Resign on the dotted line: why employees leave their jobs

Any employer worth their salt can see that good retention levels are key to a successful business. Each employee that picks up their P45 takes with them a wealth of intricate operational and experiential knowledge tailored to that business. In some cases the specialist knowledge they brought to the table is unrecognised and never replaced – just ask BP, whose failure to replace a responsible employee resulted in a 900,000 litre oil leak when an oceanic pipe corroded.

In addition, even the savviest new starter can’t hit the ground running at the same speed as a legacy team member, resulting in lost man hours as fresh recruits feel their way around the building, the software, the printer. Remember that ‘first day feeling’ when you couldn’t work the scanner, or how you hand-washed your coffee cup for a month because you didn’t spot the dishwasher? They’re all inefficiency micro-moments, and they all add up.

And of course unrest breeds unrest, and a workforce witnessing a high turnover will often start to feel creeping doubt as to their own contentedness in the role. Resignations often come in waves where individuals have influenced one another to shop around for a new deal, or sometimes more overtly where a leaver shares the news of their pay rise or boost in benefits.

So retention is key. But exactly what are the top turn-offs driving employees out in droves, and what are the best strategies for tackling them?


Lack of progression is a the most commonly cited reason amongst job leavers, particularly for those working within smaller companies. While it’s a common assumption amongst employers that the pay packet is king, progression also denotes recognition, a ‘well done’, and a paragraph for the Christmas family newsletter.

In addition, employees who remain in workplaces long-term often experience a growing disparity between their job description and the tasks they actually perform. As this chasm grows it’s natural to want a role that reflects their increasing duties – but in the company’s eyes this is rarely financially justifiable.

Smaller companies and workplaces with low movement are often in the tricky position of being unable to offer progression, leaving managers to juggle growing employee expectations with the employer’s forecast of financial continuity. While pay increases are not always possible, targets that lead to a change in job title can be a good incentive for employees looking for a definable sense of achievement.


Money makes the world go round, and while great colleagues and a nurturing environment count for a lot, it’s the wage that keeps employees coming back each day. Again, time tends to cause rising resentments around remuneration, as a wage that seemed reasonable for a fresh new role appears to become more and more miserly as the employee starts to stagnate.

Pay negotiations can be some of the most sensitive areas to navigate, with little you can offer an employee determined for a cash boost.

Managers looking to retain a salary-incentivised worker could always look to reduce their working hours or hours in office, as differing circumstances produce different monetary pain points. Just a half-day off a week can save parents over £100 a month in childcare, while for other employees working from home can massively cut commuting costs.


Being recognised for good work seems, on the surface, to be an easy win for companies to achieve. You have a manager, an employee, a well-done deed – why not offer out the hearty handshake of employer approval?

Although many start-ups begin as bastions of praise and positivity, in reality a constant praise cycle ties into the issues above. Workers who feel overly valued in their positions wait confidently for their end of year pay review, overspilling with ego and sound of knowledge that they’re in line for a wage increase. Similarly, employees deafened by the rain of praise ringing in their ears look forward to their promotion – and are likely to feel cheated if they don’t get it.

So how do can managers recognise a job well done without overblowing expectations? Don’t take the easy way out and refuse to praise anyone at all – you’re just creating another case for resentment. The best advice is to offer specific praise, but divvy recognition among everyone in the team who helped deliver the project, rather than singling out a sole individual. In this way you can demonstrate an understanding of group roles and dynamics, a holistic appreciation of your team, and hopefully deliver praise in a way that communicates to the individual that they are part of something bigger.

Written by:

Guy Walker

6 November 2018