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News and Trends / Company Culture

New Study Shows Unfairness at Work Is Costing Employers Billions Each Year

Unfairness leads to major employee turnover, especially for underrepresented groups
New Study Shows Unfairness at Work Is Costing Employers Billions Each Year
Image credit: FangXiaNuo | Getty Images
- Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.
3 min read

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Why would someone leave a six-figure dream job? It all comes down to fairness.

Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll recently released its Tech Leavers Study, the first of its kind to study why employees voluntarily leave tech jobs. The study polled a group of 2,006 U.S. adults who have left a job in a technology-related industry in the last three years.

The study found that while people leave jobs for any number of reasons, mistreatment was by far the largest turnover driver. In fact, thirty-seven percent said that unfair treatment led to them to want to leave their jobs. For these respondents, unfairness was a more powerful factor in their exits than being recruited to another company (38 percent compared to 22 percent).

Related: Why You Need to Focus on Diversity Before It's Too Late

How employees experience mistreatment varies, often by background, the study found. For instance, one in 10 women reported receiving unwanted sexual attention from a colleague. Twenty percent of LGBT employees cited bullying and 24 percent experienced public humiliation. And roughly 25 percent of underrepresented people of color said that they experienced stereotyping in the job they left.

Unfairness is heightened in the tech industry. Those facing mistreatment in tech were far more likely to leave a job than those in other technical sectors.

Ultimately, the study found that unfairness is expensive. Turnover spurred by mistreatment in the workplace costs the tech industry $16 billion annually, the researchers estimate, a number that doesn’t factor in the hit to a company’s reputation. According to the research, around a third of former employees polled reported that their experiences would make them less likely to recommend others take a job at their old company. A quarter were even less likely to recommend that use that company’s products and services.

Related: 5 Ways to Overcome Cultural Barriers at Work

So, what can companies do to change their own company culture? A shift requires buy-in from all levels of leadership, but starts at the top. Some strategies include regular employee surveys, compensation audits and instituting management training that requires company leaders to recognize and reduce biases.

While a toxic culture doesn’t change overnight, working on these issues can make a big difference. Sixty-two percent of all employees surveyed said that they would have stayed on if the company had developed “a more positive and respectful work environment.” Fifty-seven percent would have stuck around if the company “had taken steps to make the company culture more fair and inclusive.”

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