People leave jobs all the time. It’s when a trickle turns into a flow that people tend to get concerned and wonder, “Why am I still here?”
If the seats around you are emptying at a rapid rate–and not because of a recent layoff or merger–it’s essential to take some time to evaluate your situation and make an important decision: Should you leave if everyone else is?
Whether you should be looking for a new job or staying put based on high employee turnover depends on a host of factors. It’s tough to lose colleagues you respect and enjoy working with, but their departure isn’t necessarily a red flag. However, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions when it happens.
Here’s a handy guide to deciding whether or not you should consider jumping ship.
Yes, if: Most of the people who’ve left are in your department or at your level
Look around–is there a trend of people like you departing? If so, pay close attention. There could be a deal breaker that just hasn’t gotten to you yet. For example, the company has decided that project managers are going to absorb the duties of administrative assistants, and the first handful of project managers who tested out the new system decided to leave. This could be a huge negative change to your workload and responsibilities.
No, if: A number of colleagues have left but they work on different teams
No need to worry just yet if people are leaving elsewhere in the organization. Most likely this is due to people’s tenure or team shifts unrelated to your own department. Try to evaluate the reasons for their departures and see if it’s something that will actually affect you personally. If you can see an obvious reason for their departures (say, the sales and marketing departments are being combined) but it doesn’t apply to you, then stay put.
Yes, if: Communication has been terrible
No one on your level knows anything about why people are leaving, who’s taking over, or if there are any company issues–for example, they’ve lost a major client–and there are mixed messages coming from management. Disorganization and dishonesty often signify bigger problems than just a few people leaving, so take note. If asking questions isn’t getting you any answers, that may be a sign.
No, if: There’s been clear communication about the situation (and they’ve outlined a plan)
If you feel confident that your manager (or their manager, or someone) is resolving the problems that caused people to leave (they’ve gotten rid of a terrible boss, for example), you can relax and stick around a while longer–at least until you’re sure whether actual change is in the works.
Yes, if: You can see the writing on the wall
Sometimes it’s just coincidence that a number of people leave at the same time. But other times it’s because there’s been some kind of big change–to leadership, to company priorities, to the culture–that leaves many unhappy, and the smart people start taking off. If you feel similarly about these shifts and believe that they are no longer in line with your goals or values, it’s okay to want to follow suit.
No, if: It really is just a coincidence
If one person goes on maternity leave, another got a big pay increase somewhere else, and a third is moving to a new city, those aren’t signs that the company is going down the tubes. It’s worth staying put if everything else seems like it’s business as usual.
Yes, if: It’s clear that they’re not going to hire any replacements
If it seems like you’re expected to take on extra work on a permanent basis (and no one asked for your opinion on this or offered you a raise or promotion for it), it may be time to reassess your priorities before you’re taken advantage of. Heavily increasing your workload with the expectation that you’ll do it forever is a sign that management doesn’t care about retaining good people.
No, if: There are plans to replace the people who left
Is HR aggressively hiring and conducting interviews to fill the empty slots? That’s a good sign that you won’t be doubling your workload long-term, and it’s worth staying where you are–as long as you enjoy the work you’re doing.
Yes, if: No one’s giving you a chance to step up (and no one cares that you want to grow)
When people around and above you leave, it offers you the opportunity to move up formally, or at least take on new responsibilities. But if they’re only looking to hire external candidates and don’t want to discuss your growth in any way, despite the fact that you’re eager and a strong performer, your company might not value you enough to invest in your professional development.
No, if: There’s room for you to grow
It’s possible, however, that your company will give you a fair shot to apply for a more senior position or take on a new project. Rather than quit and run, prep your pitch to ask for a promotion or new responsibilities and see if you can turn the situation into a career win. There’s no guarantee that this will work out, but if your company shows genuine interest in your growth and success, they’re likely to help you get where you want to be in time (even if it doesn’t happen right now).
Yes, if: Your company is traditionally somewhere people stay for years (or even decades)
If up until now most of the people around you have worked there for a long time, a group of people leaving at once is probably a sign that something’s not quite right. Is there a new manager who’s making everyone’s life miserable? Have benefits disappeared? Observe what’s changed and, if it’s a deal breaker, make a move.
No, if: Your field is known for high turnover
If it’s normal to job hop or change roles frequently in your field–say, if you’re in a job where the only way to move up is to move on–then a bunch of people leaving at one time might be a coincidence or par for the course, not a potential disaster.
Sometimes it can seem as if a single person leaving can start an avalanche of resignation letters, and it can be scary and stressful to watch people march out the door.
But there are times when you can turn this to your advantage. Calmly assess your situation before deciding whether to stay or go and see if there’s a way you can come out ahead–with more responsibility, a new project you’ve had your eye on, or even a promotion.
People’s reasons for getting out are highly personal, and many won’t apply to you. Take comfort in the fact that if you like your job and still feel supported, challenged, and respected, there’s probably nothing to worry about. But having this information in your back pocket will help you decide whether or not you should start looking to move on.