Here’s What Will Really Trigger Employees to Quit, and How to Avoid It

November 15, 2021

by Scott Mautz

It’s surprisingly simple, and painful when it’s missed.

Finding talent is hard, losing it is hard to take. If only employees were more loyal to the idea of loyalty. They quit, even when we thought they were happy. And understanding the real reasons they quit is a never-ending puzzle.

But Paychex completed a study of over 1,000 employees seeking to understand what motivates employees to find another job. The core finding is brutally simple and equally brutal on an employee’s sense of company loyalty.

59 percent of employees say if their company insults them, they will no longer be loyal. “Lack of appreciation for my contributions” was a distant second at 42 percent and “Deny me a promotion/raise request” surprisingly came in at only 29 percent–a mere half of the top reason for shattered loyalty.

Examples cited in the study of what triggers the feeling an employee has been insulted include: “Not treating everyone at every level the same” (and treating everyone like a number), “Not respecting my time as much as they respect theirs,” “Not giving me the benefit of the doubt that I’m an adult who is serious about my job and/or knows how to do my job,” and “Management who doesn’t put themselves in the shoes of their employees.”

It makes sense when you step back and think about it. If someone consistently disrespected you, would you stay loyal to them? Of course not. I think, though, that as obvious as it seems in retrospect, it’s quite often forgotten in the actual workplace because leaders are insensitive to the fact that what they’re doing comes across as disrespectful.

And there are so many traps, ways we can unintentionally send the message that “You’re not worthy of my time and attention,” “You’re not important to me,” or “I don’t respect you.”

I’ve certainly been a victim of this, where, even with the best of intentions, I did something as a leader that unintentionally signaled disrespect. Things as simple as being late for yet another meeting with waiting employees or being on email during a meeting.

This calls for an awareness campaign and some guidelines. What follows is a powerful framework to help ensure that as a leader, you’re giving the troops the respect they deserve on a daily basis.

It’s based on three critical questions all leaders/leadership teams should keep top of mind:

  • What can you give to show respect?
  • What should you resist to show respect?
  • What should you exude to show respect?

Give, Resist, Exude.  That’s your framework.

Now, we populate this framework with the intent to avoid the behaviors/actions that employees find disrespectful and with the characteristics and behaviors that are common signs of universal respect.


The benefit of the doubt, your word and keep it, praise/credit/reward equally and generously, honest and empathetic feedback, the effort to invest individually in employees.


Credit-grabbing, gossip and sharing secrets, negativity, blaming, wasting employee’s time/talents/resources.


The sense that you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, professionalism, intent listening and interest in others opinions, transparency/authenticity, care/empathy/warmth, collaboration, a “class-act” vibe (respect, integrity, humility, calm).

Finally, pick a few things from this framework that come natural to you and amplify them. Also, pick a few things that you need to work on and that you’re most passionate about improving upon–and improve them. I use this framework and find that practicing the things that come natural to you soon become a habit, freeing you up to focus on the behaviors you need polish.

As leaders, every day we have so many opportunities to recognize, value, and show basic decency and respect for other human beings just in the way we interact with them. Be intentional about how you give and exude respect, as well as what to resist to show up as respectful, and employees will respect you right back.

And that translates to loyalty.


Author Scott Mautz

Scott Mautz is a high-octane speaker expert at igniting peak performance and deep employee engagement, motivation, and inspiration. He’s a Procter & Gamble veteran who successfully ran several of the company’s largest multi-billion dollar businesses, an award-winning/best-selling author (Find the Fire, Make It Matter, Leading from the Middle), faculty at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business for Executive Education, a former top columnist (over 1 million monthly readers), and a frequent national publication and podcast guest.