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7 Common Reasons Why Employees Leave Their Jobs

Greg de la Cruz is an avid online writer. He likes sharing what he's learned along the way with his readers.

Is better pay the main reason for switching jobs? Or does that just accompany an underlying issue?

Is better pay the main reason for switching jobs? Or does that just accompany an underlying issue?

Why People Leave Jobs

I left my jobs at previous companies for various reasons. Employee attrition is such a complex labor issue, and yet job search websites like Indeed and LinkedIn try their best to explain why it happens. Similar to my case, people leave their jobs for many different reasons.

It irks me when I venture through a web of "career" websites only to find generalized reasons (like in HR exit interviews) such as "lack of career growth and opportunities" or "no work-life balance." Not that these common reasons are untrue because they definitely are true, and they are prevalent. But often, these reasons turn out to be excuses just so the employee could provide some logical basis. And sometimes, these reasons are just listed options on a survey form with boxes to tick off.

At the end of the day, "better pay" is a recurring reason. The prospect of receiving higher compensation is always a factor when it comes to switching jobs. But that is not to say that it is the only underlying reason why people leave. Salary is always factored in—how else would you be able to sustain your lifestyle?

Of course, there are other unrelated reasons for employee attrition, such as "starting a new business," "downsizing," or "devoting time to family," all of which we will not get into. In this article, my aim is to explain seven other likely reasons why people leave.

7 Reasons Why People Quit Their Jobs

  1. Lighter workload for the same, if not higher, pay
  2. Worn out from a toxic, unhealthy work environment
  3. Finding a job that leaves more room for flexibility
  4. Feeling stuck or stagnant
  5. A super crappy boss
  6. No confidence in what key leaders are doing or planning
  7. More "true" holidays and wind-down seasons

1. Lighter Workload for the Same, if Not Higher, Pay

The objective of this article was to be more comprehensive in terms of explaining the reasons for leaving. And listing "burnout" or "overworked" as a reason only tells a partial story. An employee who has worked a job where he or she feels overwhelmed with tasks to do, or burned out because there seems to be no end in sight, will seek a job with a lot less demand—even if it doesn't entail better pay.

The great thing about the labor industry today is that employees are now empowered to share their stories online—at sites like Blind, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, to name a few. In addition, employees can also compare their existing job with comparable jobs listed online, often with the advantage of knowing what the pay range is.

The effect of all these circumstances is that employees can now make an informed choice to switch to a job wherein they're confident they won't have as much workload as they have now. They know for themselves what it means to be overstretched to the thinnest, and so they will seek a workplace that will offer them the same, if not slightly higher pay—for less work.

2. Worn Out From a Toxic, Unhealthy Work Environment

The reason "toxic" or "unhealthy" work environment also comes up a lot in listicles about employee attrition. But let's take this reason further and say that these employees are worn out from a toxic, unhealthy workplace because some workers can indeed tolerate an unhealthy workplace or work culture—especially when they don't have to be around their co-workers so much.

Being worn out from working in such an environment means you just can't tolerate it anymore. It means that the problem becomes a repeating obstacle to performing your job effectively. There are stories of the legendary CEOs who were alleged to have fostered toxic work environments—Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, to name a few.

Just because the workplace they created or designed became toxic wasn't the reason why people left. Apple, Tesla/SpaceX, and Amazon are all known for being extremely demanding on workers—and still, people want to work there (they can tolerate it or accept that it is a part of how the company operates).

3. Finding a Job That Leaves More Room for Flexibility

Being able to work flexible hours or from wherever is always a top consideration. Flexibility is a very fluid term because in some countries, working forty hours a week feels too much, and in other countries, it's the bare minimum. The meaning of working flexibly varies for many people, and so" 'lack of flexibility" as a reason for quitting is sometimes a frustrating answer.

That said, flexibility also varies depending on the type of job you take on. Some people are even willing to give up a handsomely paying job for a job with a lower salary but with way more flexibility. Take, for example, quitting a job from a 24-7 operation where you have to maintain an onsite post as a security head in favor of taking a job as a security consultant. The latter will probably not pay as much, but it will most likely not feel so "on-call" and will probably give the person more opportunities to take time off without worrying about keeping his job.

4. Feeling Stuck or Stagnant

This is for the ones who select "lack of opportunities" as a reason for leaving. In my opinion, both lack of opportunities for career development and lack of career growth are incomplete reasons on their own without the proper context. Feeling stuck or stagnant in one’s job, to me, is more specific and concise.

Some employees have been at the same job or position for more than a decade, with marginal increases in pay (just enough to keep up with inflation), and you wouldn’t be surprised at all if they tick the lack of opportunities box on their exit interview. These employees are simply stuck for any possible reasons—an unappreciative boss, a lack of upskilling, no proper career planning—the list goes on.

Career stagnation is such a tough situation to be in. The easiest way to observe if you have stagnated in your career is to simply look at your peers. Are they promoted on a regular basis? Have they moved on to bigger and better companies? It can become frustrating and depressing to compare your own career trajectory to others who used to be at the same level as you but have now progressed further and higher than you have.

5. A Super Crappy Boss

Does having a bad boss qualify as a good enough reason to leave? Perhaps not. It would take a super crappy boss for someone to make that a legitimate reason for leaving. Employees don't tend to leave just because of a bad boss for the fear that they, as a worker, would be perceived as "soft" or lacking grit. Hence it would take someone horrible as a manager or superior for someone to consider leaving.

What constitutes a crappy boss? Bullying easily comes to mind. Insensitive, unreasonable, likes micromanaging, lacks empathy, takes credit for others' work, is a blamer rather than a supporter—this list, too, is endless. When someone leaves his or her job for another job with less pay or just marginally better pay, you can expect that having a super-crappy boss has something to do with it.

6. No Confidence in What Key Leaders Are Doing or Planning

There are company leaders who are savvy and whom you are confident won’t run things to the ground, and then there are leaders who clearly have no clue what they’re doing and are extremely out of touch.

Transparency and accountability are characteristics that key leaders must have—otherwise, people working for the company won’t really build enough trust or confidence in them or the company. Therefore, employees who feel as if their CEO or COO has absolutely no clue in what he or she is doing will look elsewhere for a place where actual adults run the show. The pay offered by some startups is sometimes outrageously high—only for the new hire to find out that the chief executive is a child obsessed with running office parties.

7. More "True" Holidays and Wind-Down Seasons

Last but not least, let's talk about what exiting employees mean when they say they want more "work-life balance." When employees say that, they don't mean they need another arcade machine or pool table in the game room. They also don't mean that they need more non-work-related team bonding activities. And these resigned employees especially do not mean that they want "unlimited PTO."

Work-life balance is another broad subject, but let me give my take and say that what it really means is more "true" holidays or time off. It also means having wind-down seasons within the year wherein the work isn't so demanding.

In this respect, people will choose a company that offers real work-life balance over a company that only sells the idea of it. In some workplaces, work-life balance is sold as a scam—making you believe that you can leave at any point of the day to take care of personal matters, and you won't be penalized for it.

What happens in these cases is that you will be less likely to get promoted by choosing to live a balanced life and making time for your family. Employees want to find a place where workers, especially bosses, know how to chill. It always starts from the top. If an executive says he's going to take a couple of weeks off to spend time with family and encourages that type of behavior among his subordinates (while not penalizing them in some fashion), then that's a solid example of work-life balance.

Do People Really Leave Just for Better Pay?

Having discussed these seven other likely reasons, I’m inclined to say that better pay is just an accompaniment to whatever underlying reason you might have for choosing another job over your existing one. It’s easy to get up and leave; the average worker tenure is 2–3 years. Whatever reason it is that you have for leaving your existing job (if you happen to be), I hope that you find a better, more satisfying opportunity with your next one.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.