Human Resources News & Insights

7 big reasons people leave their jobs

A changing economy and changing attitudes about work have resulted in some new reasons rising to the top of the list of why employees leave — giving you clues about how you’ll want to frame your appeal to job-hunters.

HR consultant Right Management asked 1,308 people why they left their jobs in the last year. Here’s how they answered (numbers add up to more than 100% because some people said they left for more than one reason):

  • Downsizing or restructuring (54%);
  • Sought new challenges or opportunities (30%);
  • Ineffective leadership (25%);
  • Poor relationship with manager (22%);
  • To improve work/life balance (21%);
  • Contributions to the company were not valued (21%);
  • Better compensation and benefits (18%). 

At one time, having a bad boss seemed to always show up as the No. 1 reason, but these days, people are more likely to leave because of a layoff. (Still, though, the bad-boss reasons —  “ineffective leadership” and “poor relationship with manager” — are near the top.)

What the numbers show
The numbers seem to indicate that if you’re recruiting, plan to see more and more people who’ve been caught in a downsizing shuffle. And plan to appeal to them by emphasizing the stability and growth opportunities your organization features. Job-hunters’ antennae will be picking up on that, especially in this economy.

Apart from that, you’ll want to go with many of the same strategies you’ve probably been using:

  • having candidates meet with potential supervisors to test the chemistry
  • talking about — but not promising — avenues for advancement, and
  • describing the highlights of your benefits package, over and above just salary concerns.
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  1. Marilyn Hunter says:

    How many in the survey were in management? How many were executive level? How many of the individuals surveyed were terminated but given the option to resign? Having worked for over 30 years in administration, people leave jobs because they want to, are terminated or have life changes (company moves out of state, etc.). Is ineffective leadership a sly way of saying “I didn’t like my boss or the boss didn’t like me?” There are a host of reasons why a person would use the term “ineffective leadership” or “poor relationship with manager” and one reason could be that they just didn’t like the person and probably had nothing to do with their leadership or management style. However, your weekly newsletters are great and informative.

  2. I respect Ms. Hunter’s opinion very much. However, I can honestly agree with the “ineffective leadership”. We have a problem with this where I work. Too much arrogance and personal feelings gets in the way of professional judgement. We do not have good leaders. They are very threatened and extremely insecure. Most of them have been around a very long time and became complacent. When you get too comfortable, you can’t grow. It can get very frustrating at times because it gets in
    the way of others ideas and growth. However, I try to look at them as examples, as what not to do when I become a leader. Ms. Hunter’s point is very well taken. Sometimes, you need to hear both sides.

  3. The Gallup Organization has conducted an enormous amount of research through employee surveys which measure engagement. The results of this research is reflected in a book called “First, Break All the Rules,” which identifies that employees do not leave companies, but rather, they leave their managers. While Ms. Hunter is most certainly accurate in her assessment that employees may not always “like” their managers, the book indicates (as does my experience as a human resources professional) that managers very often don’t know how to manage their subordinates effectively. Most of the time companies promote top individual contributors who have strong technical skills into management positions and they do not know how to coach their employees for success, let alone coach them for improvement or, heaven forbid, manage a performance problem.

    I believe the information in this article represents this problem.

  4. Absolutely! I agree with Carrie. I can argue this point all day. It’s nice to hear another perspective on this topic. Fortunately, where I work, our President has an open door policy. He appreciates this
    kind of feedback. My arguement is the same as what Carrie is saying. They put people in these mangement roles and they have no idea how to manage people. This is where Professional Development comes in. It should be required for them to get training and attend workshops. The has to be some accountability. Managing people is a whole new skill level.

  5. Marilyn Hunter says:

    Ray and Carrie, I didn’t write my comments to debate good leadership versus bad leadership. Let’s not forget what the article is about, people who leave their jobs. There were seven reasons why and the two of you are locked on management. I agree that people are promoted by reasons other than qualifications. Managing people is probably as difficult as raising children. You are asking one personality to manage several personalities and get the job done. It has never been easy to work with someone who is your manager and doesn’t know what they are doing. You wind up doing most of the work and they get the accolades and pay. So what do you do, you grin and bear it or leave. Remember, the company put that person in that positon for reasons you or I will never know or fully understand, but that’s life in this big, big world. The best part is employees can leave, most managers can’t, won’t and don’t.. But onthe flip side, there are some fantastic managers out there and I have had the fortune of having both. I can truly state that I have learned from all my past managers, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  6. I find it interesting that you think I’m “locked” on management based on my comments; I was only responding to your comments about the 22% and 25% of employees surveyed who said they left their employers for reasons related to their manager ….. I am both a manager AND a facilitator of development programs for managers, and a human resources professional, so I’ve seen it all.

  7. Lorraine says:

    Marilyn, why can’t managers leave jobs?

  8. Marilyn Hunter says:


    I stated most. Carrie can better answer, but how many people do you know who have gotten their position because of seniority and have stayed until retirement. Some managers leave for better or worse. Even Ray stated that people are placed in management positons that don’t know what they are doing. Carrie stated that she is a facilitator of development programs and Ray stated that managers need training to assist them and I do agree. How many get the training, are offered the training or are required to do professional development? So Lorraine, why should some managers who aren’t required to do any professional development or don’t seek it out themselves leave? And if they do, are they more or less likely to acquire the same position? Carrie, it’s your expertise with this answer.

  9. Lorraine says:


    Why bring up Ray and Carrie on something you stated? I found that segment of your comments interesting and was curious as to why you concluded that managers couldn’t leave jobs. I thought the answer would be a lot simpler than what you provided.

  10. As stated in the preview to the statistics, the numbers add up to over 100% because people leave for a combination of reasons, including their own insecurities over their job choices which are hidden behind the same p.c. reasons politicians give “to devote more time to family.” As human beings we all bring different skills to the job. Just because you lean toward social skills rather than technical skills doesn’t mean you cannot learn those skills given an encouraging environment. My experience is that human resource managers tend to lean toward the social skills spectrum, because that is why they are in human resources, and discount techical skills as cold. You can’t run a business like a daycare and many managers turn down the opportunity for supervision because they would rather work than spend the greater part of every day listening to personal problems and other reasons why work doesn’t get done. On the other hand, because of increased world competition, there is increased pressure (as if we don’t have enough already) to sacrifice a life outside of work. It is not an easy question and human resources needs to step up to the plate and treat managers as employees too.

  11. I walked out of a company not knowing what was in store for me in the coming months. It felt like a breath of fresh air and I did find another job. Companies need to look at their managerial skills for starters, its banks. Today we hear how they are outsourcing, and sending most of the jobs to other countries. Many become greedier by the day to say the least. These are the companies that have the largest turn over and they have it, because their managers of large industries especially hav forgotten, what gave them a job in the first place, People!!! Morals, respect, dignity, appreciation, loyality, stability, honestly and trust have all but gone and to bring them all back, and placed in a company, is what will keep its workers happy and remaining.

  12. Wade Yu says:

    Actually I am a worker in HR department, I have interviewed a lot of people who left from company these years. most of the feedback are negative, the relationship with leader or the lack of opportunity… both company and employee have the responsibility for the issues, more respect, more trust, more communication, really human not tough and keep the problem unattended.on the side of company, do not trust the people as machine but a human being, I think that will be much better!

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