23 reasons for employee resignations

Last updated:
December 14, 2020
December 20, 2021
min read
Sim Samra
Table of contents

Employee resignations can hurt—both financially and emotionally. You’ve made a connection, they’re one of the strongest cogs in your machine, yet too often, and as a great surprise to management (yet maybe not to their colleagues), they leave you.

Their resignation letter has landed on your desk, and you never saw it coming. The rationale behind our top employees deserting us could come from almost anywhere, yet nobody could predict their reasons for leaving.

Or could they?

1. Communication is key

Well, if you’re doing your job (as a manager, team leader, or as part of the HR team), you should. Appraisals, interviews, conversations, and think tanks are all opportunities to dig deep under the skin of your employees. If you value them and want to keep them, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking them the difficult questions so you can prevent the worst from happening.

2. How to stop resignations

Keep a close eye on the reasons each of your ex-employees left you in the past. That should help narrow down some of those unseen issues.

Human psychology revolves around patterns. We can explain away so much of human behavior with patterns because, ultimately, we’re not as complicated creatures as we think we are.

Wherever a pattern appears, it’s something you can work with. Spotting those patterns in employee satisfaction should be on your everyday to-do-list.

The following suggestions are a little food for thought on how to pre-empt resignations from happening.

3. Pay

Do we have to go there? Despite job satisfaction playing a considerable part in what keeps us coming to work day after day, we also want more from our lives when we leave the office. Money makes that happen. You know what salaries are competitive in your market. Make sure you stay on top of the numbers.

4. Time off

If your team doesn’t get enough time away from work to recharge properly, then they could easily be tempted away by someone who will provide them with what they need.

5. Management

When an employee isn't managed well, they’ll soon feel pretty uncomfortable. It’s easy to lose interest in a company that’s failing to support their needs.

6. Poor tech

Our work tech and gadgetry are often how we determine where cutting-edge businesses are. It also delivers pride. Is your company wearing ‘all the right labels’, or are you plodding along in last season’s tech fashion?

7. Unrealistic goals

Putting too much pressure on your key players could be enough to raise anxiety and lower enjoyment. Your top go-getters will love a challenge—but not if it’s impossible to achieve. Be realistic. Help them thrive with realistic goals.

8. Zero challenge/feeling underutilized

At the opposite end of the spectrum to being overwhelmed, good employees need challenges to keep them stimulated. It’s your job to find the balance.

9. Lack of respect, support, and trust

Your staff is human, and they respond to being treated that way. If they feel respected, supported, and trusted, they’ll pay you back with the same. Build connections based on these feelings, and it will be much harder for your staff to leave you.

10. It’s just no fun

Again with human behavior—no man is a machine. Your employees will enjoy the work and derive rewards from success, but there’s a whole range of healthy chemicals to be had when we laugh and smile with colleagues. If you can make coming to work fun, well, it won’t feel as much like coming to work, will it?

11. Uninspiring environment and company culture

A flat and grey environment isn’t going to stimulate anyone. Neither is a company that has lost its drive and doesn’t know who it is anymore. Create an exciting workplace—in both surroundings and culture—and you’ll motivate your team towards the pride they need to stay invested.

12. Recognition and appreciation

Saying thank-you works wonders. Take a real interest in your staff and let them know that you’re impressed with what they’re doing for the company. They’ll thrive on the chemicals it creates and will do anything for another hit.

13. A need for escape

Some people just need to get away. They’ve had enough. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but that doesn’t have to mean it’s forever. Work out how staff can have a break, fulfill some alternative needs, and come back refreshed and ready to reinvest.

14. Bad bosses and managers

Relationships are incredibly important. Any team member who doesn’t have a healthy and happy working relationship with their manager will be bringing unhappiness and anxiety to work every day—well, until they’re finally sick of it and dump those bad vibes, and their job, for good.

15. Colleagues

Some of the strongest employees thrive on team play. Not having the right people around them can make your stars feel as though they’re carrying everyone else instead of everyone pulling together. Talk to them about their fit, and who they do and don’t enjoy working with.

16. Micro-managing

Nobody likes to be excessively monitored—especially your staff that don’t need it. It’s invasive and disruptive. If you trust them, show them. Let them get on with what they’re good at, while you do the same.

17. Lost faith in the company

If your employees have lost faith in you, they’ll soon lose their sense of purpose and start looking elsewhere to fulfil their needs. Keep a positive and strong brand and vision; be excited about targets, projects and goals. Keep your team excited and interested, and it should help you to keep them on board.

18. They don’t feel like they fit

A bad fit takes work to resolve. A deep discussion into why it feels that way can help you understand. Find out what’s wrong, wherever you can, and fix it.

19. They’re overworked

Nobody wants to work so hard they don’t get time to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Being able to sit back and pat each other’s backs when things are going great, builds personal reward and pride. Don’t work your team so hard they never get the chance to appreciate themselves and each other.

20. Being skipped for promotions and positions

We all need the feeling we’re moving forward. Those who are consistently passed over for promotions, or positions they believe they’re more than capable of, will feel stagnant. The only way they can see to get moving again might be to move to somewhere new entirely.

21. Lack of opportunity and development

The same goes for personal development. If a promotion isn’t available, then training or additional responsibilities can help to raise self-respect and instil a sense of growth.

22. No feedback

Blindly plodding along in the dark isn’t where anyone wants to be. Regular feedback, from both sides, ensures better relationships, stronger bonds, and more commitment to each other.

23. Poor work/life balance

We expect so much from both our working life and home life. Where we’re unhappy in either, we have options for change we never imagined before. If you know your staff are suffering from either, find out why and if you can help. Where there’s a chance you can, whatever the problem might be, and you’ll be rewarded for stepping in with solutions.

So, what does all of that bring to the table?

We’re not telling you how to do your job (we are) or how you should act (we’re doing that too); we’re merely offering a handful of suggestions to why your employees may see the grass being that little bit greener somewhere else, and decide to try it out for themselves.

If you can provide your employees with all the things they need to work healthily and happily, they should stick around for a lot longer than they would without it.

Keep them happy at every point—and make sure you keep them.

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