Some Employees Are Simply More Likely to Leave Their Jobs

Employees are more mobile today than in decades past. The former ideal of finding one company and staying there for an entire career has been replace by the reality of increased job movement for today’s workers. But are some workers more likely to get the itch to leave than others? And more importantly, is there anything that organizations can do to make these wayward workers want to stay? The results of a study by Becton and colleagues (2011) directly inform these questions.


Based on a sample of 393 employees, these authors found that in general, those employees who had a history of changing jobs frequently (as assessed using biographical data) were more likely to turnover in subsequent jobs. However, this relationship was affected (moderated) by the complexity of the job (as measured by O*Net ratings). This means that, theoretically, some people are more likely to want to leave their organizations (as evidenced by previous job mobility) and this pattern was even stronger for those in increasingly complex jobs. This could be because complex jobs take a longer amount of time to get used to and are fraught with more early onset frustrations as one learns the ropes, making it more likely for these more fickle employees to look for something else. 


These results discount the idea that job hopping is more likely for younger generations, but is instead a dispositional characteristic. They do, however, lend credit to the idea that using past employment information might be informative with regards to future hiring decisions. That is, you may be wary of hiring someone who has a history of job hopping. And according to these results, this may be especially the case in complex jobs. In addition, organizations may need to adopt specific strategies for retaining employees who have a history of changing jobs that differs from those who do not have this job mobility pattern. 


Becton, J. B., Carr, J. C., & Judge, T. A. (2011). Is the past prologue for some more than others? The hobo syndrome and job complexity. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(2), 448-460.

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