Unfairness-based turnover in tech is a $16B a year problem. We have all heard the anecdotes: high profile stories of people leaving jobs in tech and detailing graphic accounts of toxic work environments characterized by bullying, stereotyping, sexual harassment, and racial bias. Although headline-worthy, how common are these accounts across the tech sector?

A new study has shown some interesting metrics!  According to the ‘Tech Leavers Study’ by the Kapor Center for Social Impact, not only is unfairness the biggest reason for tech workers to quit jobs, it can also cost tech companies close to $16 billion per year to find replacements.

Tech employees from all backgrounds cited unfairness more than any other factor as a key driver of their decision to leave.

Unfairness or mistreatment within the work environment was the most frequently cited reason for leaving, with 37% of the sample indicating that unfair treatment was a major factor in their decision to leave their company.

Unfair treatment was nearly twice as likely to be cited as a factor driving turnover than being recruited away by a better opportunity (38% versus 22%). •

78% of employees reported experiencing some form of unfair behavior or treatment, while 85% witnessed or observed unfair behavior or treatment in their previous company. Employees within tech companies experienced significantly more unfairness than employees in non-tech companies.  Experiencing and observing unfairness is significantly related to turnover, with the experiences most strongly related to turnover (stereotyping and bullying) being those experienced most often by underrepresented groups, and experiencing stereotyping and bullying/hostility was negatively related to length of employment; unsurprisingly, the more stereotyping and bullying experienced, the shorter the length of time that employees remained at their previous company!


Using conservative estimates based on the percentage of tech employees leaving due to unfairness in this study, unfairness alone will cost tech companies $16B per year in employee replacement costs. There are also reputational costs to companies due to unfairness-related turnover. Thirty-five percent of former employees said their experiences would make them less likely to refer others to seek a job at their former employer, and 25% said they would be less likely to recommend others to buy or use products and services from their former employer.

The takeaway?

62% of all employees would have stayed if their company had taken steps to create a more positive and respectful work environment. 57% would have stayed if their company had taken steps to make the company culture more fair and inclusive.

You can find the study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll online