December 12, 2019
Company Culture 06 September 2017
Why Do Good People Leave Companies?
Phil La Duke

This question was put to me and I was asked to guest blog about it; it’s a mystery.  Well, it’s not all that mysterious; it’s more nebulous.  Good people quit jobs for all sorts of reasons, as many as there are situations for quitting a job.  

I started working when I was 13 and sometimes worked as many as three jobs at a time to survive.  I have never been fired and have only been laid off for lack of work twice in my storied career.  In every case, I at least STARTED the job as a good worker, an exemplary worker in fact.  But invariably I quit. 

Why? Like many of you, I did it for a variety of reasons.

Because the company is crooked

If your employer asks you to do something that is at odds with your own personal values (mislead a customer, overbill for your hours, kill a hobo for sport, etc.)  chances are you will quit the job ASAP.  Similarly, if you are told lies during the hiring process or were misled by the hiring manager, you’re not likely to hang around much longer just to see how bad it will get.  Good workers know that if you run with dogs you catch fleas (or in the case of the hotel room I stayed at in Myrtle Beach, scabies) and scarce few good workers are willing to compromise their values for a company that won’t play it straight.

Because the company doesn’t pay enough  

I know good workers who left a job because after paying for childcare, gas, wear-and-tear on the car, lunches, work clothes, shared insurance costs, co-pays, etc. etc. etc. that working at the company was literally a losing proposition financially speaking.  These good workers quit because the company thought it was doing them a favor but instead it was costing them more than not working at all. 

Because the company is run by people with the intellectual capacity of a close-head injured baboons

I once worked for a guy who FORCED me to work on a day I was supposed to be a pallbearer at a family friend’s funeral.  When I protested he said, “you can go to the funeral or you can have a job”; I needed the job so I reported for work to the urgent meeting that I was absolutely essential to and was told by my boss that he canceled the meeting.  I went to his boss in a frothy rage and told him what had happened.  He called my boss in and angrily and incredulously demanded to know the truth.  My boss’s face reddened and all he could manage to sputter, “he didn’t tell me he was an (expletive) pallbearer.”  

I quit that day.  No, I didn’t resign or even quit my job, but I quit none-the-less. I stopped caring whether the company did well, in fact, I hoped it would fail! I did the barest minimum of my job and nothing more. I was completely unengaged from the goals of the company.


Because the company treats good workers and bad workers the same

If you are a good worker you generally do good work because that’s who you are.  You’re not bucking for the employee of the month, you just understand that doing good work makes your life easier than good bricking and goofing off all day.  You recognize that you’re not paid to goof off and if you do it’s the same as stealing.  

Nothing makes a good worker more frustrated than seeing bad employees routinely do shoddy work, not show up (or show up late), steal, and malinger and get treated the same way as people who bust their humps.  They ask themselves why they should work hard only to get treated the same way they would if they goofed off.

Because the workplace isn’t safe

Good workers have options that less talented coworkers and are likely to leave a job with a poor safety record because they have the option to go to work somewhere where they are less likely to be poisoned, cut in half, crushed, or otherwise, meet their makers.  Hell, most days I don’t even like being alive at work, the worst thing I can think of is my having to die there.

But mostly it’s about respect

I thought about this topic for an entire weekend and of all the reasons I could think of pertaining to why a good worker would leave the company for whom they work and so many of them came down to respect. 

  • Employers expect loyalty but offer none; that’s disrespectful.  
  • Employers change the rules and force people to work weekends or off shifts with no discussion or explanation; that’s disrespectful. 
  • Employers don’t value people’s contributions; that’s disrespectful.  
  • Employers treat workers like children, and that’s disrespectful. 
  • Employers treat workers like they can be easily replaced and that they are lucky to have a job, and that’s disrespectful.
  • Employers intrude into people’s personal lives by reading their blogs, snooping on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages; and that’s disrespectful.  
  • Employers criticize without ever recognizing the contributions people make, and that’s disrespectful. 
  • Employers foster an environment where backstabbing and unethical conduct is rampant and do nothing about it; and that’s disrespectful. 

I could go on and on, but basically, no one with options wants to work at a place that doesn’t value and respect them, and respect can’t be faked.


At the end of the day, the question we should be asking isn’t “why do good employees leave the company” rather “how on God’s green earth did the company attract good employees in the first place?" 

For more tips on how to improve your company culturebuild trust with your employees, and attract the right candidates for the job, check out our Talking Talent blog.

Phil La Duke is an executive consultant, safety expert, speaker, blogger, trainer and business author. He speaks on organizational change, worker safety, and serves on the Wayne State Biomedical Safety Board. La Duke is the author of a weekly blog and is also a guest blogger on an Australian blog and Monster’s company blog.

A complete list of his articles in Entrepreneur magazine can be found here and it wouldn't kill you to read and share a couple. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke.