The Top Five Reasons Good Employees Leave

5 Reasons Good Employees Leave


Whether you are new to the working world, or approaching retirement, it is not too difficult to spot good employees.

The Star Worker can fall anywhere within the hierarchy of a company – from the Receptionist at the front desk to the CEO. This is the person that takes pride in his or her job, and sees meaning in what they do. Good employees may not be the most vocal of the group, but you can count on them to contribute and make a difference, day in and day out.

The best employee may be the most unsuspecting member of a department – they often are responsible workers and don’t create too many waves. So why do these “Pearls of the Payroll” leave, when they seemingly have a great thing going?


Why Your Best Employees Leave


“I love looking for a job” – said no one EVER! No matter how selfless an employee is, he or she still has ambitions, priorities, and personal needs. The continuous slights escalate over time, and lead to animosity. And animosity leads to proactively searching for something more fulfilling. Let’s discuss some of the most common offenses:


1.  Lack of Career Mobility

Career mobility can come in a number of forms, from more responsibility, to a greater title, to learning new skills in a different department. Good employees want to improve themselves and face new challenges. It isn’t always about salary – it is about the pursuit of greatness. Employees of today dread the thought of showing up at a job every day for 20+ years to do the same thing. They are motivated by the challenge.


2.  Poor Management

The most common reason that people leave jobs is due to their boss. According to an article by, the #1 reason people quit their jobs is to get away from bad managers! The list of behaviors exhibited by the managers changes, but the story stays the same: people leave bosses, not companies. The boss may be a micromanager, a tyrant, lack empathy, or be a scatterbrain. Regardless of the management style, it is affecting the employee’s life, and he or she has had enough!

[Related: 5 Characteristics of the Bosses We Love to Hate] 


3.  Overwork

When it comes to modern-day jobs, technology plays an increasingly important function in day to day operations. Many employees are expected to be responsive via email, text, or internal messaging well outside of the “normal” work hours. This can weigh heavily on work/life balance for employees. As individuals, we have commitments outside of work that have to be carved out of downtime as well. Over time, it can wear on even the most diligent employee. Having flexibility has become a gold standard, with flex hours and work-from-home opportunities taking precedence over higher salaries.

[Related: Is Flexibility More Important Than a Higher Salary?]   

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4.  Questionable Ethics

Another reason many employees will leave an organization (even when they are happy) has to do with ethical issues. Ethics can span a wide spectrum, but in this case, it relates to illegal and/or immoral activity. An employer, supervisor, or fellow employee might push the person to engage in illegal activity as part of the job, making it impossible for the person to maintain his position without being involved in the illegal activity. It can also make it difficult for the worker to do his job correctly. Even “looking the other way” and not reporting such behavior could implicate the employee. This is a delicate situation to communicate in an interview, however, and should be approached with caution.

[Related: Looking for a Job Because of a Bad Boss? Here’s How to Communicate It Professionally]  


5.  Below-Average Wage

There are many ways to reward a valuable employee without money, but pay raises and promotions are always appreciated. Many companies are more concerned about their bottom line and put profit before payroll, and the employees are the ones to suffer. The truth is that most employees are not looking for substantial increases year over year, but small tokens of recognition can go a long way in terms of increasing employee satisfaction and preventing burnout.

[Employee Recognition: Unraveling the Mystery Behind Its Success]



These aren’t the only motivations that prompted employees to leave! Some other popular reasons cited by those that were surveyed included: conflicts with co-workers, feeling taken advantage of by an employer, lack of decision making ability, and no company vision or focus.

Check in with your employees from time to time. Ask what is working, and what they would change. Some simple communication may save you the time and expense of trying to find their replacement!


Top 5 Reasons Good Employees Leave



by Natalie Lemons
Natalie Lemons is the Founder and President of Resilience Group, LLC, The Resilient Recruiter, and Co-Founder of Need a New Gig. She specializes in the area of Executive Search and services a diverse group of national and international companies, focusing on mid to upper-level management searches in a variety of industries. For more articles like this, follow her blog. Resilient Recruiter is an Amazon Associate.





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30 thoughts on “The Top Five Reasons Good Employees Leave

  • I can relate to so many of the things that you talk about here which I’ve experienced at different times in my career so far. The biggest things can often be the simplest things to fix though. A little thank you to show that a person is appreciated can work wonders for morale and motivation. Thanks for linking to #DreamTeam x

  • Interesting article Natalie – unfortunately many ‘good’ employees also don’t leave as they think the company can’t manage without them and know how easy it is to stay where they are without having to search for something else! I would hope re your point number 4 that any ‘good’ employees working at a company engaging in illegal activities would have the courage to report it to the correct authorities! I also hope your article has inspired employees to take charge of their lives… and employers to look at how they’re treating their staff.

    Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday – don’t forget to link up so your readers can come and join the party too!

  • All so true Natalie. As a senior manager in a large banking group I’m seeing more and more people leave the organization because of old fashioned managers that still believe in a 9-5 world and treat their employers like crap. I’ll pass you post along, perhaps some of them will see the light

    • Thank you Michelle! Yes, the workplace is changing and companies need to adapt if they want to keep their employees.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Wow, Holy Cow. This so great. I have been at a job for 21 years and I am about to like the wind-gone. Basically, I screwed over for a promotion to supervisor, the management at the last minute said I was disqualified for the promotion. I never got any of the wording or anything in writing even though I have asked for it several times in writing. They gave it to the boss’s friend son who basically has made a mess out of it. When I looked at the ultimate boss and her next in line in the eye and told them that they had no integrity, no ethics and were not honest about anything instead of challenging me or even looking me in the eye, they just hung their heads like trapped gazelles. Our administration has done other things that lack both integrity and ethics and they just frost over it. In the last 18 months, I have seen many people (who taught me about things) work on Monday and retire on Wednesday. These are good people with great morals and ethics.

    Here is the thing, this new supervisor is always asking me about my future status. I don’t really talk to others I work with. I threatened him with a harassment claim, if he keeps asking. His supervisor said “Well, we want to make sure that you stay.” I said “Why aren’t you asking the others about their future status.” His supervisor, “Well… we…value you.” The real reason they are asking is because all of the new people are beholden to management for their jobs (they have waived a lot of standards to get their friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. hired) and will do anything. They know that I am not.

    Again, this was beautiful.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that you work at a place like this Patrick :(. Many companies are still like this, unfortunately. I hope the right situation comes your way – either at your current company, or elsewhere!

    • Thanks Helene – you are so correct! Companies are worried about profit, but only some understand the value of people.

    • I sit right in the middle in terms of age (and outlook). Stability and planning for retirement sit high on my list, but I can’t say I don’t love having some flexibility as well 🙂

  • It seems like this generation ls more creative when it comes to work. They enjoy the flexibility and like to have space to create. My generation worked for pension and benefits. Thank you for sharing.

  • All 5 of these were reasons why I left my last job and honestly, I think if my boss had made more of an effort to communicate with the team, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Now, as an a business owner, I know what kind of boss I DON’T want to be when the time comes for me to build a team. Great post!

    • I couldn’t agree more! I am putting together an eBook right now on building your first team, and everything you do from hire to fire because of my bad experiences!

    • Thanks, Sierra! I created the blog to speak to HR professionals, but I am finding that it resonates with so many others as well :). I appreciate the comment!

  • I completely agree. When there’s no opportunity for additional growth, and/or when I feel like the pay is not equating to the amount of hard work and dedication that I provide, I look for something else. I can honestly say that with each job, I have picked better and better places for me. It’s simply when one of the above happens that I decide to separate.

    • There always seems to be a “right time to move on”, and it sounds like you are very attuned to yours!

    • I agree! Employers need to treat their employees right, and they wouldn’t have the issue with turnover :(.

  • Great post. I have to agree with the below average wage and being overworked points for sure. Also, you are right bad management who doesn’t stick up or believe in their employees is never a good thing. I like to be motivated towards a goal I can achieve without being micromanaged. That’s just my take. But great post, all very true.

    • Thanks, Candice! This could have been a MUCH longer article, but I wanted to make it “to the point”! Appreciate the employees you have, and it will save everyone time, heartache, and money!

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