Lessons,  Management

Why Employees Quit their Job

In his book DRiVE, Daniel Pink takes a scientific view of what actually motivates us. The answer is simple: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. (Interestingly, money is not on that list. You need to make enough money to make it a non-issue, but after that, we are motivated by Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.) Autonomy in that we have some say over how we do our job, Mastery in that we are given the opportunity to learn and grow in our profession, and Purpose in that we are working for a greater good.

In a recent Harvard Business Review post, they come to similar conclusions as to why people quit their jobs.  They start with the adage that you don’t quit a job, you quit a manager, but after looking at data from Facebook they show:

“First, craft roles that they’ll enjoy. This can involve hiring impressive candidates and then writing their job descriptions, for instance, or rotating current employees out of roles where they’re excelling but not feeling motivated.”

This is mastery.  To a degree.  I guess they’re saying that once an employee has mastered a particular position, rotate them into a new role to give them new challenges and new skills to master.

“Second, allow them to draw on a wider range of their skills and passions.”

This sounds like mastery again.

“And third, minimize work-life trade-offs by carving a path for career development that accommodates their personal priorities.”

This is both autonomy and purpose.  Autonomy in that the position accommodates their personal priorities and purpose in that they minimize work-life trade-offs.  I feel there should be more emphasis on purpose in the HBR article.  A real, true purpose can be an incredible motivator.  Money, or even simply having a job, is not motivation enough.  There needs to be something deeper and that’s where the true magic an management lies: creating that magic, that purpose and communicating it effectively.

As far as I know, there’s no great secret to creating purpose.  It has to be genuine.  But it doesn’t have to be as grandiose as “Saving the World.” I can be as simple as we provide a great value and help people to save money.  Or we provide a great service and help companies to better compete.  It should be related to your overall marketing message which helps to keep everyone on the same page.

The good news is, and keeping with the Un-CEO theme, the purpose of the business does have to be something good in the world.  If the purpose is something like “We exist to make money for shareholders”, that’s not going to give your employees the purpose they need to stay motivated and employees at your place of business, which, in the long run costs the business and shareholders.

Give your employees Autonomy.  Allow them to master their occupation and most of all give them a purpose.




“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather have these because we have acted rightly; these virtues are formed in man by doing his actions; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
– Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (1926)


Image Source: The Met Open Access.  Stonemason’s Chisel.  Egypt – Hammered Bronze/Copper – 2051 B.C.



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