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Not sure why employees leave? Maybe it's the 'push factor'

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Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 5:19 am, Sun Oct 9, 2011.

Good employers should worry about why employees choose to leave.

Sometimes better job offers arrive unsolicited, and workers leave for logical, personal betterment.

When the reasons aren't so obvious, Leigh Branham tries to help organizations figure out why workers jump ship.

After years of research, he knows two overarching things:

* Two-thirds of the time there's a turning point, a last straw that pushes people out the door.

* Those "push factors" outnumber "pull factors" -- such as better job offers -- by 2 to 1.

Trouble with immediate bosses ranks high among the pushes. A public reprimand, unfair treatment or lack of understanding about a family situation falls in that category.

But the pushes aren't always directly personal. Surveys show that some workers leave because they don't think slackers are being held to task for the group good or because the boss has an ill-advised romance with an employee.

Other times, a lack of ethics in an organization or sleazy behavior by top officers or owners is the push.

It's that top-down push that Branham finds particularly intriguing. You might not think that senior leaders "play slightly more heavily than direct managers in the employee engagement equation," he says.

But top-down culture does matter, and some workers will leave if they're upset or displeased. Or they'll disengage -- they'll show up but not give a hoot about their job.

Turnover costs employers. Organizations need to dig to find out why they lose good people.

That's why Branham, a business consultant, keeps diving into the departure data.

"We cannot prevent all turnover, nor do we want to," Branham tells clients. "But by being alert to the kinds of events that precipitate thoughts of leaving and other behavioral warning signs, we may be able to re-engage before it's too late."

Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at The Kansas City Star.

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