Publication Date

Spring 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Howard Tokunaga


Exit Survey, The Unfolding Theory of Turnover, Turnover

Subject Areas



Understanding turnover has always been a concern for organizations. The costs of turnover to an organization are both direct and indirect, through financial and personnel consequences. By understanding why employees leave, organizations can create more effective retention strategies in hopes of keeping top talent. One theory of turnover, The Unfolding Theory, proposes that employees follow one of five cognitive pathways when deciding to leave an organization. Previous studies evaluating this theory have both methodological and administrative flaws, such as conducting interviews after employees leave the organization. The present study examined the Unfolding Theory by creating an exit survey based on all the aspects of the theory and administering the survey to 107 employees before leaving an organization. The results indicated that the Unfolding Theory does well to capture the processes employees engage in when deciding to leave an organization. However, the data also suggested that additional cognitive pathways may exist and that different groups of employees may have a higher prevalence for a particular pathway. The study discusses how organizations can utilize the findings to gather exit data more accurately, which will help to better understand why employees leave an organization.