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by Paul Kiser
USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] Skype: kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Why Did John Quit?
In my years in management, human resources, and service club involvement I have watched many people leave organizations and periodically someone in the organization starts throwing around the ‘R’ word: Retention. What follows are committee meetings, calls for surveys, and finger-pointing. The search usually turns up discovery of a plausible single cause for the problem based upon limited evidence, followed by a shrug of shoulders because the alledged cause is almost always determined to be a reason that is out of control of the organization.

Finding the real reason for attrition for any organization is elusive because there is almost never just one reason for someone to quit. The decision to quit is typically after the person has accumulated multiple ‘dissatisfiers‘ or negative experiences that finally caused the person to make a change by leaving. Dissatisfiers can be issues about pay, benefits, or other tangible reasons; however, most negative experiences are intangible acts that weaken (or fail to strengthen) a person’s perception of belonging to the organization.

A Dissatisfier may be something small, like a person not getting thanked for his or her contribution to a special project, or something more significant, like a lack of a desired promotion. As each Dissatisfier is added the person gets closer to the decision that the organization is not meeting his or her needs.

While a group or organization may be unaware of their actions that cause a Dissatisfier for an individual, people often consciously use Dissatisfiers to drive away a member or employee from a group because it is a subtle form of discrimination that is difficult to detect and easy to blame the victim as being overly sensitive. We learn this tactic at a young age and often as a byproduct of sibling rivalry when one child torments another by subtlety annoying them until they react violently. In adults, the behavior is rarely as overt, nor does it result in violence, but can be very effective in weeding out diversity in the group.

When the Dissatisfiers are not the result of a conscious effort against a person, but rather the failure to include the person, the result can be the same. Over time the person may ultimately decide to quit for a better opportunity, or, in the case of a volunteer organization, leave for no other opportunity.

The Perfect Environment to Study Dissatisfiers
Volunteer organizations are an ideal environment to study the effect of Dissatisfiers because the issue of compensation and/or benefits (tangible rewards) can be ruled out as factors for attrition. While some may conclude that because there is no tangible rewards for a volunteer, his or her involvement is tenuous all the time; however, often an individual has a deeper commitment to a volunteer organization simply because they are involved for more meaningful reasons. That reason may be as simple as wanting to be a part of an organization that seeks to do good, but for many people who need is often more powerful than monetary gain.

Members of a volunteer organization should feel that the work they perform not only gives them a sense of accomplishment; but also gives them a sense  of worth, belonging (or friendship) and pride. For a member to leave that organization means that the group failed to provide or connect the member to the key rewards of volunteer service. Attrition in a volunteer organization is often blamed on a single external factor (a bad economy) or the person (not in the organization for the right reasons) rather than examine the Dissatisfiers that they might have been able to address that would have retained that member.

To improve retention organizations need to stop looking for the single factor for attrition, and start looking for the list of Dissatisfiers that led to the decision to quit. In volunteer organizations, a member’s involvement is to fill a need of belonging and attrition can only be attributed to internal Dissatisfiers, not external factors.

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