Factor 5: The decision to stay or leave

Figure 21.3 illustrates how cognitive states lead to the final factor in the turnover process - the decision to stay or leave. An individual in a cognitive state of withdrawal who is engaging in negative work behaviours, such as job searching, will eventually leave the organization (Hom & Kinicki, 2001; Kammeyer-Mueller et al., 2005; Somers, 1999; Vandenberghe et al., 2011). On the other hand, an individual in a state of engagement who is engaged in positive workplace behaviours is likely to stay with the organization (Haivas et al., 2013; Halbesleben & Wheeler, 2008). However, various sources of pressure and environmental constraints may affect how much control an individual has over the final decision to stay or leave (Hom et al., 2012; Maertz & Campion, 2004), for example, undesirable job alternatives may force employees to stay even when they prefer to leave (Holtom, Mitchell, Lee & Eberly, 2008).

A summary of the dynamic models of turnover

In sum, common across the dynamic models of turnover are five critical factors and two main pathways to turnover. First, there are the employee’s pre-existing conditions (e.g., individual differences, employee attitudes, affect and perceptions) and workplace conditions (e.g., job and organizational characteristics) that determine how well an individual fits with the job and organization. As conditions change over time during an employee’s tenure, the extent to which an individual fits in the work environment will also change. If an employee begins to feel a sense of misfit, a gradual change in affect or attitudes towards the job and/or organization may occur. This is the slow pathway to turnover and does not involve a specific triggering event. Alternatively, a significant work or nonwork event may trigger a change in affect or attitude, which is the fast pathway to turnover. Depending on whether attitudes shift in a positive or negative direction, an individual will fall into a cognitive state of engagement or withdrawal and then enact behaviours indicative of a decision to stay or leave the organization. This is the withdrawal phase of the model. The process ends with an actual decision to stay or leave. There are boundary conditions to this, including motivational forces and environmental constraints.

The decision to stay or leave an organization can be affected by many things. Thus, the time-lag in each path will vary with each individual. First, the timing of shocks will vary according to individual features (e.g., length of tenure, gender, career stage) and the type of shock (e.g., performance evaluations typically occur once a year, while promotions are less frequent). Second, the speed of responding to a shock will vary depending on the characteristics of the shock (e.g., the extent to which it is unexpected), individual factors (e.g., current levels of job satisfaction) and contextual factors (e.g., whether previous shocks have been experienced). The length of time between the reaction and the withdrawal state will typically vary for the same reasons. The time gap between the withdrawal state and the actual decision will vary for individuals, depending on personality (e.g., decisiveness), extent of job embeddedness, availability of job alternatives and other constraints. Furthermore, the timing of each phase will vary for each individual, depending on personal factors (e.g., life-stage, personality), the type of shock experienced and contextual factors (e.g., job embeddedness). Taking into consideration existing turnover models, it emerges from the literature that turnover is a time-driven process, which involves five major decision factors and takes place along either a slow or fast pathway.

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