Why We Quit Our Jobs & Why Employers Need to Listen up When Science Speaks – Observing Psychologically

“I’m so f#!@#ing done!”

The famous last (internal) words of many fed up employees. Then follows the overly polite resignation letter full of thanks, the usual it’s not you it’s me and I want to develop my ect ect….. Although quitting our jobs has become an uncertain endeavor in the past few years given the restricted job market (ever hear the one about the company who want a 25 year old graduate with 30 years experience?), we are still quitting. The worst hit by high turnovers are hospitality (20.2%), banking and finance (13.3%) and healthcare (13%), (CompData as cited in Bares, 2015)

Quitting costs employers big-time. They have invested a lot of money to train us and keep us working. When we leave employers need to spend time, money and effort to go out and find replacements who need to be trained and orientated, (John as cited in Ongori, 2007). Employees quitting is also very bad news for company performance as those seeing their workers flee in droves tend to perform poorly, (Park & Shaw, 2013). Not only does quitting mean having to replace someone, it also makes potential recruits less likely to want to want to fill that gap. The advent of social media also allows employees to rate employers in seconds and for these ratings to spread faster than ever before. Not only has the employee walked out, they have been sure to slam the door behind them.

Why we Quit:

We all know the scene: a dreary office kitted out in only the finest 90’s decor with a clock that is either broken or just never seems to move proudly perched on the clinically white wall to remind employees that time is money (the company’s of course). Also starring in this 21st century production are managers who remind us that we aren’t doing enough and impossible deadlines with a cameo from the ever broken coffee machine. Why in the name of god would we drag ourselves out of bed for THAT? The fact that that is an image a lot of us associate with the working world is a big problem; we hate the place before we even get there. The social science jury has returned with a verdict that proves what many of us assumed was fact: if we hate our jobs then we are a lot more likely to quit, (Markey, Ravenswood, & Webber, 2012). In Ireland a staggering 51.2% of workers report being unhappy at work, (Buckley, 2016), which is bad news for Irish organizations. So what is wrong with organizations that is making so many workers throw up their papers in a spectacular scene and walk out of the front door? Let’s look at three big causes of workplace misery (and thus turnover), some solutions and a game plan.

Rough Day at the Office?

Let’s start with the bricks and mortar that make up the workplace. This makes sense as what employee would work well sitting in a back breaking chair in a cramped cubicle surrounded by dull colours? Poor workplace design is known to contribute to falling productivity, (Haynes, 2008) making us feel dejected and organizations scratch their heads at falling morale. Even small aspects of a workplace may contribute to employee misery such as poor lighting, (Hameed & Amjad, 2009).

Making workplaces more comfortable may seem like a challenge as this can cost a bomb in the short-term depending on the shape of the workplace but in the long term productivity and employee retention is boosted meaning more profits.

Manager or Slave driver?

When we work, most of us will need some direction to ensure we are doing our jobs right. This throws up a big problem: humans as a species don’t like being told what to do, (Jacobs, 2013). To get around this problem organizations need to have a way of getting the job done without pushing employees to the point where they just halt and dig their heels in.  Enter the managers. Despite being a vital part of organizations management is a major reason people quit. While managers do not have an easy job and need to meet requirements sometimes the way this is “achieved” leaves a lot to be desired contributing to workplace misery and, you guessed it…swinging front doors.

The solution is simple: careful selection of managers and supervisors. Managers who are caring and supportive get the job done, (Moore, Cruickshank, & Haas, 2006). Managers with a human side who support each worker on an individual level are vital to performance, (Chandrassekar, 2011).  Having managers in place who use bullying and intimidation are a major cause of reduced morale and high turnover, (Hamel, 2016; Whipple, 2016). Keeping these people in place is organizational suicide. Check in with your workers to get some feedback and if managers are using intimidation or bullying then its time to retrain or remove them.

Life off the Clock:

A simple fact is that many of us work high pressure or mundane jobs to provide for living life. Many of us see jobs as a means to an end like getting to take our kids on a holiday or to be able to afford a treat or two.  Sit a 9-5 worker down and you may just hear a theme coming up quickly: a lack of hours in the day. Dig deeper and you’ll often find that we lament about not being able to have plain and simple fun. Speak to workers with a family or active love life and they will often tell you that getting time to focus on these vital aspects of humanity is not as easy as it should be. Research has shown that stress and work-life conflict make quitting your job a lot more likely, (Noor & Maad, 2009).

We live in an age where contact can be made 24/7. Work can email you whenever they please and ask you to get things done. Bringing work home used to be associated with very few professions but in the age of constant connectivity working 9am to 11pm is sadly very possible. Again the solution here is very simple and requires no elaboration: keep work in the workplace and appreciate that workers have a life outside of the office. Offering flexible schedules is a major way of boosting job satisfaction, (Shetrone, 2011).

Game plan:

So far it seems that keeping a workplace fit for human habitation, keeping nasty managers in check and letting employees live life are pretty important. With all this said and done, is there a game plan that employers can follow to keep their workers in the building?  Although a simple solution may be to offer more money this has not (on its own) been effective, (Chandrassekar, 2011), employees want more than just pay-outs.

Removing the obstacles mentioned above is vital to employee retention, but how does an organization keep happiness constant?  Schwartz & Porath (2014) following a study of over 12,000 white collar workers found that the keys to a happy and productive workplace boil down to four key needs being met:

  1. Physical: allowing employees to recharge and rest at work.
  2. Emotional: feeling valued for the work we do.
  3. Mental: allowing employees to focus on their most important tasks and allowing them to figure out how they work best.
  4. Spiritual: no, really. Giving employees a chance to feel connected to a higher purpose is key. Giving us a sense of why we are doing something may just make us last longer.

Even one of these needs being met boosts productivity. The more needs met the better your employees will work, (Schwartz & Porath, 2014) and stay in their jobs. Combine these findings with the three sources of misery mentioned above and one may just see a happier, larger and more productive workforce.




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Noor, S. & Maad, N. (2009). Examining the Relationship between Work Life Conflict, Stress and Turnover Intentions among Marketing Executives in Pakistan. IJBM, 3(11). http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ijbm.v3n11p93

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Park, T. & Shaw, J. (2013). Turnover rates and organizational performance: A meta-analysis. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 268-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0030723

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Shetrone, A. (2011). 7 Ways to Improve Employee Satisfaction. INC. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://www.inc.com/guides/201105/7-ways-to-improve-employee-satisfaction.html

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