Top 3 Reasons A-Players Leave and One Surprising Cause That Doesn’t Push Them Away

The most important business skill you can develop is to learn to attract and retain A-players.

Attracting A-players is one thing, but retaining them once you have them is quite another.  They leave for similar reasons, regardless of industry.  Here are the top 3 reasons A-players leave an organization and the surprising cause that they usually don’t leave over:

  1. Reason #1 that A-players leave: They run out of challenge
  2. Reason #2 that A-players leave: They don’t feel ‘the love’
  3. Reason #3 that A-players leave: Being forced to work with (or report to) non-A players
  4. And the thing that doesn’t push them away: Money

Reason #1: They run out of challenge

If a person is going to leave a company, running out of challenge is probably a valid reason to do so.  Why stay somewhere if you’re feeling bored?

For many people, twenty years’ experience just means that they’ve repeated five years’ experience four times.  This usually means boredom and stagnation for them, and many employees are happy to underperform throughout their career.

A-players don’t think that way.  One of their primary drivers is the desire to grow and get better.  If they feel that they’re stagnating in an organization, they are at flight risk.

Make sure your A-players are challenged, see a future for themselves, and don’t feel like they’re in a rut.

Reason #2: They don’t ‘feel the love’

Love looks different for everyone depending on their personality type.  Not everyone is motivated in the same way.  To find out more about your personality type and the personalities of your team members, take a free DISC assessment here:

Here are some ways to show love to your A-players:

  1. Money: make sure they are fairly paid
  2. Personalized gifts: give them something meaningful that shows you understand them and care about them
  3. Recognition: call them out on their good behavior
  4. Personal growth opportunities: send them to conferences, classes and give them eLearning opportunities
  5. Status: give them nice working conditions, titles that matter to them, and good parking
  6. Autonomy: let them make their own decisions
  7. Insider access: give them access to the inner team. Invite them to planning sessions.  Seek out their opinions about strategy
  8. Personal attention: coach them and give them your most valuable asset – your time
  9. Perks: company swag, upgraded work tools, better flight status etc. should go first to your A-players
  10. Increased responsibility: Let them know you trust them by giving them increasing levels of trust and responsibility. A-players respond positively to being trusted

Reason #3: Being forced to work with (or report to) non-A players

This is the biggest reason that A-player choose to leave an organization.  Working with a non-A player is no fun.

If the non-A player is unproductive, it means someone has to pick up the work that they don’t do, and cover for them besides.

If the non-A player has a poor attitude, it means someone has to endure being around them and listen to their complaining throughout the day.  At some point, life becomes too short to live with this.  Your best people may assume that management is fine with underperformance, and as a result, faith in leadership goes down too.

If the non-A player is the boss, any good person who reports to them is at immediate flight risk.  Why work for a boss who doesn’t get a lot done, or who has a bad attitude?  The only people who stay under those conditions are the people who have no other options.

Your A-players do have other options, and they will seize them if they’re forced to work under these conditions for extended time.

Make sure you have great people in leadership throughout your organization so that you retain your best people.

And the thing that doesn’t push them away: Money

This is a surprising one.  Most leaders assume that the main motivation of every employee is money.  And of course money is a motivator.  But it isn’t the principal motivator of good people.

Many times I’ve seen A-players move from higher to lower paying jobs because they liked the culture better, felt they would be more appreciated, and believed that there was a stronger values fit.

True A-players don’t work solely for money.  Of course you can’t underpay them either.  They they will interpret underpayment as a sign that you don’t really appreciate them.  Pay them fairly, but don’t expect them to leave over money if they’re working with great people and ‘feeling the love’ from leadership.

In summary:

A-players leave for three big reasons.  And there’s one surprising cause that doesn’t push them away.  The reasons are:

The top reasons A-player leave, and the one reason they don’t are:

  1. They run out of challenge
  2. They don’t feel ‘the love’
  3. Being forced to work with (or report to) non-A players
  4. And the cause that doesn’t push them away: Money

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on the top 3 reasons A-players leave and one surprising cause that doesn’t push them away.  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:

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