How people leave organizations: Unfolding theory in a changing workforce

by Johnson, Edgar R., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2009, 83 pages; 3349780


This study tests Lee and Mitchell’s unfolding model of voluntary employee departure from an organization. Expanding conventional wisdom, the model predicts that “shocks” play an important role in initiating the decision process people use when determining whether to leave or stay with their organizations. Additionally, the model stipulates that there are five distinct decision paths that individuals follow when making a decision to stay with or leave an organization. The unfolding model has been tested previously with female nurses, professional consultants in Big 6 accounting firms, and military officers. For this study, 41 professional businesswomen who had quit their jobs or seriously considered quitting their jobs in the last 3 years completed an online survey. Data gathered from the survey and follow-up interviews were analyzed through correlations, analyses of medians, and contingency tables. Results indicated that 56% of participants reported a “shock,” that there was an association between path and type of “shock,” and that 68% of participants followed one of the five decision paths predicted by the model. Conclusions, recommendations for the development of the model, implications for further study, and organizational retention strategies are discussed.

AdviserGeorge Ecker
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Occupational psychology
Publication Number3349780

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