Why people leave their jobs?

Like I noted earlier, the trickle of friends who have left my company seems to be turning into a torrent (perhaps it just feels that way). This leads me to wonder why people leave companies in the first place.

Like any good consultant, I will present this in the form of a two x two. All you MBAs can relax and feel at home reading this note! ;-)

You'll need to click once on the attached picture to see a larger (and clearer) picture.

My hypothesis is that there is a constant tussle between net-worth and self-worth.

Honeymoon phase: So when people are doing well in a company, and the job is financially rewarding, both net worth and self worth are growing. There's no real reason to leave. Self worth continues increasing as one's capabilities are utilized and extended, and one's social network continues to expand. Companies that give stock options, of course, give a nice little kicker to net-worth too.

"Love my job, the pay sucks" phase: This happens to people who are lucky enough to be in jobs that are intellectually and socially stimulating. You're, like, "I'm lucky that they pay me to do my job". The pay/stocks are in steep decline but, hey, you're learning so much and having so much fun that you don't care. After a while, if the difference between net-worth and self-worth becomes too large, one might consider "being in the market".

Golden Handcuffs phase: The job's a dog, but the money's too good to leave. You might know this tribe as the "retired on the job" brigade. Very popular in bureaucratic companies where incompetence and demotivation can be hidden away for long years. You're not employable elsewhere, and you're too bored to want to leave anyway.

The Dog ate my Job phase: The pay's bad, the stocks are under-water, you hate your colleagues, and you haven't learnt anything in years. You're probably too demotivated to leave, and your self esteem is lower than Radiohead doing "Creep" (lyrics: "I'm a creep, I'm a loser, What the hell am I doing here, I don't belong here." See what I'm saying?!)

Here's the story in the form of a line chart for the visual thinkers.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rustus,
The article is good. while reading I could not help but analyse which quadrant I lie!
I presently lie in Honeymoon! I will max go to I love my job. Then will promptly leave if I see myself dripping into the other two!
Whats your quadrant?
GR from Chandigarh India

Kanishk | कनिष्क said...

Very interesting post!
Actually I did left my last job very recently and moved to a different position in a different company and in a different city. The whole change process made me think, analyze and conclude somethings...a few of which are along the same lines as you wrote here....

And yes...this is the same Kanishk you are thinking of!!!

Shashikant Kulkarni said...

I could not stop laughing after seeing the 2x2 and MBA line :-) NOM. By the way, I heard somewhere that people leave their managers and not their jobs. Would like to see another 2x2 for this. ;-)

- S

Anonymous said...

Rusty - agree with your 2x2. Damn!! probably didn't use it effectively after WIMWI days.

But, i do want to add that "Honeymoon" quad could also lead to exit...as we become more ambitious and willing to test ourselves further, too well known to competition - so better offers, or entreprenurial itch with some bank balance to try things out etc.

Vijayanti said...


What makes the net worth curve cut the self worth one from below? and what makes the net worth so unpredictable by its visual i.e.? It really is extraneous to the phase one is in in my opinion and more to do with the tough bargain one got and the perception of the ass one was when joining the place?