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Why Do People Quit Their Jobs?

By Daniel B. Kline - Updated May 14, 2019 at 3:54PM

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Not entirely for the same reasons they give when it comes to taking the next ones.

Workers have the advantage right now. Unemployment has been hovering around record lows, and there are more job openings than workers available to fill them. That makes it an excellent environment to quit your job -- and a new study from Payscale, Why They Quit You, reveals what is motivating people to do that.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, that study shows that the reasons people give for why they are looking to leave their old jobs are somewhat different from the ones they give for why they accept new positions. Money, of course, factors into both, but it's hardly the only thing that matters.

"The search for more pay is a very strong driver for employees who are considering leaving, but the most interesting part of our research shows that once employees decide to leave, they also want a more fulfilling job," said PayScale's Chief Economist Katie Bardaro in a press release. "So, for employers looking to retain and attract the best talent, they not only need to get pay right but must also demonstrate to employees how they will provide them with work that is ultimately meaningful."

A person carries a box full of items out of an office.

Consider talking to your boss before quitting. Image source: Getty Images.

What do employees want?

A chance to get paid more is the top reason why people seek a job outside of their current organization. But it's not an overwhelming winner, as you can see on the chart below, and it's also not the top reason why someone ultimately makes the decision to leave.

What is the primary reason you sought employment
outside of your current organization?
I want higher pay 25%
I am unhappy at my current organization 16%
I want to work at an organization more aligned with my values 14%
I am relocating 11%
My current position is not full-time 10%
I want a promotion 7%
I want a more flexible schedule 2%
Other 15%

Date source: Payscale.

Getting a raise is actually the third-most-cited reason for workers taking another job, with 16% of respondents naming that as the top reason. The "opportunity to do more meaningful work" was the top reason people gave for accepting a new position (27%), followed by "increased responsibility" (17%).

Of course, you have to consider that it sounds a lot better to say you're leaving because the work is more meaningful or the job is more important compared to quitting for more money. That means you have to take these results with at least a grain of salt, since money likely plays a bigger part than people are willing to admit.

What can a company do?

To retain workers in a very competitive job market, companies need to talk to their employees. It's important to know if people are happy and why they may not be. It's possible to pay people more, increase their responsibility, or offer more meaningful work.

It's also important to know when someone is unhappy and planning to leave. That allows a company to plan for changes to its workforce and make proactive decisions.

As an employee, leaving is tempting -- but if you generally like where you are, it's not a bad idea to bring up your concerns. Your company may respond in a way that addresses your unhappiness, or the response you get may help validate your decision to leave.

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