The Main Reasons Why People Want To Quit Their Jobs

reasons why people want to quit their jobs

The main reasons why people want to quit their jobs are plentiful. But the number one reason why people quit is due to a lack of recognition. Providing recognition for a job well done is so easy. Yet, many managers don't even bother.

“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.

Main Reasons Why People Want To Quit Their Jobs

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.

The job 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.

A lack of joy is why I decided to negotiate a severance in 2012 at age 34 to be free forever. I felt my life was wasting away doing the same old thing I no longer cared about. My wife ended up negotiating a severance as well at age 34 in 2015! She was a high-performing employee who had enough.

Better job 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 Indeed 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 at work.

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.

Mental fatigue is one of the main reasons why people want to quit their jobs.

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. You also need to actively self-promote and network if you want to get paid and promoted, which is something many hate.

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. The glass ceiling or bamboo ceiling for discriminated Asian workers are real!

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.

Being stuck is definitely a main reason why people want to quick their jobs.

A realization that life is short.

The large majority of people I interviewed for my severance negotiation 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.

Never Quit, Get Laid Off Instead

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!

Now that you know the main reasons why people want to quit their jobs, it's up to you to take action!

Recommendation For Leaving A Job

If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you're also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have recently expanded it to over 200 pages with new resources, strategies, and additional case studies thanks to tremendous reader feedback.

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34 thoughts on “The Main Reasons Why People Want To Quit Their Jobs”

  1. 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.

  2. “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.

    1. 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.

  3. “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.


  4. 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.

  5. “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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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. :)

  9. SavvyFinancialLatina

    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?

    1. 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.

  10. 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!!!!!

    1. 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!

  11. 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.

      1. 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. :)

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

    1. Free Money Minute

      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.

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