10 reasons why so many people are quitting their jobs

people quitting jobs-450x350px-1Kate works as a public relations coordinator for a small company in downtown Los Angeles. Though her firm operated remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it recently brought all staff back on-site. Initially, Kate welcomed the return. But three weeks in, she is starting to have second thoughts.

Kate forgot how stressful the commute to the city could be, and she misses not being home when her 7-year-old daughter returns from school. She’s noticed the office rumor mill churning at high speed like it is making up for lost time, and her micromanaging boss constantly causes her to second-guess her abilities.

Kate saw on LinkedIn last week that her college roommate quit her job and found a higher-paying, fully remote position. Kate wonders if maybe she should consider such a move.

Long gone are the days when most people graduated, found a job, and stayed with that same employer throughout their career. Modern resumes tend to contain a variety of upward, lateral, and sometimes even downward moves as workers switch positions (and even industries) to better align with their professional and personal goals.

But while some movement is expected, recent numbers are staggering. Federal data shows almost 48 million Americans quit their jobs last year. “The Great Resignation” remains strong in early 2022 with more than 4 million more workers quitting each month.

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Why are people quitting their jobs in record numbers? As Kate’s situation demonstrates, a variety of factors often go into the decision. Here, we look at 10 common reasons:

1. The availability of other job opportunities

When jobs are hard to find, people think twice about leaving their current position. But in a labor market with plenty of open roles to fill, workers quit without as much hesitancy. They see the abundance of “help wanted” signs, hear the news stories of employers crying for applicants, and know the statistics posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics favor job seekers. Quitting does not seem so risky.

In addition to the sheer number of job openings, the quality of what is available can lure interest. Baby Boomers began retiring in large numbers pre-pandemic, and the global coronavirus crisis led a number of people to speed up their departure date. Needing to fill those vacancies, organizations are looking to give ambitious, skilled, younger workers the chance to assume greater leadership and responsibility. This ability to climb the career ladder faster proves attractive, especially to those currently at places offering few advancement prospects.

2. Better pay and benefits

From signing bonuses to higher wages, employers who need workers during this labor shortage know money talks. A lot of people already holding jobs see it as a no-brainer to leave their current role to improve their financial situation by going elsewhere.

Attractive benefits are also enticing. The pandemic heightened interest in good health care coverage, especially in terms of mental health. U.S. workers at places that have not shown sufficient commitment to employee well-being may decide their interests are better served by, say, a company that offers more PTO (paid time off). Or, an employee with significant student debt may see he has plenty to gain by switching to an employer offering repayment assistance.

3. Looking for a brighter future

Many workers, especially those in low-wage positions, live in fear of layoffs. Technology threatens to eliminate their jobs, a lack of skills makes them easily replaceable, or their hours vary considerably with fluctuations in the economy. Such uncertainty can be hard to bear. Quitting a job to go back to school provides a path to a more secure future. Or, some take up the offer of new employers to train them for positions in steadier industries.

4. Getting out of a bad environment

Toxic workplaces drain even the best employees. When stress and burnout get too overwhelming, workers seek new jobs more conducive to their well-being. Common scenarios where people say “enough is enough” and head out the door include:

  • Working for a boss who is incompetent, wimpy, too demanding, plays favorites, bullies, or fails to show appreciation.

  • Being around colleagues who gossip, back-bite, complain endlessly, form cliques, harass, or express extreme views.

  • Feeling that the company does not value its employees, fails to give them a voice, lacks concern for their safety, or does not recognize their contributions.

  • Noticing poor organizational behavior, such as unethical conduct, discrimination, inconsistent application of policies, or questionable hiring practices.

  • Worrying that the company is a “sinking ship” that is better to abandon now than to wait around for layoffs or complete closure.

5. Being under- or over-utilized

Employee satisfaction often resembles the story of The Three Bears. People generally do not enjoy having too little work to complete. Days drag as they feel useless, get bored, and watch the clock. Workers also do not appreciate too much on their plate. The frantic pace and constant demands make for exhausting days and lead to burnout. Sometimes leaving a current position is a search for “just right” where the pace and duties make for a productive but manageable day.

6. Desire for a new arrangement

Some people who decide to quit one place and go out on the job market still like the type of work they do. Their reason for leaving centers on wanting a different way of performing responsibilities.

Having enjoyed a better work-life balance while at home during the pandemic, many job seekers look for permanent remote work. Some find telecommuting conducive to focus and productivity. Many like getting rid of commutes. Others relish having greater control over child care concerns and other personal matters that arise.

Some look for job openings with more attractive schedules. Flexible scheduling presents more options to parents, students, and others looking to combine work with important obligations.

Numerous people leave jobs where they have an unpredictable schedule. Uncertainty over what times they need to work from week to week makes it difficult to plan other aspects of their life. They want set hours.

Also, workers often leave one job for another because they desire either more or fewer hours. The current employer may not be able to accommodate, say, a full-time employee who wants to drop to part-time status. Others may decide to try out the gig economy rather than maintain traditional employment.

7. Age

A job that seemed perfect years ago may no longer have quite the appeal over time. Physical limitations may hinder performance or even make commuting more difficult. Similarly, older workers may become frustrated with new procedures or changing technology. Seasoned teachers, for instance, sometimes left the profession during the pandemic rather than tackle the challenges of remote learning.

On the flip side, a role may not prove as mentally stimulating as it once was. Seeing a limited number of work years left, some workers quit their current job to pursue something different. Others may not want to remain employed at all. They opt to retire earlier than originally planned.

8. Major world events

Times of great upheaval make people reevaluate things, including their jobs. Events such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the global coronavirus pandemic bring to the forefront issues such as workplace safety. They also remind everyone of life’s preciousness. Some people become bolder about getting out of a bad job or pursuing a lifelong career goal. Others switch to a profession where they feel they can make a greater difference to society. Many leave jobs requiring too much overtime in order to spend more time with family or to focus on ambitions such as travel or penning a novel.

9. Personal changes

Reflection happens during significant individual events, too. A new baby, a change in marital status, aging parents, an empty nest, or even a milestone birthday can spark leaving one job for another. For some, it is a shift of priorities or newfound courage to do something different. For others, the focus might be on creating a rosier financial picture, leaving a legacy, or finding a more meaningful role. Or, quitting might simply be a necessity. When one spouse accepts a promotion in another state, the partner relocates too.

10. The power of suggestion

Lastly, do not underestimate the effect hearing about others switching jobs has on retention. Whether TV news reports on The Great Resignation or, like Kate in the opening, seeing people you know change jobs, attention to the subject starts the wheels turning. Given the magnitude of such a decision, people should be smart enough to avoid jumping on the job-quitting bandwagon simply to be trendy. But for those inspired by what they hear to give the issue serious thought, knowing others are doing the same thing can provide extra courage and comfort.