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The Real Reason Employees Quit

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By: Bill Wednieski


It sure hurts when a terrific and well-liked employee walks out the door for a “better” opportunity. The head scratching post-mortem analysis that follows can drive an executive or business owner nuts. Let me save you some time and succinctly take you right to the root of the problem, the real reason employees quit. Whether you are the owner, hiring manager, an executive, or the HR leader dealing with the turnover at your company it begins by looking at your managers.


Jerk-free culture

Earlier in my career, I had the good fortune to work for the public accounting firm Plante Moran. I thought it kind of corny at the time but Plante Moran had a saying that was also a bit of a mantra that the firm was a “Relatively Jerk-Free” workplace. They meant it. Feedback – both negative and positive – was delivered with kindness and empathy from partners and managers. Plante Moran had a lot of patience with its staff (which was actually rarely needed because the firm did an exceptional job recruiting). The way that Plante Moran treated people has always stuck with me. Are your managers jerks? Sometimes? Always? Never? Being able to answer honestly matters a lot.


How big is the issue?

Well, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the quit rate for individual employees is at record levels of 6.2 million and 6.0 million, respectively for September and August 2021. The term I most frequently hear is The Great Resignation. I don’t care what you call it but it is certainly real from these figures. Sadly, the BLS does not give data deep enough to show us the compensation levels of the quitters but I believe it is at all levels from my daily interactions with passive candidates. The number one reason I hear from candidates on why they are looking to move on is their manager. It’s the real reason employees quit, much of the time, regardless of what they tell you in an exit interview.



The single most important decision a leader makes is the managers you appoint. Think about it: if you get it wrong and have a jerk in that role, nothing can fix that bad decision. More compensation, better benefits, awesome business results, etc. can’t fix a bad boss. If you want to stop the revolving door at your workplace it starts with hiring (or promoting) people with an aptitude for leadership and fostering your own version of a jerk-free culture.