Skeletons In The Closet: The Truth Behind Reasons-For-Leaving

(Getty Images by wwing)

Whether you are an HR Professional, Operations Leader or an employee who has resigned, I’m sure you will find this post relatable.

When an employee resigns, the first and most frequently asked question is, “why are you leaving?” What is the Reason-for-Leaving? While the employee might, at some point get irked by this question, this is actually a very important one. Not just out of curiosity but because this forms part of the analytical data.

Do you analyze your attrition (leavers) data? Do you spend time understanding why your employees leave? What confidence level do you have in terms of the accuracy of your raw data?

There could be several type of data, but for this article, let’s focus on the reasons-for-leaving. Is it accurate? Do employees say upfront exactly why they are leaving?

In our country (the Philippines), this isn’t always the case. We tend to give reasons that are popular and easier for our leaders to accept. For those who work or has experienced working in another country, is the tendency the same?

Of course, some reasons-for-leaving mirror reality and there are good bosses out there who are truly very painful to leave. I had occasions when I had to leave good leaders for one reason or another. But, there were also a few instances when what triggered my decision to resign was the behavior of a leader in the department.

The popular reasons for leaving are Total Rewards and Personal Reasons. When you see these two on top of your reasons-for-leaving list, it’s time to dig deeper. Is it true or are there skeletons in your attrition data closet?

Needless to say, reviewing an accurate set of data is crucial to effective action planning and execution.

Probe. Probe. Probe. You can ask questions like – What triggered your decision? What if this or that was the case, would you have decided to leave? How was your relationship with your supervisor?

I looked into a 5-year attrition data of one Company and they were not an exemption. Total Rewards and Personal Reasons top the reasons-for-leaving. However, looking deeper into other sources of data, I found that these leavers also did not receive valuable feedback, had very few 1-1 sessions and was not given clear direction by their immediate leads. Side stories (or comments on the forms) point to leadership behavior as a big chunk of the reason why they decided to leave. I had sharing sessions, too, with other HR professionals across several industries, from different countries and using many years of data and the same was observed.

In the article in Forbes written by Liz Ryan – Top 10 Reasons Great Employees Quit, you will see that more than half of the points raised are actually reasons a good boss can influence.

I am not saying all resignations are due to Managers, like I said, there are good (even great) ones.

Be that as it may, this continues to be a:

  • call to action for all leads to spend more time for their people, get to know them as individuals (see also What Your Employees Want To Tell You), develop them, engage them, keep them inspired.
  • Call to action for all of us in HR to clean our closet and present analytical findings that were derived from accurate raw data.
  • Call to action for employees to be more open with the leaders. Sometimes a good, open and transparent communication does a lot to help even the most difficult of your bosses. Often, they appreciate the conversation. Pls feel free to send me a note should you need help how to get your conversation started.

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found this helpful. Please feel free to share to others who might also benefit from this article.

Let’s talk again soon! 🙂

FB: @engagementimperative

FB: @purposefulparentingjourneyblog

About Emile Therese

Emile Therese is a graduate of the University of Philippines in Diliman with a degree in Psychology. She is happily married. She and her husband, Dennis, are blessed with one amazing daughter (and hopefully at least one more child). She believes that values and character ought to be taught as early as possible and that these are key to community and nation building. This was also how she and her siblings were brought up by their two awesome parents! She is a Certified HR Professional who advocates employee engagement in its entirety. Emile believes that true employee engagement rests on the pillars of basic human needs and in ensuring that process and leadership basics are in place - the employee engagement imperatives. She hopes to contribute to making this world a better place for all of us now and the next generation. She loves sipping tea, conversations, reading and writing. The latter gave birth to two blogs - Purposeful Parenting Journey ( and Engagement Imperative (

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