Here’s Why People Really Quit Their Jobs

Quit Your Job!
Quit Your Job!

There are plenty of reasons to stay in a job you’re not crazy about. Maybe the work excites you, for example, but the company doesn’t. A new survey shows our reasons for leaving a job are diverse, and often fall on management.

PayScale’s most recent findings come from more than 500,000 respondents over 2015 and 2016. Responses were on a ‘one to five’ scale of worst to best, and covered everything from company communication to how well employees think they’re paid.

The main takeaways are that people want to feel appreciated; they also want a high salary, and to work for a company with a bright future. Communication between management and their charges is also key, and best received via on-on-one situations.

Drilling down further into details, some interesting trends emerge. When it comes to job satisfaction, corporate appreciation matters most to respondents, while the company’s outlook is also a strong contender. The least important factor for employees is their pay versus market value. As PayScale states: “The primary driver of satisfaction moved the needle 10.9 times more than the least important, and the most important variable for intent to leave increased employee retention 7.8 times more than the least important.”

Satisfaction and attrition are closely related, but have some variance in this survey. “Company outlook is far and away the chief driver of intent to leave,” PayScale added. “An employee who strongly agreed that their company had a bright future is half as likely to plan on leaving in the next six months than a neutral employee. A worker who strongly disagreed with that statement, on the other hand, is 2.6 times more likely to leave as the neutral employee.” Not feeling appreciated was the second-ranked reason people wanted to leave their jobs.

The adage “you don’t quit a job, you quit a manager” holds true. Those who felt they had a poor relationship with their manager are far more likely to leave than those who are neutral on that topic. Someone with an M.B.A. is also more likely to leave a job than a Ph.D or M.D. Those with Bachelor’s degrees or a J.D. are neutral.

Age also plays a role. Those longer in the tooth are far more likely to stay in a job than their junior counterparts. Those between 30- and 49-years-old are just about neutral in terms of stay/leave, and employees over 60 are far more likely to be loyal than anyone else.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from PayScale’s findings: the “pay process.” This is described to respondents as: “How pay is determined at my company is a fair and transparent process.” It’s not “pay versus market” (i.e., a market value determinator, much like the Dice Salary Calculator).

Across the board, pay process is more critical to employee happiness than pay versus market. People want to know they don’t make demonstrably less than the person in the next cubicle without cause. (It’s logical to assume that those who are considering their market value have perhaps decided to move on, anyway.)

18 Responses to “Here’s Why People Really Quit Their Jobs”

    • The sooner DICE dies the better, same for EA, and I don’t care if all companies they own are disbanded and all games deleted while it happens, EA’s practices are literal cancer for gaming, all other game publishers and devs are better than EA.

  1. Nate,

    Thanks for the article. I encourage a follow-up with the financial as well as the intangible effects on an organization. I frequently hear mangers blaming external competition for their company’s high turnover and loss of key associates. I don’t hear enough discussion about looking inward and scrutinizing policies and behaviors that define their organizational character.
    Why? Catch 22- They are less seasoned than the Manger who left for a better opportunity. Most likely an organization that had several hundred applicants for that job, didn’t offer the highest comp package, but had a far reaching positive reputation.

    I look forward to more articles Nate.

  2. Joann Perahia

    Wow with how fast technology is changing us, the reasons why people change jobs has not changed in 40 years. Says something about us, you know. Just like 40 years ago Human Resources was called “Personnel”.. Very sad to see we really haven’t changed.

  3. Quitting a job because of an issue with a direct supervisor is a classic reason that goes back as long as there have been org charts. However, the pay issue is still very underestimated by Human Resource professionals in terms of impact because of surveys like the one that is cited in this article. While most people who are happy in the their current situation won’t take the time out of their busy lives to make the effort to pursue higher paying opportunities very often, I can guarantee you that if a higher paying opportunity comes along from a recruiter cold calling and waving a significant increase in front of them, the majority will not hesitate to move on. This is especially true where the demand for certain IT skills and experience is high and the supply is low.

  4. How about the reason most people quit there jobs is because their job just plain sucks! The prevalent attitude in the corporate world is to operate with a minimal staff and force their workers to work enormous amounts of uncompensated hours like slaves where there is no balance between family, health and work! it’s just work all the time, 24X7, If you work in IT or an IT related occupation, you know exactly what I am talking about.

    • Agree with you 100% Brian…employers don’t care about the employees any more in IT. They assume they can just offshore or outsource any IT position these days. That is why things are in such a mess at most companies. You employees are supposed to be your most valuable corporate asset.

    • Jane Janvier


      Ding ding ding! You hit a bullseye with your statement about no Work life balance in IT or IT related companies! I’ve been in IT for over 30 years and get paid for 40 hours but actually always work 50-60 on average. I’m so disgusted with the situation on projects where we are surprisingly understaffed all the time. It used to be where IT rested before medium to large scale projects went live – were so busy dumbing down the High defects to get sign-off from the business that it’s insane. Only 1195 days to retirement and my turn to launch!
      Thank you for speaking out!

  5. “Age also plays a role. Those longer in the tooth are far more likely to stay in a job than their junior counterparts.”
    Long in the tooth, really? Collins Dictionary states, “If you describe someone as long in the tooth, you are saying unkindly or humorously that they are old or getting old.
    [informal , disapproval]
    Aren’t I a bit long in the tooth to start being an undergraduate?”
    Maybe you should do a little research about word meanings before you misuse a term and insult older employees.

    • Maybe you should not be so overly sensitive. Saying that someone is LONGER in the tooth is a comparison, not an absolute statement. It’s like saying “Jim is younger than Bob.” That doesn’t mean Jim is young – they might both be over 100! So saying that someone is longer in the tooth just means they are older than their counterparts, not that they are OLD.

    • It looks like YOU should learn more about word meanings instead of being so critical of others’ writings. It’s one of the anomalies of the English language that something can be LONGER without being LONG, because “longer” is a comparative term, not an absolute. So if I say “John is longer in the tooth than Bill,” that doesn’t mean that John is old. He might be 30 and Bill is 23. So if John is insulted by being called longer in the tooth, then I’d say he’s overly sensitive, which you seem to be as well.

    • What further research should the author do? Their use of the phrase was appropriate. It’s not offensive. From your dictionary quote: “you are saying unkindly or humorously that they are old or getting old.”

  6. Thank you Holly, I’m one of those that ‘resembles that remark’ but not the tendencies the author ascribes to them–because I also agree with Brian. MY job sucks, my management could care less, the pay sucks and yet my teeth are so long no one seems to want to hire me anymore. Believe me, if a job paying even 5% better came along that looked more promising in terms of environment I’d jump in a heartbeat.

    • Jennifer

      I am exactly the same way. Long in the tooth, over-educated, underpaid, no perks and my job sucks. I’ve been trying to leave since the day I started but the right thing hasn’t come along. At this point, I’d take almost anything. I’m even starting to wonder if the Wal-mart greeters make more than I do because the commute would be shorter.

  7. Regarding “employees over 60 are far more likely to be loyal than anyone else”, that’s not loyalty, it’s simply due to rampant age discrimination. Employers don’t want to hire anyone over 40, let alone 60!

    • Agreed if you are over maybe 50 your chances of getting a face to face interview are slim. If you do get that far you are probably going to find that you will be working for someone not much older than your children with presumed knowledge to match.

      Most companies who do interview those over 50 do it just to say that they did and check the box for HR

    • Diane Evans

      Oh, they will hire you if you are over 40, but it will be a contract paying 35 percent below what you should be earning with no benefits for 90 days; OR – it will be something close to current market rate where they expect you to put in 55-60 hours per week…just my personal experience folks

  8. does any of the IT companies have workers’ union? I haven’t heard or known to have one exist anywhere in IT. But maybe it’s time. And in article I would have much appreciated a graph like one for education, or at least bar graph so see the percentage for each reason.