Why Do Software Engineers Quit?

In this article, I’ll give you 5 reasons plus some practical inside information to help you keep your tech team stable and feeling accomplished.

The market has never been so competitive as it is now. The main reason is what Covid-19 brought or revealed. People discovered how much time they can save without long commutes to work, how productive they can be without all the office background noise, all the cost savings they can achieve without leaving their house, and many more

Avoiding tech people leaving your company is getting more challenging every day, so learning what makes these professionals do so is more than a nice to have: it’s a crucial strategy that will cost you success if you do not apply it.

Throughout this article, I’ll explore some of the pains that made my peers (and myself) start looking beyond our companys' fence. And sometimes even change jobs. 

5 Reasons Why Software Engineers Quit


  1. Feeling the hierarchy's existence;
  2. Not feeling heard;
  3. Not feeling recognized and cared about;
  4. Lack of trust;
  5. Lack of interesting projects.

1. Feeling The Hierarchy's Existence

Most of the time, hierarchy helps you maintain order within a specific environment as it follows nature’s law. It is an organic strategy that every business needs to succeed.

What is not organic, is forcing your employees to accept and agree without questioning every demand from their superiors. A while back, I had an interview where the interviewer got negatively surprised once I told him my frustration about not simply accepting an architect's decision. They reasoned that such a decision should be agreed upon and not be questioned by those who would be implementing it. Otherwise, I would be disrespecting him. From that point on, I knew I would never be working for that company nor suggesting it to any other friend.

Leaders should support and not demand. They should listen and take people's opinions.

So their employees feel comfortable enough to give suggestions, give their opinion, and discuss ideas without feeling that they are crossing the hierarchy line.

2. Not Feeling Heard

Hearing their employees is always a good quality that any employer should have. But to prove they were actually listening - and not just nodding while thinking about something else - they must act upon it.

Unfortunately, I get to hear a lot of complaints similar to these ones:

I’m tired of working with the same 20 old frameworks that no one uses anymore”. 

I feel overwhelmed. We need to distribute work-load in a more efficient way”. 

I don’t feel comfortable with people calling me whenever I am on vacation just because someone needs my help. “

I have an unbalanced work-life routine. I have two kids to raise.“

Have your employees ever complained about something similar? And have you done anything about it?

Unfortunately, ignoring it only postpones the melting point. As the market gets more competitive, these employers will fall behind in no time. Most people look for people and employers that care about them. 

As an employee, I look for an employer that looks out for me and understands my needs, financially, professionally, and personally. 

3. Not Feeling Recognized and Cared About

There’s nothing better than having someone caring for us, making sure we’re okay, making sure that we don’t get stuck with any unpleasant thoughts. I mean, that’s what everyone wants, even in their personal life, right?!

From my own experience, and the one of my software engineer friends, I can conclude that many companies tend to forget the importance of showing small acts of kindness and gratitude to their employees. 

Last week we had a stressed sprint with a lot of pressure from a client, too many TODOs, and some staff absences. We needed to step up, so we could deliver a beta version of an application in time. It was supposed to be presented in front of at least 40 people. We all kept together, focused, and we managed to deliver everything without making people work overtime. (By the way, it's also nice that overtime can be compensated later on 😉).

Initially, the client congratulated us for the great work. It was already nice to have proof of recognition. I was satisfied! A week later, my project manager sent me an email personally thanking me.

I was surprised and emotional as I was not expecting it. This small action was more than enough to help me realize that my company recognizes all the hard work we put into this project. They didn't need to, but they did it anyway.

I want to feel like that more often. And as you might imagine, so do other employees.

4. Lack of Trust

Covid-19 forced us to rearrange our lives, but if it brought us one good thing, was that remote work is finally seen as an acceptable practice. 

Companies were forced to trust their employees and allow them to work from home. Can you make sure your employees are working as much as they would from the office? Where you can actually show up and check their screen whenever you feel like it? No. And there is always the possibility of having someone claiming that they have spent an entire day working on a task when in reality, they just spent half a day playing video games. 

But hey, spoiler alert: time and inflexibility are not equal to efficiency. I only realized how efficient I was at home once everyone was required to do so due to the quarantine. After a while, I started working abroad, in France, Italy, Hungary, etc. I still try to go to the office once or twice per week whenever I head back to Portugal but it is mostly about maintaining relationships, not because I’ll do more work. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.  

And if you think this is only my case, take a look at this study about remote vs working from the office: performance can increase up to 13%!

What really should matter to you is that the job gets done.

The same goes for other types of jobs. What does it matter if the mail carrier watches a Youtube video during their working hours? Nothing, as long as everything gets delivered by the end of the day.  

I never felt this happy as I feel by working from my comfortable home. And considering that happiness is correlated to efficiency, making sure your employees feel good while doing their work is something you should desire too!

5. Lack of Interesting Projects

I would argue that this one is one of the most game-change topics in making someone’s mind about changing jobs. Most people I know give the first reason as feeling unmotivated due to the following reasons:

  • Deprecated technologies;
  • Lack of impact on society. 
  • Simple business complexity;
  • Lack of architecture and technology innovation;
  • Why switch philosophy if the current one works?!

Once I start feeling stagnant, the next step is realizing that something needs to change. That happened to me on my last project. I needed to raise the flag so I could switch, as I was getting sad, unproductive, and unmotivated. I was already thinking about leaving the company in case this persisted. Glad we could avoid it in time. But unfortunately, most of my software engineer friends don't have that opportunity. As you might predict, they feel forced to choose to leave. 

Feeling stagnant is usually the first sign that an employee is on the wrong career path. Companies should avoid only looking into the project’s profitability, but also how the project will influence and impact their employees, as their profit will quickly decrease if they need to start recruiting. Again.

By acknowledging how much hiring, onboarding, and training costs an employer might have, you may start thinking about retention strategies. This article tells you all you need to know about the subject.

Why Do Software Engineers Quit? Final Thoughts

By the end of the day, we all want to feel accomplished, both personally and professionally. To make sure your employees feel like that - and not secretly attending job interviews - make sure they feel comfortable with the company’s hierarchy, listen to them and act according to that information, recognize their efforts and congratulate them on their achievements, trust them, and make they feel motivated towards their project.

The industry is growing every day that goes by. Software engineers get constantly spammed with an enormous amount of offers every day. If they don’t feel happy, it is a matter of time until one of them catches their attention.

If you’re happy with the work of your tech team but you’re worried about all the flashy opportunities popping up on their Linkedin chats - working with KWAN could be a good solution for you.  

With a team of dedicated coaches - called People Managers - taking care of your team and making sure they are happy and fulfilled will help prevent unexpected leaves and all the time wasted on researching, screening, and recruiting new professionals. Get in touch!

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