4 Key Reasons Employees Quit but Don't Leave

4 Key Reasons Employees Quit but Don't Leave

John Eades 27/01/2018 10

As I watched from afar my suspicions were confirmed. He quit but kept coming in every day. He was doing just enough to stay off his manager's radar, but I knew his days were full of boredom, surfing the web, complaining, and waiting for the weekend. 

Turns out this wasn't just a problem I was seeing in one company, it was a problem I was seeing in every company. I can't think of anything worse for an organization than having team members who quit but don't leave. It crushes culture, hurts performance, and makes the colleagues around them uninspired to do the work they do. 

Here are four reasons employees quit but don't leave and who's to blame:

They love job security

It's logical. A lot of people love the paycheck and benefits (a strategy companies use to keep employees), but don't like the work. Their lifestyle has been aligned with the kind of money they are making and the thought of making less money or changing jobs is difficult. So they stick with the status quo. Take for example the statistics from CompData around employee turnover from the years 2008-2016. Both voluntary and total turnover have either eclipsed or are similar to 2008 numbers (the beginning of to the housing meltdown). People feel more comfortable about the idea of changing jobs since the economy has improved but the voluntary turnover numbers aren't near equal the percent of employees that aren't engaged in the work they do.

Lack purpose in work they do

Gallup's research says 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged in their work. While there are many factors researchers use to track engagement, one main factor is people don't understand why they do what they do. When you don't know "why" it's hard to have a deep sense of purpose and passion about your work.  

A mentor of mine once told me words I will never forget, "It takes a lot to make a person with purpose quit." 

They have no clue what else to do

It's hard to leave a job voluntarily when you have no clue what else you want to go do. A lot of people these days seem to waffle or complain about not knowing what they want to do so they end up staying in the same place for years. Leaving them no closer to figuring out what they actually want to do. I love the way Gary Vaynerchuk gives advice to young professionals, "You're not lost, you're just early."  

There's a lack of great leadership around them

The ultimate reason people leave but don't quit is a lack of great leadership around them. 

A lack of great leadership can be broken down into two areas:

  1. Poor culture (executive leadership issue)
  2. Bad manager (managed not led) 

It's easy to blame the person in the situation for quitting and not leaving, but it's not the person to blame. The blame falls on one of two corners--the executive management team for creating a culture that doesn't produce positive behavior or the person's manager who hasn't set and consistently enforced high enough standards.

I know this isn't easy to read, but it should be an honor and privilege to work in your organization. The blame shouldn't go to the quitter. The blame falls on the people who don't inspire them to achieve more or allow them to stay when they don't show up.

Free Welder Leader Profile Assessment: Through our work and research around what effective managers do differently, we have uncovered the best managers simultaneously use high levels of love and discipline. In the research, five leader profiles emerged (Ruler, Manager, Pleaser, Dabbler, and Welder.) Join over 20k leaders who have team members reporting to them and discover what profile you are for free.

Welder Leader for Organizations: Want to decrease voluntary turnover, improve employee engagement and help the managers in your organization become more self-aware and effective leaders? Find out more here.

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  • Gideon Muller

    Most employees quit because they don't feel aligned with their organisation's culture. They can't even name what are the main values of their companies.

  • Derek Sutton

    Poor leadership is the main reason

  • Taylor Palmer

    I have never left my job and will never quit. I am happy to work in a place where all workers are valued and respected !!

  • Joe Gagliardi

    Thanks for this brillant post

  • Danny S

    Sometimes you are looking for a fresh challenge that's why you want to move on

  • Patrick Vargas

    Having a bad manager is the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Being led by a rude person won't motivate you to stay.............

  • Stan Broniszewski

    excellent article

  • Mohamed Ibrahim

    Give me a pay rise and I will never quit

  • Carly Gomez

    These are serious problems that are overlooked by many organisations

  • Ronald Harris

    Most of us are not engaged at work, we are just here to make a living



John Eades

Company Guru

John is #2 LinkedIn Global Top Voice 2017 – Management & Workplace. He is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 


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