Why do employees quit? Reason #1, and what to do about it

culture Jan 12, 2022

I’m working with a company right now where people feel constantly overloaded—like they never get a moment to breathe. It is expected that people work at least 50 hours a week, and evenings and weekends as needed.

They have also had quite a lot of turnover.

Employees quit for lots of reasons.

One of them is simply feeling the stress of having too much to do, too many short deadlines, and no relief in sight. They begin to feel hopeless and start looking for a place that allows them to do good work in a more reasonable way.

This can be especially true for people who care and want to do a good job—they don’t want to turn in a shoddy product, so they feel a lot of stress when they can’t take the time needed to do something right.

Frankly, this kind of work environment can impact people’s health.

The constant ‘go, go, go’ mentality can lead to heart and stomach issues, and even diabetes. It can also lead to people trying to find ways to manage their stress—overeating, over drinking, drug use, calling in sick a lot.

This kind of culture can also impact a person’s attitude.

With too much work and no end in sight, people can begin to feel hopeless—and simply give up.

Lots of factors can lead to an ‘overloaded’ culture.

  • A leader can have an attitude of wanting to get more out of people without paying more (hiring temps or another body to handle the load).
  • A company can have an unrealistic goal for profitability, leading them to not want to hire more people and create more overhead.
  • A company can take on too much business to cover up for other problems, like inefficiencies in other areas of the business.
  • A leader may have an unrealistic idea of how long something actually takes to do right.

A wise leader will listen when they have an employee telling them they feel overloaded. And they should especially listen when they have more than one employee telling them that.

It’s easy for employers (especially if they have beliefs or problems listed above) to blame the employee—assuming they don’t have a strong work ethic, or that they are lazy. That may be true. But it also may be that the leader is cultivating a culture of overwork.

What can a leader do to learn the difference and retain a valued employee?

  1. Listen carefully to what the employee is saying. Ask for details and make sure you understand what the employee is experiencing.
  2. Problem-solve with the employee. Work with them to develop realistic priorities, goals and deadlines. If they still don’t get the work done, then you have a better idea what’s going on.
  3. Promote work-life balance. Set an example for it (no working on weekends/no emailing after hours/encourage vacation time/create policies for your business that promote balance).
  4. Take the time to sit with the employee and watch what they do and how they do it. Get a real appreciation for what their day is like. Talk with them about how they approach their work so you understand their process. Coach them if there are inefficiencies in their processes.
  5. Check in with people before you take on a new contract to make sure there is bandwidth to handle the work.

When leaders care about their employees and want to create an environment where those employees can succeed, they want to wok with people to find that sweet spot—where they are not overwhelmed constantly, but they also have enough work to help them feel productive and important.

Caring leaders keep in close contact with each person to monitor that balance, and appreciate that each employee may have a slightly different sweet spot.

It all comes down to creating a realistic work load so that you have and retain the quality workforce you need to achieve the goals of your business.

If you have been experiencing a lot of turnover, it might be a good idea to bring in someone to find out what isn't working, and why people are leaving. Yellow Wagon Leadership provides this service for many companies. Then we also make recommenmdations about what to do to tweak things so you are getting better results.