future.

  4. Employees who leave and are not honest are nothing but cowards. If you are a good employee, a good reference should not be an issue. I have left a company where I LOVED my position and my boss. Yes, there were ups and downs. But other employee(s) have been the reason that MANY people have left this company. The issues are well known but are never dealt with properly. So valuable employees are lost due to a mediocre (at best) trouble-maker. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the job or manager is, other employees can ruin a business.

  5. I have 8 1/2 out of 9. Sometimes my work is interesting and I don’t have unknown reasons. Can you guess what I am doing?

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