Why employees jump ship

Bob Weinstein,

Contrary to popular belief, low salary is usually not the primary reason for quitting a job.

Statistics predict that most career-builders won’t be working for the same company a decade from now. They’re likely to have at least two more jobs.

Even though frequent job changes often have a lot to do with variables beyond your control, such as mergers or acquisitions and economic or market uncertainties, there are common reasons why people change jobs.

Gregory P. Smith, author of  Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention, says that most employees take new jobs because of management problems. He lists five common management mistakes:

1. Demanding that one person do the jobs of two or more people, resulting in longer days and weekend work.

2. Cutting back on administrative help, which forces workers to use their time copying, stapling, collating, filing and performing other clerical duties.

3. Putting a freeze on raises and promotions.

4. Not allowing the rank and file to make decisions, or denying them pride of ownership.

5. Constantly reorganizing and changing direction.

Constant management changes also contribute to high turnover. Companies that have been sold or absorbed by a larger company often go through frequent management changes, which cause confusion and poor morale – reason enough to jump ship for a more stable organization.

The real culprit: bad bosses
But the biggest management problem of all is an intolerable boss. That covers a plethora of horrific boss problems, from sheer incompetence to deceitful, manipulative, dishonest and neurotic or even psychotic behaviors. If you’re saddled with an intolerable boss, the trick is learning how to get along with him until you land another job.

Says Smith: “Employees don’t quit their companies; they quit their bosses.”

Take the hint and do your homework before taking a job. Of course, there are always surprises, but the more you know about a prospective employer, the better your chances of making a good decision and holding on to your job for more than two years.

If you’ve done your fair share of job-hopping, this is the time to start asking questions about turnover, stresses Mark Mehler, a principal of recruiting-technology consulting firm CareerXroads, in Kendall Park, N.J. A former HR executive, Mehler and partner Gerry Krispin published the respected annual guide CareerXroads , a compendium of the top career sites in the United States.

There are many causes of high corporate turnover, according to Mehler. High on the list are corporate financial troubles, uncontrollable economic or cyclical factors, poor management, outdated technology and inferior products.

What should you do? A combination of leg, phone and intelligent detective work – and lots of research, says Mehler. “It takes time, but it’s well worth the effort.”

Mehler lists some strategies to consider, along with tips on where to find information:

1) Put the word out. Speak to colleagues, friends, co-workers and former bosses. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you turn up.

2) Find out about the company’s corporate culture. You’d better take the culture thing seriously, urges Mehler, because it could make your stay at a company either an exciting challenge or a trip into corporate hell. For example, companies across the country have different rules and ethics about how to behave in meetings, he says. “Midwest companies don’t appreciate workers who challenge their co-workers and ask very pointed questions,” he says. “Yet many Northeast companies expect their workers to challenge, argue, question and put their colleagues on the spot. And then there are the fast-track Silicon Valley companies in Northern California that expect their workers to be hard-driving, workaholic warriors who will work around the clock to find answers to tough problems.”

3) Plug into some of the better career blogs. There are plenty of them. It’s worth the time and effort to search or browse the blogs in your industry. Learn how to read between the lines and ask good questions.

4) Finally, ask managers at the company you’re considering about turnover in their organization. I’d take what they say with less than a grain of salt. But you never know. They may surprise you with honest answers.

That should keep you busy. Follow these leads, and you’ll have more information than you need.

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About the Author

Bob Weinstein is a writer, reporter, editor and author. He can be reached via email at robertvweinstein@gmail.com.