Leadership Within – Why Employees Leave

Posted on: October 1, 2019

Recent surveys and studies have underscored the importance of the leader’s influence over the work unit. In fact, most employees surveyed in these projects cited “disputes with their leaders” as their primary reason for leaving their employment. In many cases these disputes can be attributed to communication-based misinterpretations, although others can be clearly linked to the working conditions within the work unit. what is critical to our retention of great staff is most, if not all of the reasons identified by departing employees could be alleviated or overcome by using strategic and effective communication and employment strategies as a means of clarifying, creating or managing expectations around the employment contract.


It warrants clarifying that an employment contract works both ways. It’s not just about you as the employer. There must be something in the contract for both parties. Often, when I’ve approached challenging workplace relationships, I encourage both parties to pull back from the emotion and ask: “How would you manage this relationship differently if it was a legal contract?”

The distance that most people gain from the issue, by understanding that both parties need to agree to the terms of the contract (employment), often results in both sides negotiating in a more professional mater over the issues. However, wouldn’t it be great if it never had to come to that? That is the goal of any effective performance management program: to create mutually acceptable outcomes for both parties, which allow both to feel valued, worthwhile and respected. 

Back to our topic:

A series of recent assessments of workforces show a wide range of reasons for team members to leave their positions. When reviewing workplace connectivity, departure and workforce transition data, we can ascertain that up to 13% of employees can be categorized as disconnected. This means they do not believe in the direction of the organization or the guidance of their leader. They have disconnected from their workplace.

We can assess that approximately 11% of your workforce is highly connected. They believe in the organizational leaders and are often the employees who seek greater challenges and opportunities.

This leaves just over 3/4 of your workforce that could swing either way. This foundational core of your staff is where most of your efforts as a leader should be centered. By encouraging, coaching and assisting these employees, you can capitalize on the opportunity to create a connected, purposeful work unit that believes in itself and you as the unit leader.

The inability to manage controllable turnover is the single most costly aspect of maintaining a positive workforce.

The reality of turnover is almost all of it is preventable if you build the right system, follow its processes, and act in a level of integrity as a leader.

So what are the core issues for employees who are leaving?

The list of core issues that have proven out over the years includes:

  • Poor management,
  • Lack of career growth or advancement opportunity
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of Recognition
  • Pay issues
  • Poor senior leadership
  • Lack of training of resources required
  • Excessive Workload
  • Lack of Teamwork

When you dig deeper, this is what these types of issues could look like:

Issue, / Appears As:Appearance in UnitAppearance in Management Appearance at CorporateAppearance as personal issues
Disconnection Lack of connection to bigger picture of purpose of work.

Managers do not effectively connect to team members.

Team members are out for self only.

Sick and late days become a problem.
Abusive / aggressive Management

Corporate needs over personal life balance

Lack of fairness in work distribution

Micromanaging & over control by management

No forward momentum (always firefighting)
Below industry standard Remuneration

Lack of Potential for Growth and opportunity

Poor Benefits

Chaotic structure

Restrictive Structure

Closed to Input from Staff
Lack of Challenge

Lack of Purpose

Lack of Communication

Poor Pay Value (ROI) – hours or tasks worked are not worth the pay received.

Peer Pressure on work choices leads to sick/off days

Feeling of inadequacy in performance

Feeling of disrespect from supervisors
Poor AccountabilityLack of Performance meetings

Ego is bigger than purpose (how I appear is more important that what I do.)

No communication regarding expectations

Leaders talk the talk, but fail to walk their walk (Disingenuous)

Lack of performance management from corporate.

Leaders are disconnected, unmotivated.

Performance is not measured or resolved when a problem.

Annual appraisals are not completed.

No plan for Staff Professional Development
Lack of any Accountability for management inaction
Systems are un-used, no consequence for not following systems.

Lack of follow through on issues that are raised.

Management brush off concerns of staff.

No plan for Manager professional development
Feeling of inadequacy

Feeling of disrespect

Often questioning “why do we other?”

No sense of improvement

No plan for professional development

Lack of commitment beyond paycheck.
Poor RecognitionLack of Recognition of contributions by team.

I versus Them environment.
Lack of Recognition of contributions.

No communication about achieving goals.
Lack of Innovative Approach

Team seem disconnected from big picture.

Organization feels stale and uninspiring.
Lack of sense of being Challenged

Lack of sense of purpose

Lack of interpersonal Communication between team members.
DisrespectClear negative bias between individuals

Rumours run Rampant

Backstabbing is a common concern.
Lack of trust or respect is provided.

Team is not communicated with.

Management goals and outcomes trump team goals and outcomes.
Lack of employee potential and growth.

Lack of accountability corporately.
Boss doesn’t like me.

Boss doesn’t live up to what they should.

Feeling of being alone and unsupported

Feeling of being unheard.

Discriminatory actions or behaviours.
Lack of PurposeMomentum is lacking

No forward momentum (always firefighting).
No forward momentum (always firefighting)

Chaotic Management

Frequent change in direction or ideas.
Lack of Potential, Growth and corporate clarity of why it exists.

No clear Vision (where they are going)

No Clear Mission (how they get there) .
Why am I here?

Why am I doing this?

Understanding all of these “reasons to leave”, its clear that both what we do, and how we do it, can create a pathway to either a weak, or a strong workplace. Or goal is always to create stronger relationships for your teams, which result in higher employee retention and reduces the significant cost of turnover for your organization.

Next time, we will look at strategies for retaining your employees.