Micaela works as a front-desk manager at a luxury hotel in Manhattan. She loves the hospitality industry, but is very unhappy in her present job. She explains, “My company wants us to provide the highest quality of service to our guests, but treats us (the employees) with disdain and disrespect. The environment does not motivate us or inspire us to perform our best. I wish I could leave, but I’ve already invested over a decade of my life in this company, and with the economy the way it is right now, there aren’t many alternatives available right now.”

Kadia became a registered nurse because she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. She works for a relatively large hospital outside of New York city, which boasts of employee satisfaction as a crucial element in the success of the hospital. Kadia disagrees, “A culture of fear reigns here. When I first started working here, I was told that employees are valued and recognized for their contributions, and that an open-door policy existed with no repercussions to employees to ensure the well-being of all employees. I quickly realized that none of this was true. When management communicates with us, the message essentially threatens us ‘to do better or else!’ Each day, I enter my workplace with the gnawing fear of being judged, penalized or fired. This place is unhealthy for employees. I have already decided to leave as soon as the economy picks up.”

I asked Micaela, Kadia and several of my other friends, “Has your employer ever asked, ‘Are you happy with your job? How can we make your job more satisfying?’”

The responses oscillated between yes and no, but one common thread ran through all the responses. “We don’t trust our employers to tell them the truth. Most don’t care to hear the truth anyway… They become very defensive and focused on trying to convince us that the company’s approach is right, and we should conform or bear the consequences. So, we agree with them and say what they want to hear to safeguard our jobs and avoid being ostracized… until we can find something better.”

The voluntary turnover rates across industries echo these voices of discontent in the workplace.

In 2007, CompData Surveys recorded voluntary turnover rates in several industries including hospitality, technology and health care industries of 21.3%, 10.6% and 15.5%, respectively.

In 2008, the company revealed an increase in the voluntary turnover rates in each of these industries. 27.2% of employees chose to separate from their employers in the hospitality industry. The technology industry recorded a 17.2% rate, while the health care sector logged a rate of 15.7%.

In 2009, the company’s survey findings revealed a decline in voluntary turnover rates in these industries with a significant 19% in the hospitality industry, and 13% in the health care industry.

While the voluntary turnover rates indeed declined in 2009, the onus is now on employers to do an honest assessment of their companies and ascertain whether these lower rates can be linked to a robust employee relations system already in place, or whether these rates are, in fact, a temporary corollary of a volatile economy.

If it is the latter, companies may want to invest in expert resources to assist them to strategize to retain the best in their workforce, before the economic crisis is over and these employees are, once again, swept into the revolving doors of alternative employment.