Why do employees quit? Reason #2, and what to do about it

culture great resignation Jan 24, 2022


Last week we talked about one reason employees quit—feeling overworked and burned out. (If you didn’t catch it you can see it here:

In this edition, I want to talk about another reason employees quit—if they feel like they are working in a toxic work environment.

This may not come as a big surprise to any of you—we kind of all know this.

What may surprise you is you may be creating that toxic work environment.

People WANT to do good work. We all WANT to use our talents to make a difference to other people, to our company, to our community, to the world.

But, if we come to work and feel stymied--by poor leadership, dysfunctional meetings, unwieldy processes, micromanagement, controlling rules that a six-year-old would balk at, or cliques that make junior high look tame—it is really hard to stay positive and contribute our best work.

When a work environment contains these kinds of dysfunctions, people often turn to other dysfunctional behaviors—gossiping, wasting time complaining rather than focusing on work, criticizing others, etc. In these environments, it is easy to lose track of any kind of goals or work plan.

People who are dysfunctional themselves often thrive in these environments—they stay forever and enjoy the drama.

However, if a person IS NOT dysfunctional, they recognize that this kind of environment does nothing but bring them down, and they leave as quickly as they can—often for the sake of their own mental health.

This type of environment destroys trust and leads people to take steps to protect themselves from the daily muck. Good people seldom last long.

So, if you have people leaving pretty frequently, you may need to seek out an external party to do a culture assessment of your organization. This kind of assessment asks employees for anonymous feedback, and then makes recommendations about steps that can be taken to improve the culture.

Sadly, it can't be someone IN your business, because people won't feel like they can be honest.

Then, you need to actually take those steps. When I have provided this service, I have found that sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

People WANT to work in environments where people are listened to and appreciated, where people are respected and their talents encouraged.

Think about YOUR best job, and the culture that existed there. There was likely respect, camaraderie, appreciation, and fun. That doesn’t mean pool tables and beer kegs—some businesses with those have the worst cultures and the highest turnover rates.

What that really means is working together in a respectful and healthy way to solve real and challenging problems, with fun and meaningful rewards when you actually solve those problems.

I hope you can take a minute to pause and truly think about what might be happening within your prganization and whether it might warrent further inspection.