Reasons for employees to leave an organization

The rising attrition within industries is a well-known fact but very few HR executives have been able to pinpoint the ‘exact’ reason for this growing trend. While the reasons are many, one ‘Attrition and Retention’ survey shows one of the top reasons for talent attrition to be ‘external inequity of compensation’ and that 27 per cent of the employees in their exit interviews mentioned compensation as the primary reason. It comes as no surprise that money is an important factor but what’s surprising is that other facts are also emphasized by various experts that there are several other factors that influences an employee’s decision to leave, besides pay.

HR experts say that gone are the days when ‘salary’ was the sole motivating factor for an employee to leave an organization. Inequity in compensation followed by limited career opportunities and role stagnation are stated as the top three reasons for attrition. Therefore simply hiking one’s salary in an endeavor to retain valuable employee will serve no purpose as today’s workforce has a lot going during his/her decision making process and it’s certainly not restricted to just pay.
There are varied reasons for an employee to leave his/her job, salary can be considered as one of the main reasons to quit, but it’s not the sole one. Salary is used frequently as the reason but there are definitely other factors that influence the decision of an employee to leave. Salary, though significant, is not the only factor which makes an employee quit.

Attrition also happens when people are not comfortable with their work environment, team mates, superiors or the job profile itself. There are also cases when people quit their jobs due to personal and family pressures and sometimes, they even cite location preferences as a reason. In one particular organization it has been observed that the number of employees especially at the junior management level and the front line functions have left them for better career prospects, higher education, etc.

The study also suggests that lack of career opportunities, role stagnation, and the kind of relationship one shares with his/her manager are also reasons that make an employee vulnerable to an external opportunity. The most important and significant contributor to job changes is not quite surprisingly the superior one reports to. Recognition from one’s superior is perhaps the most important facet of one’s corporate expectations and outweighs everything else. Needless to say that constant criticism, nitpicking and poor performance reviews are the biggest source of discomfort for an employee within the workplace.

Salary raises come next in the list of factors influencing an employee’s decision to leave as most people surprisingly decide to quit just after increments are announced. When employees feel that there is unfair treatment bestowed upon some employees or if they feel that their experience in the organization is not adding any value to their professional lives, they begin to look for growth opportunities elsewhere.

Leaving trend:

It is usually the middle and junior management employees that leave when it comes to compensation. The fact is that higher attrition is being faced in the junior management cadre as the job market is luring this segment of employees in an endeavor to find the right fit. For most of the younger candidates, salary is not the key motivator but the job role/profile figures on the top of their priority list. However, considering this, the key motivator for professionals at this age is that their learning curve and the challenges given to them should not come to a standstill.

These employees want to work on new projects, must have challenging jobs and must constantly keep learning. There is a large gap between what employees expect to know and what HR and business communicates. Also the fact is that while organizations measure their compensation competitiveness against a defined group of companies which are relevant from a business and talent standpoint, employees measure their level of satisfaction by whatever information is available in public domain and hence in an absence of inadequate communication from the organization, it is left for the employee to decipher on his/ her own.

If salary can be a reason to leave, then the organization has to look at their pay structure and their compensation plans to ensure that their employees stay. Organizations are dedicating enough resources in order to measure competitiveness of compensation on a regular basis. Studies show that marginal ROI is significantly higher if an employer invests in building a more rewarding work environment – specifically focusing on the key drivers of engagement.

It would take more than a push in the salary levels to keep an employee working in an organization. An organization must ensure that when a person joins in, an employer invests in training and clearly communicates a growth path and ensure that the learning curve should not stop. Therefore, the organization needs to ask itself whether they are willing to create ‘key motivators’ within the existing company or simply let their employees wander towards ‘other companies’.

  • Yes u are true and 100% correct…These days salary is not the issue with younger generation what they look forward to is how soon and faster they can rise in their life and achieve certain designated position. They look forward to rewarding career coupled with growth, incentives, perk, international travel, learning with Not “BOSS” sitting at the top shouting yelling and pin pointing their mistakes but a “MENTOR” a FRIEND, a COACH and someone who Motivates them not only just to work work and work but also to enjoy …….Work life balance is a solution to the problem.. If you are enjoying what you are doing then you are not working infact you are having fun and are happy……as said Khabi Kissiko mukammal jaha nahie milta so is the case in the jobs…something or the other is missing..if boss is good salary is not good, if salary is good boss is not good..if everthing is good distance is a problem, something or the other would be missing and in search of that a person keeps on moving here and there ……so attrition would not come or stop unless priorities set by a person in life is met ………… It should always be Money coupled with good working environment with cooperative work place, a work life balance and good job description with continuous learning and growth would push a person to stabilize his career in one company and look around …….

  • Dr Ghazi Shahnawaz

    there is sytemic theory building on employees turnover in relevant literature. The above discussion mainly emanate from the traditional attitudes-job alternatives frameork. There is very intersting research framework called shock and unfolding model, it says that employees turnover may follow four diffrent paths, each one is uniquely diffrent from each other, many a time just one event i.e., bad appriasal or argument with the boss or denial of leave etc may precipitate the leaving behaviour. There is another model called job embeddedness, which assumes that organization is like a web/network of relationship which many a time go beyond organizational boundaries. To identify with organization is really difficult so we usually identify with the boss or co workeres or the department or processes on which we are placed. If these associations are satisfying and fulfilling then its not possible for the people to leave the organiztion, this aspect becomes even more relevant in a country like India.

    So dear colleagues and practiotioners, while devising any retention plan for your organization, kindly keep these in your mind.


  • Madhu.T.K

    I do agree with you, but I feel that high attrition as described above is a matter of private sector only. I have seen people in Govt and Public sector undertakings working till superannuation with meagre amount of pay and lack of support from co workers. They are also mentally not happy with the organisation and functional designation. But they stick on to it; perhaps they may not be challenginglike the new generation guys. Anything that they have to say about their being with the orgainsation is a security feeling, a blanket spread on them by the government. But in private sector, we feel unsecured due to many reasons and therefore, there may arise a feeling to gather as many amount and position as we can during a short span. My observation may be wrong and if so please ignore this comment.



  • A well written article I must say. It beautifully highlights most of the reasons behind turnover. True, the boss is one of the primary reasons for leaving the job. Equally important is the learning derived while doing a job.


  • Gayathri


    the comments are really wonderfull