Why Do Employees Leave Their Jobs?

Have you ever wondered why some coworkers choose to leave their job and why others remain? Have you ever had a difficult week and wondered why you continue going in to work? Traditional turnover research has suggested that people leave their jobs due to negative job attitudes (Harman, Lee, Mitchell, Felps, & Owens, 2007). When employees perceive poor work conditions (e.g., low pay, lack of promotion), they become dissatisfied with their jobs, become motivated to leave the organization, and begin to search for new positions. This perspective might make intuitive sense, but it has not found support in the literature. In fact, in a meta-analysis of turnover research, job satisfaction has been found to be a weak predictor of turnover intentions (Griffeth, Hom, & Gaertner, 2000).

If negative attitudes do not fully explain turnover, then why would unhappy and dissatisfied employees continue going to work? A relatively recent construct called job embeddedness may offer an answer. Job embeddedness is defined by a web of forces that cause people to feel like they cannot leave their jobs (Harman et al, 2007). Job embeddedness is described three features: 1) the extent to which people are linked to others through work, 2) the extent to which their job fit within their community or personal lives, 3) and the ease with which links can be sacrificed or broken. The limitation of the traditional model in the turnover literature is that it does not consider the context of why individuals remain at work; our work lives are intimately tied to our personal lives. According to job embeddedness, unhappy employees remain at work because their jobs allow them to maintain connections with friends, family, and their community. When the cost of leaving the organization is too high relative to losing those relationships, employees are less likely to turnover.

Dealing with an unhappy environment can be draining and stressful. However, there are some options available to you at IUPUI. If feeling stressed, consider using the Employee Assistance Program at 888-234-8327, attending a mindfulness training program or developing a personal action to manage the stress. If you are a supervisor, consider attending a training on how to create a healthy workplace culture and help employees thrive in their role.

Griffeth, R. W., Hom, P. W., & Gaertner, S. (2000). A meta-analysis of antecedents and correlates of employee turnover: Update, moderator tests, and research implications for the next millennium. Journal Of Management26(3), 463-488.

Harman, W., Lee, T., Mitchell, T., Felps, W. & Owens, B. (2007). The psychology of voluntary employee turnover. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(1), 151-54.

Published 22nd August 2016