10 Reasons Employees Leave The Companies They Once Loved

Attracting key startup talent is one thing. Keeping it is another. Here's a look at ten reasons employees leave and how to keep them instead.

Photo: Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine; Source: Jhnea Turner, Photographer
Photo: Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine; Source: Jhnea Turner, Photographer

Attracting key startup talent is one thing. Keeping it is another.

Company culture doesn’t just fall apart overnight. It weakens at the seams, only to abruptly tear when you least expect it. Employees often leave after months and years of trying to stick it out, with the firm belief that they can work out their issues.

Once it’s over, though, most employees can look back and pinpoint one exact moment that signaled it was time to part ways. Here’s a look at key reasons employees will jump ship and how to remedy the issue before it’s too late.


  1. Layoff culture.

    Do you overstaff when you win new business, only to then lay people off when you lose another? How does it look to potential investors and new hires if you constantly build and disassemble your team like Legos? As an early-stage startup, both scenarios are a non-starter. Instead, scale with thoughtfulness about today’s wins and keep tomorrows setbacks in mind. Hire slow as you go. Create a staffing plan before you need it. Outsource non-core competencies and more strategic positions when applicable.

  2. Lack of appreciation.

    Do you keep your finger on the pulse of your team? A lack of awareness can lead to team morale issues. Often, great employees are overlooked or taken advantage of with no one to look out for them.

    Instead, let your team know you appreciate them and are in their corner. Dole out promotions and accolades to those that truly deserve them. Steer clear of nepotism. Focus on merit. Let your team know they are valued. After all, what good is a captain without a crew?

  3. Egotistical management.

    Often as entrepreneurs we are highly competent in one or more areas and less than desirable in others. Consider well-known founders like the late Steve Jobs, “His mammoth personality could inspire those around him just as easily as it could tear them down.” Research suggests that, “people who [start] companies may not be cut out to run them.” Improve your management skills by encouraging communication and pay attention to your team’s opinions. Good management practices generally yield more profitable, more productive, and more competitive companies.

  4. Work-life balance is non-existent.

    Is your team happy when they walk through your doors? Setting expectations up-front regarding your stance on work-life balance is important. If your team is exhausted physically and drained emotionally they are less likely to produce their best work. If you need all hands on deck for long hours, including weekends and holidays, incentivize team members that go the extra mile. Consider flexible scheduling and remote working alternatives.

  5. Out-dated processes.

    Are your systems, processes and technology stuck in the dark ages? At a minimum, having access to basic needs to achieve daily tasks shouldn’t be a chore. If so, productivity suffers right along with your bottom line. Consider this: Does it take 10 minutes for a computer to turn on? Is Internet access spotty? Do you require data entry that could easily be replaced by automated software? Are you saving files on floppy disks instead of the cloud? If so, you are doing more harm than good.

  6. Lack of visible and effective leadership.

    You may be a highly effective leader, but does your team experience your leadership? No leadership or a lack of company wide goals can make employees feel out of place; as though they are aimlessly shooting arrows with no target in mind. Be sure to clarify each role and its part of the larger puzzle.

  7. Diversity gaps.

    Does your team truly reflect the diversity of today’s world? If not, Millenials will continue to think “old” people are out of touch. Older employees, will consistently gripe that Millenials are too entitled.

    If you have personal biases, identify them and work to grow your own perspective. Diverse backgrounds bring unique people and ideas to the table. In a global community, that’s increasingly important.

  8. Transparency is undervalued.

    Do you hold a lot of closed door meetings? Does your immediate team develop tangible ideas and fail to share them with others?  Lame announcements won’t cut it. Your team wants to have a sense of involvement and contribution even if they don’t necessarily have the final say. Transparency builds trust, likeability and credibility. Studies also show “the positive role transparency can play in maintaining an engaged, motivated work force.” So, why not open your co-founder whiteboard sessions to your team?

  9. No core values.

    Believe it or not, employees want to know what you and your office stand for. This is where a clear mission statement and core values come into play. If you’re unsure, maybe it is time to create an insanely awesome manifesto with inputs from your team on what matters to them.

  10. No interest in career development.

    Do you have absolutely zero interest in training or mentoring, and absolutely no interest in retaining employees, even high quality ones? Individual career development may not be at the top of your growing priority list, but great employees value it. Provide opportunities to grow, learn and advance career paths. A little effort can go a long way.


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