The Main Reasons Why People Want To Quit Their Jobs

reasons why employees quit their jobs“Thank you.” “You’re doing great work.” “Way to go!” Such simple words of encouragement cost nothing, but go a long way towards motivating employees.

I firmly believe managers don’t do enough to express gratitude towards their employees. If they did, there would be much less turnover, much higher worker satisfaction, and ultimately higher profits for the firm.

Sometimes business is just bad and there’s no room for a pay raise or promotion. No problem. Take your employees out to lunch to show them your gratitude for coming in early or going above and beyond for a client. A lack of recognition by their managers is consistently one of the top complaints I hear from people who want to engineer their layoff. Some want to take it a step further and “stick it to their employers” for all the years of mistreatment.

Firms need to do more in the ways of managerial training. Often times, the best producer gets promoted to become manager instead of the best person with managerial abilities. This trend causes all sorts of problems down the road. Training classes need to focus on teaching managers how to motivate employees by understanding their sincerest desires. My research shows that recognition is at the top of the list. Let’s look at more reasons why employees are so disengaged.


 * Industry is in structural decline. The good times don’t last forever, especially in highly cyclical industries that experience boom and bust cycles. If you are in a structurally declining industry, things are even worse. Back in the late 1990s, working in finance was a blast. You were well compensated and there weren’t so many restrictions on entertaining your clients. Now the finance industry is heavily regulated with pay caps and entertainment restrictions. Pay has probably declined by 30-50% on an apples to apples basis as margins have come under pressure due to advancements in technology and the commoditization of information.

* It stops being fun. There’s no point working for prolonged periods of time if you aren’t having fun. If you are in a toxic environment with backstabbing co-workers and an overbearing boss, please do yourself a favor and get out. I used to love going to work every morning until I started getting harassed every day by several disgruntled colleagues who had to come in by 4:15am before the markets opened. Although I’d give it right back when they left by 3pm, it started getting tiring.

* Better opportunities elsewhere.  Just like in the stock markets where opportunities exist every day, there are also better employment opportunities every day. It’s up to us to find them. The job market is incredibly fragmented despite the advent of online job sites like Monster and The Ladders. Most of all the good jobs I know come through networking. So if you want better opportunities you’ve got to get to know more people. It is highly likely you are making less than market rate. The longer you stay at one firm the bigger your market rate discount most of the time. Here are 15 things to consider before quitting your job.

* Psychological abuse. Instead of recognizing an employee for their achievements, some managers and colleagues sadly mentally abuse their employees, treating them as if they were like a machine with no feelings. One female interviewee mentioned that her male boss often made her feel uncomfortable with his innuendos. Another interviewee discussed how just because she went to a rival school which her senior manager did not gain admission to, she was constantly badgered with remedial tasks. We humans can be incredibly petty. Here’s an article on how to stop haters from hating you so much if you find yourself in this situation.

* A fading meritocracy. Work hard, get paid and promoted right? Unfortunately, if you are in a structurally declining industry it might not matter how hard you work; you will never progress in your career. One of the most attractive things about Wall Street was the “eat what you kill” mentality. If you were able to bring in a big deal for the firm, you were paid commensurately. Working for a large investment bank has moved towards the likes of working for the government. Rigid promotion time tables and a narrow pay band kills incentive. Just look at controversy with unions and tenured teachers and you get the idea. Beyond making money is the important sense of recognition.

* No more room for advancement. “Progress” is my one word definition for happiness. When you are stuck doing the same old thing for years it takes its toll. I suggest everyone who has hit a glass ceiling check to see if there are other departments, offices, or even countries with openings. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of scenery change to recharge and move forward again. The problem with living in San Francisco is that it’s hard to leave San Francisco because life is so good here. I’ve been to over a hundred cities and SF ranks right up there with the best of them.

* A realization that life is short. The large majority of people I interviewed for my book mentioned in some way or another that they felt the brevity of life catch up to them. Women who hit 30 and 35 were particularly vocal about life largely due to the difficult balance of managing a thriving career and wanting a family. Men showed a lot of wanderlust at 40 when they realized they were technically middle age with the median lifespan for men at 80. At age 34, I came to the realization that I lasted 10 years longer than I thought I would in the financial services industry. I also knew that I would regret not taking the leap of faith to do my own thing, especially after locking down a healthy severance package. The #1 regret from the dying as assembled by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years in palliative care was: 1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I think it’s everyone’s duty to go out and find what truly motivates them every single day.


For almost all of us, a job is a necessity for survival. We are the bourgeois who can’t count on silver spoons and trust funds. As a result, we must work hard for what we want and take nothing for granted. The beauty of hard work is that it usually results in positive benefits that may very well last a lifetime if we are smart with our money.

Although I do sometimes miss the camaraderie of work, I think I shall miss my freedom even more if I go back to work. Everybody needs to decide for themselves how much of their lives they wish to sacrifice in order to get what they really want. There is no reverse button in life!

Recommendations When It’s Time To Go:

* Negotiate A Severance Package: If you finally do want to retire, never quit your job, get laid off instead. Negotiating a severance enabled me to receive six years worth of living expenses from a company I dedicated 11 years of my life to. If I had quit, I wouldn’t get any severance, deferred compensation, medical benefits, job assistance training or unemployment benefits. I believe so strongly in never quitting that I spent a couple years to write a 100-page book entitled, “How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye.” I’m absolutely certain this book will help you recognize your rights as an employee and break free from the corporate grind to do something you truly want to do.

* Looking to make extra money in between jobs? I’ve recently tried out driving for Uber because they were giving away a free $50 gas card and are currently giving up to a $300 bonus after you make your 20th ride. After 25 hours, my gross pay is $32/hour, which is not too bad! I can see how people can easily make an extra $2,000 a month after commission and expenses with Uber or any ridesourcing company. I’d definitely sign up and drive until at least the bonus . Every time I plan to drive somewhere, like my main contracting gig down in San Mateo, I’ll just turn on the Uber app to try and catch a fare towards the direction I’m going. Why not make extra money? You can make $40,000 a year easily if you work a normal 40 hour a week shift based off my experience.

* Manage Your Finances In One Place: The best thing you can do to grow your net worth is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going. Their 401K Fee Analyzer tool is saving me over $1,000 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying. There is no better free platform out there that is helping me manage my money. The entire sign-up process takes less than a minute.



Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    I want to quit my job because I have opportunities elsewhere, the work is extremely boring, and I want to enjoy life more. Life is short and I want to travel at least some!

    • says

      I agree. You just have to get in a position to actually be able to quit. Do you have a plan to get there? I do, it just may be some time before I get to the point where I can pull the trigger.

  2. says

    Couldn’t agree more that simple things can go a long way towards making an employee feel valued. One of the biggest is simply giving credit to an employee for the work they did. A simple mention in a meeting, especially when higher-ups are present, is a great way to let the employee know that they are valued and to make them believe that you have their long-term benefit in mind.

  3. says

    The jobs that I’ve wanted to quit before fell into a few different categories: terrible work environments complete with insane and hostile customers and/or coworkers, unhelpful boss, mediocre pay coupled with zero chance of advancement, abysmal pay, and job responsibilities not being at all aligned with my personality.

    I really like my current job so far. If I do decide to quit later on it will probably be because of some internal change that negatively affected the work environment. Or maybe if things become stale in a few years or if some amazing opportunity comes my way. But that’s all speculation at this point.

    One thing that you didn’t list was location. If anything drives me out of my job, it will be the location. I’ve lived here for a year now and there isn’t really a lot to like about the area or the locals. I wouldn’t mind moving back South in the future, but there aren’t many jobs for me there. So I keep working to make the best of things here. But I may very well start looking to relocate after I hit financial independence – especially if it happens inside of 10 years.

  4. says

    I have quit jobs before because I realized that I couldn’t go anywhere else. There was no more room for growth. My current job keeps me entertained, keeps me learning, and I get rewarded for it. I really enjoy it and have been doing it for 6 years. I have done the self-employment thing and I got burnt out on it. Doesn’t mean I won’t go back, but just not now.

  5. says

    Recognition, hostile coworkers and unhelpful/clueless bosses were among the reasons I quit my last job. Myself and another coworker (who is still there) would always go the extra mile, stay later to finish projects, come in early, and our bosses never cared. Not once did they thank us or acknowledge the fact we were probably doing double or triple the work of the other employees there, who couldn’t wait to leave at 5 on the dot. I found that it was difficult to keep caring when it was clear management didn’t. After I left, two others were let go and a few more left for other opportunities, but I don’t think they ever got the hint.

    • says

      Just imagine if your boss thanked you for your late nights and took you guys out for a couple lunches and dinners. Surely you’d appreciate it right? Donno why bosses don’t get it. Probably under tremendous pressure themselves.

  6. says

    For me, it was the stress and the change in employer’s demand. It wasn’t fun anymore and I had to move on. It was tough because the paychecks provided a nice lifestyle for us, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. I stuck around 5 years too long.

      • says

        I definitely would have looked for another job. At 35, I didn’t think about quitting my career. But people changes. Things turn out well though and life is good for now. :)

  7. K says

    Before college graduation, I had a ton of jobs. A different one every 6 months to a year and sometimes as short as a few months. I never flinched at walking away from anything I no longer felt was worth my time. School my my first priority so if I was going to spend my extra time doing something, it needed to have excellent pay AND I needed to be learning something valuable AND I needed to like the people I was around. The second that wasn’t happening, I’ve quit with the standard 2 week notice, or if I couldn’t take another minute there, a quick announcement and a handshake or I just needed to burn the bridge and get out, the one liner email and my permanent absence. None of them were my career or anything I felt I needed to sacrifice ANYTHING for anyone.

    After college graduation, different story. It was 2008 and jobs were hard to come by in the first place–especially in Finance. In the years after, jobs were even harder to keep! Heads rolling everywhere!!! AND I chose to get married and have two kids back to back during that time. So, even when it got really tough and our company was down to a skeleton crew, our office down to 4 people, I was pregnant and working until the day I delivered (twice), and I thought I couldn’t handle my back stabbing colleagues, borderline abusive boss, and slashed commissions, I just didn’t think there was better out there. Sadly, there wasn’t. I looked and researched.

    And now…well…the biz is roaring again (at least in my industry/at my company) and things have gotten a little better…and yet there are still days that I feel like email blasting my resume to every contact I have and never showing up again. Like this morning. I did not attend an outside-of-work function last night and my boss guilt tripped me about it. I had a very indignant look on my face about it because I just don’t agree on the importance of going to these things–I’ve already expressed to him that I don’t feel like what I do at the office is part of a “team effort” (it’s not, I’m a commission only sales rep and I’m only responsible for my book of business. I work alone in an office with the door locked and I’m now the #1 producer so obviously what I am doing is working and maybe those people out there should spend more time working and not socializing) and his response was “don’t give me that stupid look”. Ughhh! I told him my work should speak for itself I shouldn’t feel obligated to “cozy up to the bosses” (his bosses) or with “teammates “who write “loser” next to my name on the office board (true story!and yes my office is filled with 30-55 year olds!) and start rumors that I somehow cheat (true story once again, but I don’t cheat it’s pretty much impossible, it was even investigated and proven I was not cheating). I also was passed up for a promotion last year even though I was the #2 producer AND took on several uncompensated management projects and roles to show that I’m management material (they hired someone from the outside!). After the bitterness of that subsided I buckled down and became #1 this year and now I make more than double what that management position that I was passed up for pays, and I feel like I don’t WANT to deal with the politics and corporate maneuvering of trying for promotion again. And unfortunately, I don’t think there is another company out there that will hire me at this pay grade as a manager unless I had a team to take with me. And obviously I don’t have a loyal following around here. But they can’t get rid of me because I make the company a lot of money.

    I feel like quitting often for the reasons stated above. But I have a family to take care of. Quitting would be selfish of me. And from what I hear, this is just the way it is in the industry, or…anywhere for that matter.

    I guess that just means I need to continue to save and then…retire early following Sam’s program!!!!!

    • says

      Excellence is the best revenge! As the #1 producer I hope you are getting #1 compensation! I am very impressed with your GRIT. Keep it up. GRIT is what takes people farther than they can imagine.

      You should inquire competitors given you are so good. It doesn’t hurt!

  8. says

    I have only been working a year in a corporation and I see where people get burned out. It’s like dying a slow death in a cubicle. People have done it though? So how did they get through it?

    • says

      No way out and bills to pay!

      The first 3-5 years should feel quite fresh or soul searching. I think it’s after the 5th year mark, where many people realize they’ve been working longer than they’ve gone to school where they get that “oh shit” type moment.

      10 years was my inflection point.

  9. says

    Nice post Sam! I’ve quit jobs before, usually to move up and I have written extensively about why I left my last job. Ultimately, it came down to major moral issues I had with the things being asked of me – like trying to upsell 80 year old grandmothers to move all their investible assets to us and throw it all in the market, if not worse. I simply could not sleep at night with what was expected of me. That, combined with life simply being too short and no recognition, I left about 15 months ago to run our business with my wife. Thankfully, it looks like we made the right decision. :)

  10. says

    Another great post, Sam.

    Burnout is sometimes an “all of the above” scenario, but I believe the number one workplace problem is a bad work environment. Whether that’s hostile co-workers, psychologically abusive management, or crap culture, I’ve seen more people site the people they work with than the industry they’re in when they leave a place.

    This gets back to Dan Pink’s autonomy-mastery-purpose trifecta. Most offices provide opportunities for mastery, but fall flat on the other two. That comes across in top-down factory-style management and “shareholder value maximization” nonsense. Corporate America is simply not a great place to work.

  11. says

    I changed jobs a few times before teaching and in almost all cases it was increased opportunities. Teaching is far different from the real world. There is no meritocracy and in most cases, the district or even the local school don’t support what you are doing. The rewards of teaching are purely helping students learn and knowing you had a part in it.

  12. says

    “I firmly believe managers don’t do enough to express gratitude towards their employees. If they did, there would be much less turnover, much higher worker satisfaction, and ultimately higher profits for the firm.”

    I wholeheartedly agree and would stress that the tokens of gratitude must be genuine for it to truly matter. For example, I work for a Fortune 100 company and each year an employee satisfaction survey goes out and each year “recognition” comes back as a huge area of dissatisfaction. So, what does the company do? They setup cheesy company-wide programs in an attempt to solve the recognition issue. The problem is, most people see right through it and the programs barely get used (maybe a little bit in the beginning). It’s wash, rinse, and repeat the following year with the same survey results and a “different” program that’s essentially the same one as before.

    It’s the heartfelt recognition and gratitude that really means something and, unfortunately, it’s few and far between. Honestly, receiving insincere lip service is almost worst than getting nothing at all!

  13. says

    I’ve changed jobs for a variety of reasons
    – left teaching because I was handcuffed by bureaucracy that was keeping me from being effective
    – left my last corporate gig because they wanted me to relocate to a high tax and high cost of living area without any incentive pay to do so, also was not nuts about the all-nighters and unrealistic managerial expectations, so was pleased to have a nice excuse to bid my adieu.

  14. Chris says

    “The #1 regret from the dying as assembled by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years in palliative care was: 1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I think it’s everyone’s duty to go out and find what truly motivates them every single day.”

    Word. This is one your best articles.


  15. greg says

    “courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” – yes, but it’s incredibly hard to actually *do* if one has the severe handicap of growing up with “normal” American expectations pushed by family and passive media exposure.

    Meritocracy is the largest beef I have, along with politics-oriented tools.

    • says

      Yes, unfortunately there is no level playing field. But I do believe if we are fortunate enough to live in a place like America, our playing field is much higher than most others. And now with the Internet, info is as readily accessible to anybody who really wants to learn. I go to the public library once a week and I always see folks not being able to get enough of the Internet as they research info.

  16. Frank says

    I’m having a bit of a problem with engineering a layoff so that you get unemployment benefits.. Thats unethical in my book at best.

    But I too am ready to leave and have told them I will retire at the end of April next year.. I don’t expect a package though as I will have only been there 2 years and I got 14MOS early retirement payout from my last job.

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