top of page

Quitting Habits: Why are Employees Quitting Their Jobs?

It’s the first day of a new job and all is blissful. You left that last job because it just didn’t align with your goals or your boss just didn’t seem to be the one you wanted to work with year after year. So, you took the plunge, and it’s great to have a new role and renewed excitement. You actually want to get out of bed to go to work. But… then a pandemic hits and life is not like it used to be.

The number of individuals who walked out on their job increased by 164,000 to 942,000 in June according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many are calling this period of the pandemic “The Great Resignation” as more and more workers are leaving their jobs to either pursue new career paths or focus on more personal time.

Why is "The Great Resignation" happening?

A new survey by ZipRecruiter asked employees why they chose to leave their job. The results were predictable: stating there was "not enough job security" or they felt the “inability to do what I'm hired to do." But there were other interesting reasons for workers to quit, such as: "I was not treated fairly" and/or "I did not like the culture of the company."

What is missed by employers is that people typically leave their careers around times of change or life events. Times when they are reflecting on what is important to them.

Don’t believe me? Think about a new parent, man or woman, who was driven in the work they did. There was no way they were going to stay home after having a child. And then life changed, priorities changed and the drive of work changed to focus on the family. That is why 1 in 5 U.S. parents are stay at home parents and there is a rise of stay at home dads.

Now consider the pandemic, employees are doing the same thing, all at the same time. The world has just gone through an extreme change / life event. And there are other extraneous factors that came into play at the same time that got put on the world stage.

But is “The Great Resignation” really a sign of the times?

We have seen the “gold watch” era cease to exist. If you are familiar with the era, you remember that people worked for companies for years and years and were rewarded with a gold watch. I personally saw my grandma receive her watch. She was so proud of what she earned, working as an administrative assistant at the Steel Company for about 40 years, until she retired.

But now employees don’t have a gold watch to look forward to and companies are different. Now when employees leave it is for a variety of reasons, but there is some underlying feeling of dissatisfaction.

Companies are not as loyal to employees as they used to be, so employees don’t feel that they have to stay. But companies have the power to retain their people.

Where companies should focus

Employees that stay at a company expect to be treated well. They are given the necessary resources and support to do their best. They feel engaged and a part of something bigger.

Inclusion is actually the key. Employees need to feel included and that their opinions are valued. The more employees feel valued, knowing they have a safe space to express their ideas, the more motivated they'll be to help a company grow. In turn, the more motivated they'll be to stay.

In fact, Josh Bersin, who has helped many companies grow, states “Employees are the company’s biggest stakeholders and if you take care of them and listen to them, they will take care of your customers.” Ultimately, that will also drive business growth, which makes shareholders happy.

The pandemic has shown employees and employers that teams can work remotely and autonomously. But many leaders enjoy talking to and interacting with their teams in the office, so they have brought everyone back. When their employees spoke up and said I would like to continue remote working or a hybrid work schedule, many of those leaders didn’t listen. So, employees who feel they are more productive in a remote setting spoke up by leaving to pursue other opportunities.

I can hear the wheels turning. You might be saying, yeah, but not everyone can work from home. You are right! Many of the leaders who decided to go back to the office don’t enjoy working from home. Some employees are better suited for an office. But believe me, they know who they are and they happily went back to the office. While others are getting more done and feeling less stressed working at home.

How do you know when an employee is about to quit?

Have you ever quit a job? I remember the day I quit a job without another job lined up.

I happened to walk into the employee kitchen only to hear the boss I had worked for over the last few years speaking badly about me to my new boss. They didn’t know I walked in.

Unfortunately, my old boss was a micro-manager who churned through employee after employee. He would interrupt the flow of projects that I was working on for him. He would do this regularly to delegate things he required my immediate attention on, but these delegated items did not have urgent deadlines other than his own needs.

I shared my thoughts on how things weren’t efficient. He didn’t appreciate me sharing my ideas and decided that I was not for his team, after 3 years of working together, since I didn't conform to everything he expected. This boss decided to allow the managing director to take me off his team and put me onto another team that did not have the resources it needed. I was getting a new boss and I thought it was a good move.

But after hearing that conversation, I realized I was not in a place that aligned with my values and I decided to quit. It seemed that I surprised the team with my resignation. But surely, they knew I was the third person this manager had pushed out the door while I was employed there.

It was a load of stress off my back and though not having a job was also stressful, comparatively no job was less stress. But... I started getting calls to interview for new roles and one role was perfect for me. So, I took it 3 weeks later.

How can you tell when someone is about to quit? What are the warning signs of impending resignation, and how can you instigate a conversation with your employees to potentially reengage them? It's tough to gauge, but here are some of the symptoms to look for:

  • You notice an employee is “stressed out" most of the time.

  • The employee seems "upset" and "frustrated," however they don’t speak up.

  • The employee doesn’t make eye contact.

  • The employee seems to try to avoid leadership or isn’t as visible.

  • The employee seems to be talking to their peers more frequently, to actually feel more like a part of the team.

  • The employee stops speaking up.

  • The employee doesn’t seem to have the same demeanor.

  • The employee’s communication style changes.

Here are the ways to cure the problem. Good old fashion communication with authentic listening:

  • Ask the employee how things are going. Recognize that they're stressed and ask them what's been bothering them? As a leader, ask them what would help?

  • Ask an employee who hasn't been speaking up for their opinion in a meeting or an opinion on a project they're working on for you.

  • If they aren't making eye contact, it may be time to ask a few employees to have lunch and have open discussions. Or build a lunch and learn where that employee and others that would learn from the topic are invited, but don’t make the group too big.

  • For those trying to avoid leadership and aren’t visible pop into their office for any reason, like checking in on something or complimenting them on work you appreciate.

  • For the person speaking more and more to their peers, get them involved in something extracurricular or ask for their help on something that is a small, but an important task.

  • If the employee has attributes that have changed, don’t be afraid to share with them what you've observed and ask if there is something you can assist with.

Don’t leave things to chance. If you remember a time you thought something was not quite right with your health. You either decided you needed to make a doctor’s appointment or you decided to ignore it, hoping it would go away. Going to the doctor either assured you nothing was wrong or there was something, but you caught it in time to take care of it. Ignoring it either stressed you until it went away or you got to a point where you really needed to see a doctor. And yes, there is also the situation where there may have been something wrong, but the doctor helped you through the situation.

So, if the employee will not come to you with the ailment, go to the employee to help them.

Companies and leadership that value their staff should put a strong emphasis on ensuring their employees' mental, physical, and emotional wellness, as well as employees’ sense of belonging are being considered. Remember money is never the primary driver for people to quit their job.

These are interesting times, where people are reflecting on what’s important to them. It’s possible a person’s job is not out of alignment with their values, but they have concerns about what the future holds for them. As a leader you can share information about the companies direction and how they fit in, help them to feel included, and you can show them you value them.

TLR Search helps energy, EPC, and chemical company's hiring managers gain talent market share by bringing strong diverse talent to their door, while inspiring potential new team members to picture their future possibilities; especially with hard to fill positions. We’re a woman-owned recruitment firm that partners with clients to assist them in placing decision-makers at executive levels, supervisors in functional management positions, and experienced professionals in technical roles.


bottom of page