Given that I am myself going through a job change, I thought it timely to write about how people leave their jobs, and what it might say about the organization that they are leaving. According to research featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology, employees choose of these types of resignations:


1) By-the-book (31 percent). This is the typical, standard approach where employees meet face to face with their manager to announce their resignation, and provide a notice period, and explain the reason for leaving.

2) Perfunctory (23.5%). Similar to the above, employees meet with their manager, but the meeting tends to be shorter and the reason for quitting is not provided.

3) Avoidant (12.7%). Employees tell co-workers, such as peers, mentors, or HR representatives that they plan to leave rather than give notice to their manager.

4) Grateful goodbye (10%). Workers express gratitude toward their employer and often offer to help with the transition period.

5) Bridge-burning (8.6%). Employees seek to harm the organization or colleagues on their way out the door, often times there are verbal assaults along the way.

6) In the loop (7.9%). People typically confide in their manager that they are contemplating quitting or that they are looking for another job before formally resigning.

7) Impulsive (6.3%). Some workers simply walk off the job, never to return or communicate with the employer again.

When looking at the above, over 20% are leaving in negative way, which should shed some light on organizational issues that need to be addressed. Too often, organizations do not pay attention to the signs, or ask the right questions upon exiting. In my case, I chose the high road, and did things by the book. However, as so many of my peers that have left the organization, there is a sense from senior leadership that we have betrayed them, and that we just were “not the right organizational fit.” Unfortunately, turning a blind-eye often leads to losing key talent in the organization.

My recommendation is for organizations to pay attention to key metrics, such as the overall attrition rate, voluntary vs. involuntary turnover, key talent turnover, and moreover, compile a list of reasons why most people are leaving. There are simple analytics that can generate interesting organizational knowledge. With this knowledge, there may be some easy changes that can fix some of those reasons for leaving, resulting in retention of talent, rather than an exodus of talent.

I’ve often felt that exit interviews are a reactive method of data gathering. The point of contact with the employee is likely within the last week of their time with the company. A proactive method to retain talent is to conduct stay interviews. Stay interviews implies speaking to employees throughout their time with the company. Find out why they stay, what they like best about their work, their work environment, their benefits, their career ambitions, etc. This is also a good time to ask about what frustrates them about their work. By discovering trends, actions can be taken to remedy the frustration before these people resign.

Rather than feeling burned, good employers keep their eyes and ears open to understand what is happening around them. Keeping a watchful eye on why and how employees leave the organization can lead to changes which will make the organization better.