Top reason why staff leave jobs: revealed

Alan Price – Chief Operations Officer

June 22 2022

To uncover the key reason why staff quit their jobs, we carried out a poll to climb into the mind of a former employee. And contrary to belief, pay didn’t come out on top…

Employees had four options to choose from: lack of flexible working, lack of progression, a toxic workplace culture, and better pay/benefits elsewhere.

In an overwhelming majority, 52% voted a ‘toxic workplace culture’ as the top reason for leaving their last job. Which shows that even when you provide great pay and rewards, staff are unlikely to stay in a negative environment.

The question is - what makes a workplace culture toxic? Generally, it comes down to five things…

1. Poor communication

Communication is key to a successful business. In a toxic workplace, there’s typically very little of it.

Without good communication, you’re likely to create:

  • mixed messages amongst staff – staff all have different ideas about what’s happening in the company
  • lack of clarity on tasks – if staff aren’t sure what they’re meant to be doing and why, it might mean they miss a deadline or make mistakes
  • low morale – staff might feel unmotivated and detached from the company which makes them more likely to underperform

When you improve your communication, you’ll create stronger bonds with staff. When you establish a deeper level of trust and understanding in your company, you’re more likely to motivate staff to work hard. You can make a real difference just by:

  • setting time aside for regular one-to-one chats – this reassures staff that they have dedicated time to ask questions, raise grievances and discuss progression
  • carrying out regular team meetings – this allows the whole team to stay up-to-date on what everyone’s working on and discover opportunities to collaborate
  • explaining the ‘why’ – when you let staff know why you are giving them certain tasks, why it needs to be done in a specific way and why it’s important to the business, this shows you always have a plan, and nothing is given at random
  • offering constructive feedback – you’re more likely to resolve an issue with staff by talking things out calmly and constructively; try to approach mistakes as an opportunity to help your staff improve and build trust

When there’s a lack of clarity, there’s confusion and frustration. Which is why you also need to consider whether your staff have…

2. Unclear job roles

Your worker should know their role inside out. They should know what their responsibilities are and what’s expected of them. If their role starts to become unclear, they might lose sight of their duties and what you want them to achieve. If this happens, they’re more likely to underperform and lose interest in the job.

This lack of clarity can happen easily in smaller companies that aren’t able to cover all aspects of their business. If you’re a start-up, you might not have everything figured out yet. Or, you might be in a state of growth and change. Even so, if you choose to give a current worker more jobs to do instead of hiring a new person, make sure they understand and consent to the added responsibilities.

If you try to redefine someone’s job role without clarity or permission, you might be breaching your worker’s contract. They might also resent you if you give them more work and don’t compensate them for it. Which leads up to the next point…

3. Burnout

In a toxic environment, staff are more likely to experience burnout. In other words, they lose motivation, enjoyment, and self-belief. And this will often seriously decrease the quantity and quality of their work output. 

There are certain risk factors that make staff more likely to experience burnout such as:

  • a heavy workload – they might be overwhelmed by how much work they have
  • long hours – they might exhaust themselves working too long hours with little to no breaks
  • lack of control – they might lack control over their schedule and feel like their say isn’t important

People manage burnout differently. But usually, you can spot it. Do your staff keep taking days off work? Do you feel they’re not as productive? Do they appear frustrated or emotional? If you sense there’s an issue, the best thing to do is to pull them aside for a one-to-one. Find out what the underlying issue is and come up with a solution.

There are also certain steps you can take reduce the risk of burnout. These steps might include:

  • making sure staff take regular breaks
  • having regular wellbeing check-ins
  • motivating staff with regular positive feedback
  • staying open and approachable – let staff know that you’re there for them if they need to talk about anything

Sometimes, it might not be the job itself that causes staff to experience burnout. It could due to issues in the workplace culture. Which leads on to…

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4. Workplace bullying

Bullying goes hand in hand with a toxic workplace culture. Bullying at work can take many forms. It can include:

  • berating staff
  • forcing staff to do things they don’t want to do
  • embarrassing staff in front of their employer, clients, or colleagues
  • threatening or intimidating behaviour
  • taking credit for other people’s work
  • excluding staff

Sometimes, workplace bullying can be subtle. It might go undetected. And victims might not feel able to come forward. But regardless of how obvious the bullying is, it’s a very serious matter. Staff who experience bullying at work are likely to also experience high levels of anxiety, depression, and even sleep-deprivation. They might struggle to concentrate at work and underperform as a result.

If your worker makes a bullying claim, you must always investigate. It’s important to confront the behaviour. You might want to set up a mediation process with the staff involved or, if it’s more serious, take disciplinary action.

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Create a positive work environment with HR support

Sometimes, it’s not easy to spot the signs of a toxic workplace. But one thing’s for sure, toxicity never goes hand in hand with productivity. If you’re worried about staff retention and toxic behaviour at work, there are ways to overcome this.

Having clear business goals and strong management skills go a long way to helping you build a positive work environment where your staff can thrive.

Whatever your situation, you don’t have to do it alone. Get support for your business from industry-leading HR professionals with only one agenda: to keep you safe and successful.

Whether it’s a query about compliance or a staff issue, call us on 0800 028 2420 for free expert advice.

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