The influence of work group culture on employee turnover

Date of Completion

January 2003


Psychology, Social|Business Administration, Management|Psychology, Industrial




Employees leave their organizations for a myriad of reasons. Past literature has shown that an employee's decision to leave an organization is influenced by a number of demographic variables (e.g., educational level), affective variables (e.g., job satisfaction), and intent to turnover variables (e.g., intent to quit). However, scant research exists on the extent to which workgroup culture can influence future employee turnover. In fact, to date, no study has examined how established workgroup norms and values surrounding the process of employee turnover influence an employee's decision to leave an organization. The current study, utilizing a new measure of workgroup turnover culture and multiple measures of turnover-related behaviors and attitudes, assessed the extent to which the turnover culture of a workgroup influences the employee's decision to leave their organization. ^ Data were collected from a large, educational organization in the Northeastern United States. A total of 4,096 participants were invited to participate in the current study. Researchers distributed surveys to each employee of the organization. A code on each survey allowed researchers to link an employee's survey data to a variety of other organizational data sources, including demographic information and in some cases exit interview data. Hypotheses were empirically tested using a variety of statistical analyses, including Hierarchical Linear Modeling for a direct test of the cross-level influence of workgroup-level turnover cultures on individual-level turnover-related behaviors and attitudes. ^ Results from the current study indicated that turnover cultures do exist and operate at the workgroup level of analysis. Workgroup turnover cultures that accepted or encouraged the turnover of workgroup members were related to a host of turnover-related behaviors and attitudes, including withdrawal cognitions, intent to stay, intent to stay until retirement, organizational tenure, length of notice given by leavers, and positive career impact of leaving. On the other hand, the turnover culture variable was found to be unrelated to the actual turnover of workgroup members, though this lack of a relationship is consistent with Mobley's contemporary decision-making model of turnover (Mobley, 1977; Mobley, Homer, & Hollingsworth, 1978; Mobley, Hand, Baker, & Meglino, 1979). A host of future avenues of research are identified based on the results and limitations of the study. ^