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Survey: Dissatisfaction With Management Top Reason Good Employees Quit

When top performers decide to jump ship, managers may want to consider a little self-reflection, a recent survey suggests.

More than one-third (35 percent) of executives interviewed said good employees most likely will quit their jobs because of unhappiness with management. This is up from 23 percent when the question was asked 5 years ago. Limited opportunities for advancement was the second-most common answer, cited by 33 percent of respondents.

The survey was developed by Robert Half International, the world's first and largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with 150 senior executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies.Executives were asked, "Which of the following is most likely to cause good employees to quit their jobs?" Their responses this year in comparison with 2004 are:

  • Unhappiness with management: 35 percent (2009) vs. 23 percent (2004)
  • Limited opportunities for advancement: 33 percent vs. 39 percent
  • Lack of recognition: 13 percent vs. 17 percent
  • Inadequate salary and benefits: 13 percent vs. 11 percent
  • Bored with their job: 1 percent vs. 6 percen
  • Other/don't know: 5 percent vs. 4 percent

Robert Half also recently issued survey findings that show employers' greatest staffing concern is employee retention.

“Professionals seek strong leadership, particularly during times of uncertainty, and they also want managers they can learn from and who take an interest in their careers,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies(R), 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “In today’s business environment, where many companies have reduced staff levels, managers need to be extra attentive to the needs of their teams, or they risk losing their most valuable employees.”

Messmer added, “Employees want to see their efforts rewarded and acknowledged. If offering a promotion isn't an option right now, managers should consider providing employees with professional development opportunities and the flexibility to pursue projects that will help them expand their skill sets.”

Most employees who are looking for a new job will send out warning signals. Robert Half identifies the following five red flags for supervisors to be aware of:

  1. A noticeable change in attitude. A formerly enthusiastic staff member may seem withdrawn and indifferent. In addition to examining the individual's performance, look for changes in behavior in team settings.
  2. Longer lunch breaks and frequent absences. This may be a sign that someone is using the time for job interviews. It also could indicate the person is bored with the work.
  3. Missed deadlines and increased errors. Everyone misses a deadline from time to time, but apathetic workers make it a habit -- one that can throw off the efficiency of an entire department or company. Numerous errors from a previously conscientious employee are a sign of disengagement and may signal lost interest and an impending departure.
  4. More professional attire. An employee who shows up for work wearing suits even though your company has a business casual dress policy may be going on job interviews with other firms.
A drop in productivity. A decline in performance or work quality and increased forgetfulness about deadlines, meetings and appointments could indicate a worker who gradually is disconnecting from the job.
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