What is the No. 1 reason employees quit their jobs? More often than not, it’s not about the money; it’s about the environment at work. There are many factors that contribute to an undesirable work environment, but they all have one thing in common: It’s the manager who creates the environment who is ultimately responsible for driving employees away.

According to research by AbsoluteGlobal.net, the top 10 reasons employees leave their jobs are all related to the inability of managers to provide a work environment that meets their employees’ needs. To retain talent, managers must find ways to provide a workplace culture that promotes productivity while keeping employees challenged, stimulated and fulfilled. Here are a few strategies to help you do that:

  • Make work challenging. People tend to enjoy their work more when there is some sort of challenge involved. Solving problems invigorates people and makes them feel good about what they do.
  • Empower your employees. Employees who have some say in how they do their jobs tend to be happier and more fulfilled. Empower your employees by giving them the latitude to make decisions related to their jobs, even if that means allowing them to make mistakes now and then.
  • Don’t overwork your employees. One of the biggest reasons employees leave is because they are expected to do more work than they can handle. If you lay off several employees and distribute their work to those who are left behind, you are going to end up with overworked and stressed out employees who can’t wait to leave. Keep employees’ workloads fair.
  • Ask them what they want. You don’t have to wait until someone quits to find out what needs are not being met. Ask questions to determine potential problem areas and take steps to eliminate them.
  • Show appreciation. A common complaint among employees is the lack of appreciation. Too many times, employees are expected to give everything they have without getting anything for their efforts but a paycheck. People love to hear that they’ve done a good job. Give praise freely when it is merited; it costs nothing and does far more to keep employees happy and motivated than most tangible benefits.

No matter how effective you are at providing a positive environment for your employees, you’ll always have some employee turnover. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to conduct exit interviews whenever employees leave. The reasons may have nothing to do with you, but if they do, you need to find out so you can take corrective action to keep from making the same mistakes again in the future.

Joel Garfinkle is the author of “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.” As an executive coach, Garfinkle has worked with many top international companies, including Cisco Systems, Oracle, Deloitte, Amazon, Starbucks, Google, Citibank, Microsoft and The Ritz-Carlton. You can view more than 100 articles on leadership communication, and subscribe to his leadership-development newsletter to receive e-book “40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” for free.

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12 responses to “People don’t walk out of companies; they walk out on managers”

  1. Linda Jonas says:

    I totally agree! It is shocking how easy and obvious your strategies sound and yet I guess we all have experienced bad managers… I would like to add: 'Be honest and approachable' to the list.
    Thank you for this post and for making me appreciate my current position (and manager) even more!

    • Linda, you're right on the mark with highlighting the importance of honesty and approachability. They're critical to creating a productive and desirable work environment. An approachable manager will often have the opportunity to nip problems at the bud before they ever balloon into anything worth quitting over. Likewise, employees who trust their supervisors will be more likely to broach difficult conversations and act with their own sense of integrity.

  2. Anne says:

    How about the opposite situation – we have too many IT business application team members and not enough work to go around. Several team members have been spending the bulk of their days doing absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, this has lead to a few team members wondering about layoffs in the near future. Because we sit on-site at the ad agency, rather than at our corp hold company headquarters for IT, we are not allowed to ask the agency if they need help with anything. I've started looking for a job – however with the job market still tight, haven't even really been able to land any interviews.

    • Anne, I hope you're able to return to a steady workflow soon. The ebb and flow of business can certainly cause all manner of frustrations. Perhaps there's the opportunity to take the initiative in communicating with a supervisor at company headquarters? I obviously have no insight into your particular situation, but is there some application or process that could improve efficiency at the ad agency? I understand that you can't make recommendations to the ad agency, but could you float a proposal to someone at your home company? Standing up and being heard can make the difference between being laid off and not — or even promoted.

  3. Terese says:

    How about giving them a reasonable goal? Great to give them work, make it an achievable goal. Or at least 50% achievable. Many managers have their heads in the sand about what the true potential of the business can be. It is frustrating to never achieve goals. That is a big reason for me to leave. I have learned the finger pointing begins when the goals are not achieved.

    • Terese, you're right: nothing demotivates an employee like an unattainable (or mystifying) goal. Ideally, managers and employees work hand-in-hand to develop goals. Managers may have overarching objectives that the executive team has handed down, but they should still involve employees in determining how those objectives translate into individual goals. Employees who don't feel as if they have clear goals could try meeting with a manager and clarifying their individual goals or other benchmarks. Good managers usually appreciate employees who take initiative and seek a clear understanding of expectations.

  4. Oscar says:

    Many of us forget that in these tough times we must put aside our feelings at times and just get the job done. Making work challenging is not always easy sometimes it is repetitive and boring but still the work must be done. At the end of the day I have found a simple thank you and expressing true appreciation goes farther than many other things.

    • Oscar, getting the job done is the most basic requirement of any work. That said, skilled managers can take measures to help employees feel better about their jobs — and satisfied employees are more effective ones. You're right that true appreciation goes a long way. For workers in especially mundane jobs, sometimes just asking a few smart questions can also help. For example, working as a bank teller is fairly mundane and monotonous. But a branch manager could ask tellers for recommendations on a new office decoration scheme, measures for making underserved populations feel more comfortable about entering the bank, or any number of other important policies and routines. Asking questions — and listening to their responses — can help empower and involve employees while expressing your respect for their experience and insight.

  5. Jim Jirus says:

    I totally agree. Inept management drives valued employees away from what the employees once considered their lifetime employment. This of course does not happen any more as I believe some managers actually do things to drive older employees that really contribute to the bottom line away for lesser experienced talent. I understand the need to obtain some "new, fresh" input but many older workers are open to the training and have the company experience to continue to help the bottom line.

  6. Jim, you're right about age discrimination. While it shouldn't happen, it occasionally does. Thankfully, experienced employees can take steps to preserve and even enhance their value. For example, most managers appreciate employees who take the initiative to learn new skills or participate in other forms of professional development. Sometimes a simple question about training opportunities can improve an employee's value in his or her manager's mind. As you note, managers should also remember that employees are teachable and retrainable regardless of their age or experience level. For example, about six years ago, a Delta airline executive named David Greenberg hired numerous career flight officers in their 40's and 50's away from Korean Air and trained them to be the first set of captains for Cargo 360, his new airfreight company.

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