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Six Ways Employers Make Employees Quit

Wednesday, 2 Feb 2011 | 6:13 PM ET
Thomas Barwick | The Image Bank | Getty Images

It’s almost always a bad sign when a company has a high rate of employee turnover. Especially in this economy, workers don’t leave their jobs without a good reason. Executives from the executive search firm DHR International opined on some of the most common ways employees become disenchanted and disenfranchised enough to cut themselves loose from their jobs. Not surprisingly, many employers and employees had experience with these six categories of troubles, and weighed in.

“All industries suffer from what I call the ‘Inevitable Variable’—people and problems,” says Antoine Lane, Corporate Trainer and Peak Performance Specialist. While some issues are organization-wide, many times an employee’s issue lies with a boss.

“There is a reason we keep hearing employees join companies and leave managers,” says Dr. Linne Bourget, who is an economist, behavioral scientist, leadership futurist, and advisor to senior executives. Read on for the six ways that organizations and individuals can drive away their talent.

Unethical or shady business practices. Don Kilinski, executive vice president and global practice leader of DHR’s Chief Financial Officer Practice, cautions against employers that do not conduct business in a manner that is not clearly ethical and respectful of rules and regulations.

“Employers drive away employees when they trigger shame or embarrassment, as when you lose respect for your employer by how he conducts himself of herself and then respect for yourself for staying,” says Mark Goulston, M.D., a syndicated columnist and author of "Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone."

Nowhere to go but out. Employees can be turned off by a lack of upward mobility, when there is no apparent motivation for hard work, says Don Kilinski, Executive Vice President and Global Practice Leader of DHR’s Chief Financial Officer Practice.

“This includes not getting promoted or getting a raise, and in this economy, denying bonuses. When the economy turns, many times the executives get their bonuses back and the lower employees do not. This creates a ‘We sacrificed when asked....where's our payback?’ [sentiment],” says Alan Fluhrer, CEO of Fluhrer & Bridges Executive Search.

The company is a mess. When companies don't have a good plan for growth, they will always lose their top talent, Kilinski advises.

The frustration that drives employees away can be triggered by a poorly run company “where at best it's like the Keystone Cops and at worst it's a group of whining, blaming, finger pointing victims who take no responsibility for their actions—AND the boss condones it,” says Goulston.

Jenny Schade of JRS Consulting has interviewed 1,000 employees while consulting for Fortune 500 organizations, and agrees that the company’s level of organization is key. “I've noticed that bosses drive away employees in [this] primary way: Failing to explain the big picture—what the company or department goal is and how employees fit in. In my interviews, I often find that employees don't know the company's vision or even suspect that the vision is unattainable.”

Mistreating employees or taking them for granted. Many corporations make the critical mistake of thinking that during rough times that they don’t need to treat their employees as well as they do when times are good, observes Sal DiFranco, DHR’s Executive Vice President and Global Technology Practice Group Leader. “They think, ‘Where are they going to go, everywhere is bad now.’”

A similar issue is neglecting to show top employees a consistent, high level of appreciation, like strong health care insurance, says Frank Spencer, DHR’s Vice Chairman/Partner & President, Retail/Consumer Practice.

Micromanaging and not valuing employees’ creativity and feedback. A company’s failure to consider employee’s input results in strategies developed in a vacuum, says Robin Singleton, DHR’s Executive Vice President and Practice Leader, National Healthcare.

On a similar note, “Companies that stifle creativity drive away good workers,” emphasizes Cheryl E. Palmer,a certified career coach. “People want to feel as though they are making a contribution in their work, and when they are not allowed to do this because a company can only see one way of getting things done, workers who want to feel fulfilled at their jobs will start to look for greener pastures.”

Writer and creativity coach Sam Harrison agrees that this is a common problem.”I hear it all the time in my seminars: ‘I have great ideas, but all I hear is 'we don't do it that way,' or 'we've tried that before' or 'we don't have time for that.' If employers truly want to have innovative companies and fresh ideas—and if they want to keep their most creative employees—they have to develop a culture that allows risk-taking, celebrates creativity and rewards worthy ideas”

Employers who don’t give their employees a moment of peace will soon see them heading out the door, says Vivian Scott, author of "Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies." “If you’ve hired someone to do your marketing, let him do it. Having to wait for a staff meeting to get consensus on the background color of the new brochure or to decide if an ad should be taken out in the industry rag is an easy way to get your marketing guru to run the other way. Ideas from others are great, but he should make (and be responsible for) the final decisions.”

Lack of stimulation and accomplishment. When the work environment doesn’t promote constant learning, employees will look elsewhere, says Frank Spencer, DHR’s vice chairman/partner & president, Retail/Consumer Practice.

“We all know what gets measured, gets done,” says John Baker, executive vice president Life Sciences Practice of DHR, so an employee who feels they’ve participated in those measures and rewards will want to continue being part of the team.

If employees are not using their strengths and skills, they have no challenge, notes Bourget. “Gen X and Y have low tolerance for this. I have spoken with several [who] are bored and will walk out the minute they can. They are not learning anything and not growing in their careers.”

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