Why Good Employees Quit and How to Retain Top Talent

It’s a well-known fact that your best and brightest employees are often the most likely to leave, while your poorer performers tend to stay put. With the direct link between employee happiness and productivity, it’s crucial to understand what makes good employees unhappy enough to quit after years of loyal service.

As a long-time corporate HR professional, I’m sharing the top 5 reasons why great talent chooses to leave, and actionable ways you can make them want to stay.

Employees Don’t Leave Companies, They Leave Managers

The number one reason employees start job searching is having a bad manager. In a survey of 10,000 workers who voluntarily left their jobs, 75% said it was because of their boss rather than the role itself. That’s why hiring managers with true leadership ability is critical, not just promoting based on seniority.

Insecure managers who lack emotional intelligence struggle to build trusting teams. Those who redirect pressure by throwing employees under the bus create a toxic culture where people constantly doubt themselves. Working 8+ hours a day for a boss who never cares or supports you damages mental health and careers. It’s only natural for staff to run from negative environments that impact them so deeply.

Poor Company Culture Destroys Employee Engagement

A positive and supportive company culture hugely impacts how connected and motivated employees feel in their roles. Unclear values, lack of transparency, or uncomfortable work environments are all hallmarks of cultures that destroy engagement.

Respecting that staff have enriching lives outside of work also boosts their energy and enthusiasm on the job. When companies encourage work-life balance and show compassion for people’s needs, employees want to work harder for an employer who supports them.

Lack of Trust at Work Causes Employees to Quit

Feeling trusted and respected is a basic workplace need. But lack of trust happens too often, causing negative feelings that eventually prompt quitting. The most common issue is micromanaging – when managers interfere and restrict autonomy instead of having confidence in skills and abilities.

Micromanaging turns work restrictive and stressful, creating insecurities and self-doubt. No one will endure constant questioning and monitoring long-term. It should be easy for companies to trust staff and let them excel at the jobs they were hired to do.

Overworking and Underappreciating Talent Backfires

In small businesses especially, wearing many hats is often necessary. But reasonable workloads and effort distribution discussions are key. As humans, we can only sustainably give so much.

Although overworking top talent is tempting, it’s counterproductive. Research proves productivity sharply declines after 40 hours, eventually dropping completely. While ambitious employees will take on more and deliver, if their jobs suffocate them without appreciation or rewards, they’ll seek employers who value their contributions appropriately.

Underpaying Employees, Despite Great Work, Prompts Quitting

Paying less does cost less in the short term. But low wages lead to attrition, costing more long term from recruitment and lost expertise. Employees who feel undervalued for their contributions, even if they like their workplace, will keep hunting for better compensation.

Closely tied is lack of professional growth. Ambitious talent wants to continuously gain skills and be challenged. Without advancement opportunities, they feel stuck and search for new horizons enabling their development.


Exceptional employees are hard to find and have abundant choices. To make them stay, avoid the common pitfalls covered here. Treat them with compassion and respect, support their growth, recognize their work, and compensate them fairly. When you invest in top talent, they’ll eagerly repay you with their skills, innovation and loyalty.