Subtle factors employers overlook, that make employees tick
By LOUISA DEVADASON and TAMARA JAYNE
We’ve heard the saying “You can lead the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink.” You may provide all the right benefits, be the coolest boss in town (at least you think so), spruce up the office with bean bags and coffee machines, yet your employees still leave the company. Why?
We asked individuals of different ages across various industries what made them leave their jobs and here’s what we got:
I think we are always trying to figure things out. Since work takes up so much of our time, it inevitably becomes part of our identity. I left my job because I felt that our (mine and the company’s) values weren’t aligned. In other words, the company preached one thing but practised something else.
I want work that has purpose and meaning. While it is my responsibility to create that for myself, I try to pick jobs that reflect that. However, my last job – while touting social consciousness etc. – had a lot of unethical and disrespectful practices that left me feeling demoralised and at odds with myself.
Some people said, “Well that’s corporate life for you”. Others said, “This company is a mess, there are companies that mean what they say and do good through their work”. You will start finding all kinds of views and perceptions as you talk to people.
I left because I did not want to be disillusioned and confused. I believe we must stay true to ourselves and not lose our values to a job.
I was with a company for two years, striving my way up when there never was actual career progression to begin with. Yet, I convinced myself that if I tried harder, it might just happen, especially because my appraisals were always good.
It was physically and mentally exhausting trying to work my way up without any recognition or promotions. I realised that a corporate company puts their focus on hierarchy. My ideas and plans were never entertained and it was incredibly depressing.
I joined the advertising industry after that and it was the best decision I’ve made. It was overwhelming to see my plans and creative ideas going live.
All I needed was freedom, independence and recognition to get me to where I am now.
*Laura, teacher and office administration manager
I chose motherhood over career when I started a family, but in the course of my career, I had left a job as a supervisor after five years.
Although I thoroughly loved my job and had excellent bosses, I did not feel fulfilled.
When my children were older and more independent, I worked in several places and found myself leaving those jobs too. They include:
- Kindergarten teacher: I left after three days! The owner yelled at her interns, did not seem to care for the children, and the last straw was when she physically shook a mentally-challenged child. Although she was not in the kindergarten all through the year (as other family members run the kindergarten), I could not see myself working in this set up.
I joined another kindergarten after that and left after two weeks when the principal, who initially said I’d be handling five and six-year-olds, handed me all the toddlers. My passion was to teach, not babysit.
- Office Administration Manager – I left after six months. This start-up was dealing with several online businesses and I realised (upon my interaction with all the different ventures under the company) that there were several questionable practices that lacked integrity. I didn’t want to be part of it.
*Ganesh, Visual Post Production
The company had a great team of animators and visual effects artists, but we were overworked, expected to reach work at 9am and stay till way after 10pm even during non-peak periods. This included Saturdays, when we were expected to work half day.
When business became busy, the team would be told to work on weekends – this could have been done more efficiently with proper planning. Even holidays weren’t spared and we could not claim overtime unless we had worked 12 hours straight.
We couldn’t work remotely and had to wait for official e-mails in the office – sometimes even until late night. This made the work process inefficient.
Non-local directors were undermined. I’ve had to stand up for people in positions above me. Although it was a multiracial company, employers deliberately conversed in Chinese. Any suggestions for advancements in marketing were shot down without consideration.
That said, I speak only for this specific company I was part of, and not the entire industry.
Recommended reading: Are Quitters Losers? : Knowing When To Give Up
*Barry, Consumer Goods and Oil and Gas
Throughout my career, I spent the most amount of time in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry and later, the Oil & Gas Industry. I left my first job after five years, as I thought it was a good time to move.
It was a natural inclination because my previous supervisors were always emphasising that I was young and should always challenge myself, and I left on a positive note with loads of encouragement and motivation.
It was different with my second company. My biggest obstacle was my immediate boss’ management style. There was no alignment of goals, constant changes and a lack of communication as to why existing work processes were changed and new ones introduced.
This exhausted me. Being lower in the “pipeline”, I did most of the ground work and most of the time, building relationships was difficult given that I was the “face” of the project.
I had to deal with the frustrations of the working committee as we did not understand why we were doing what was instructed.
While the job provided all the challenges that I had been craving, I was often caught in the “struggle” of directions that none could relate to. We did our jobs but never understood why we were doing it. We never got the bigger picture.
In a way, my “struggles” pushed me to think about being my own boss and more importantly, a good boss to my team. I left and started my own juice franchise.
*Yu Wei, Animator
My lead (my immediate leader) was lazy and loved giving excuses to cover his mistakes.
I say “lazy” because all the work that was assigned to him, weren’t carried out. The last straw was when he altered my progress sheet (what we use to track our work) and accused me of not completing my work.
Basically, he just reassigned his incomplete tasks to me, but instead of asking me to do the job, he told my producer that I didn’t do my work.
He didn’t know that I had saved a copy of my progress sheet. I showed my original progress sheet to my producer. They didn’t take it seriously and the producer just asked me to complete it.
At every meeting, he accused us of delaying the progress of work by saying we were inexperienced. However, my progress sheet showed otherwise. We even worked on some of his important shots because he was unable to finish it on time.
My producer didn’t care who did the work as long as it was done. At one point, we lost a potential client because my team lead had conveniently “forgotten” to do his part.
My producer didn’t do anything about it but instead told us to confront our team leader and sort the matter out ourselves.
I have seen my team lead wasting time shopping online, sleeping – and snoring – at his desk daily.
I left because it affected my mental and physical health. I can’t respect my producer and team lead because of the way they managed the team. The work environment felt toxic and I felt so helpless.
*Azif, Food and beverage industry
I was in my final year at a local university and took on a part-time job at a café. I was good at it. One thing led to another and I found myself holding a full-time position as assistant manager at the café. The pay was good. Slightly better than the average pay for a graduate.
I was doing what I liked. I was good at it and I was getting paid for it – but that was in the beginning. Fast forward a year later, I began to see the ugly side of things.Management was lousy, and there was no pay raise.
Suddenly, my views started to change. I saw my peers going off to prestigious firms. Even worse, they would dine at the cafe and ask “Oh, you work here now?”
There’s no harm in that. But if you were me, you would have felt their condescending tone. Automatically, you would smile and tell them how much fun you were having chasing your passion and hope that they’d be thinking the same.
I looked at my young and educated self and wonder why I am where I am. And then, I ask, “what’s the highest you can go? Manager? And then what?” So, I started looking up jobs related to my field of study and was determined to succeed.
People leave when a company doesn’t make the effort to retain them. Employees want to feel valued.
I would work 10 times harder, and cut short my breaks for an organisation that, although is at a loss, makes their employees feel secure by rewarding them with what they can spare.
I wish for a clear career path, with goals that may not have been achievable had I continued in that industry. Being a fresh grad, that’s what we want in this crazy world – some good old structure.
What makes your employees leave?
Culture guru and chief executive of Leaderonomics Good Monday Joseph Tan states,
If we want our employees to deliver an exceptional customer experience, it is our responsibility as managers to design an engaging employee experience in the workplace. The intensity of internal engagement translates into extraordinary external customer engagement.
This might interest you: Infographic: Top 10 Reasons Why Talents Quit
A Leaderonomics survey which polled over 100 people, provided us valuable insights as to why employees leave, even the high-performing ones:
1. Career progression
Nobody wants to be in a dead-end job – unchallenged, under-utilised and underpaid. Money is often the vulgar factor we feel so uncomfortable discussing but is in reality, a huge motivator, along several other factors such as career growth and appreciation.
Employees need extrinsic signs that they are doing well. At the same time, they also need to earn a living and that’s why it is essential that companies pay employees based on the fair market value.
Organisations must also set a system of progression in place, not just monetarily, but also in terms of opportunities that will allow their people to grow professionally.
2. Conflict and interpersonal skills
Employees can lose motivation or feel demoralised or undermined by a lack of transparency, a behavioural or personality clash or supervisors’ treatment. These are common but painful factors when one chooses to leave his or her job.
While some conflict can be healthy – in terms of troubleshooting or brainstorming solutions – conflict between management styles or on a personal level can be very unproductive.
It is important for management to learn – and to train their members to communicate effectively, respect each other, and adapt to different working styles and approaches.
Ask yourself, “Are my heads of department good with people?” “Are they attentive to their teams’ collective and individual needs and struggles?” and other relevant questions that can help you gauge the efficiency of your company’s leadership.
The exit interview is possibly the most underrated but efficient method to find out the causes for an employee’s departure.
Doing exit interviews consistently is useful to determine patterns and problems that need to be addressed by the company if they hope to evolve and thrive.
We’re entering an era of job-hopping because many organisations are neither equipped nor focused on their people at a deeper level.
Employees need to be seen as more than just cost or labour force. They should be seen and valued as assets – who when supported accordingly – can drive the company forward.
*names were changed to protect privacy and their stories were edited for clarity.
Louisa is a psychology graduate, pursuing further study in Development Practice, and a freelance writer for Leaderonomics.
Tamara is an assistant editor and writer with Leaderonomics. She loves thought-provoking conversations over cups of tea. If she is not writing, you might find her hiking up a mountain in search of a new waterfall to explore.