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Will You Quit Soon? The Latest Research Suggests Why You Might

Topics: Data & Research
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PayScale’s latest report, Why They ‘Quit You’: Top Reasons an Employee Leaves, examines the many reasons why workers are quitting in rising numbers.

If you’re thinking of leaving your job in the near future, you have plenty of company. In February alone, 2.86 million workers quit their jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the environment is promising for job changers — with the unemployment rate as low as 3.6 percent, employers are finally being forced to boost wages in order to attract new hires.

Why are so many workers looking for a change — and what do they look for in a new employer? Unsurprisingly, the research suggests that money and meaning are at the top of the list for many.

Why You Might Quit Your Job Soon, According to Research

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More Money

Compensation was the No. 1 reason why people quit their jobs, according to our survey. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they left for higher pay.

This goes against the common wisdom about why people quit jobs. A quick Google search will show thousands of articles arguing that people leave because of their relationship with their manager or because they crave autonomy. (We’ve even written a few ourselves.) While it’s true that these reasons are important to many workers, our respondents rated cold, hard cash as a determining factor.

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Unhappy at Work

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Sixteen percent of respondents said that they left because they were unhappy with their organization. Obviously, the reasons why a given worker is unhappy will vary, but it’s worth remembering that many people jump ship because they just don’t like the boat they’re on.

So, if you’re miserable at work, it’s worth thinking about whether your problems might be solved by a change of employers.

More Meaning

Fourteen percent of people who responded to our survey said that they wanted to work at an organization that aligned with their values. But that stat doesn’t paint the full picture of how important meaning is to workers.

Per the research:

…27 percent of all respondents said the main thing that attracted them when choosing a role at a new organization was the opportunity to do more meaningful work – followed by increased responsibility (17 percent) and increased pay (16 percent). Even 20 percent of those who said they quit for increased pay said that the primary reason they chose their new organization was the opportunity to do more meaningful work. A Gallup poll last year found that no more than 13% of adults with full-time jobs found their work meaningful.

However, workers seem willing to accept that sometimes, you can’t always get (everything) you want. Some respondents said that they were aware that “finding the holy grail of a meaningful job that also meets other important criteria as well may be an impossible dream,” according to the report.


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Only 2 percent of respondents said that they quit for more flexibility, but women were more likely than men to select this as a reason for changing jobs — 11 percent more likely, in fact. They were also 8 percent less likely to quit because of money.

Is this because women don’t value earning a competitive wage? Not likely. PayScale’s report on the gender pay gap shows that women earn less than men in part because of the opportunity gap — only 3 percent of White women — and 2 percent of Asian, Black and Hispanic women — become executives. Six percent of White men reach the executive level at their organizations.

Further, the pay gap widens as women ascend the corporate ladder — and the gap is worst for women of color. A Black, female executive makes $0.63 for every dollar a White, male executive makes.

Bias may play a part in these pay gaps. But another factor in perpetuating the gender pay gap is likely the changing nature of work itself.

In a recent Upshot article entitled, Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got ‘Greedy.,’ Claire Cain Miller explained how companies became less hospitable to working moms:

Just as more women earned degrees, the jobs that require those degrees started paying disproportionately more to people with round-the-clock availability. At the same time, more highly educated women began to marry men with similar educations, and to have children. But parents can be on call at work only if someone is on call at home. Usually, that person is the mother.

This is not about educated women opting out of work (they are the least likely to stop working after having children, even if they move to less demanding jobs). It’s about how the nature of work has changed in ways that push couples who have equal career potential to take on unequal roles.

No wonder, then, that women are more likely to leave in order to seek flexibility.

Other Reasons

Respondents also said that they quit because they were relocating (11 percent), their current position was not full-time (10 percent) or they wanted a promotion (7 percent). Fifteen percent of respondents selected “other reasons” for wanting to move on.

If you decide to quit your job, your reason for taking a new one will likely be consistent with why you decided to leave your former employment. If you leave your job because you want higher pay, naturally you’ll seek out an employer who offers more competitive compensation. The same goes if you’re quitting because you’re seeking more meaningful work or because you want to take on new responsibilities.

Different Generations Have Different Priorities

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The research showed that younger workers quit for very different reasons than their older peers. Per the report:

Millennials are more likely than boomers to quit because they’re unhappy, for money, for better values alignment or promotion. Boomers have the highest rate of quitting because they want to work at a company that shares their values.

Millennials are less likely than boomers to quit because they want more flexibility. They are 9 percent more likely than boomers to quit for more money and are 15 percent more likely than boomers to quit because they are unhappy. They are 8 percent more likely than boomers to quit because they want to work at an organization more aligned with their values and are 16 percent more likely than boomers to quit because they are relocating.

Millennials and Gen Xers are both more likely than boomers to quit because they want a promotion: 19 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Millennials are 15 percent more likely than boomers to choose a new employer because they offer the chance to do more meaningful work, and 10 percent more likely to make their decision based on compensation.

Are these differences inherent to each generation or a function of workers’ ages right now? That’s unclear. It’s entirely possible that millennials will age into valuing flexibility over salary, for example.

But Should You Quit to Get a Raise?

3 percent raise
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If money is what you’re looking for, a lot depends on what you’re doing right now — and how your prospective employer structures raises, bonuses, etc. for years to come.

Earlier research from PayScale examined how tenure affects pay. Can You Quit Your Way to Higher Pay? compared how job hoppers’ pay stacked up against that of workers who stayed put. The research showed that occupation matters: software developers who stay at their jobs earn 10 percent less than new hires, while administrative assistants who do the same earn 19 percent more than a new employee with the same title.

Tenure also affects likelihood to quit for a promotion. According to the research:

Those who have been at their organization for one to two years are 12 percent more likely to quit for a promotion and employees who have been in their current role for 3-5 years are 15 percent more likely to quit for a promotion. Fourteen percent of those who have been at their current organization for five to 10 years are more likely to quit for a promotion.

If you do plan to change jobs, it’s a good idea to try to get a sense of how raises are structured at a potential employer. Employers who have embraced some level of pay transparency may be very upfront about this, while others play their cards closer to their chest.

But if you’re looking for a job while you have a job, you may want to press for answers about raises during a job interview. It makes sense to figure out whether your salary offer will look as generous after an annual 3 percent raise (which will be worth less after inflation).

Some employers will offset lower pay with better benefits or perks that might be meaningful to you, like a flexible schedule or telecommuting privileges. Or, they might offer a review at six months instead of a year, giving you the chance to boost your pay sooner rather than later.

But whatever the situation, it’s best to know as much about their compensation philosophy as possible before you accept the job. That way, you’ll at least know what you’re getting into.

Want more info? Download Why They ‘Quit You’: Top Reasons an Employee Leaves or take a look at our methodology.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you thinking of quitting your job? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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