Solving Three Reasons Talent Leaves Your Company

As the owner of a small business, I know how much it hurts when great team members leave. There have been recent days when it feels like my organization is bleeding talent.

If you want to understand why people are leaving, or to create an environment where team members want to stay, Susan Fowler’s Optimal Motivation framework, outlined in her book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does provides key insights into three reasons people may be leaving your company.

Fowler says every person needs to experience Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence through their work. When these are lacking from people’s work experience, they will leave, or worse, quit and stay in your organization.

A friend recently left a job. Here’s why:

People may leave your organization if they lack choices.

Autonomy, an important need, is met by people feeling they have independence and control of their work. My friend mentioned that her workplace felt like a jail to her.

When people feel their workplaces are unjust, they may leave.

My friend’s company eliminated her immediate supervisor, the director of marketing. With his departure, she took on many new responsibilities, with no adjustment in her compensation. This injustice ignited uneasiness within her and prompted her job search. When people sense injustice, they are experiencing a lack of relatedness.

People may leave your organization if they feel so overwhelmed by responsibilities that they don’t have time to do their jobs well.

People have a need to experience competence in their work; we all want to feel like we’re doing a good job. The sense of overwhelm my friend experienced when she took on many additional responsibilities degraded her sense of competence.

If your organization is bleeding, consider ways to increase people’s sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence in their work.

Why does talent leave organizations?

What might leaders do to retain talent?


This post, inspired by Susan Fowler’s book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does, is by Becky Robinson, founder of Weaving Influence and Hometown Reads. Find out more about Susan Fowler’s book at