Top Pain Points in the Job Market
By Julie Norwell
Quitting a job isn’t an arbitrary decision. It results from an evaluation of the pros and cons of your individual circumstances. If you’re lucky, you quit because you are “pulled” away by a better opportunity. Too often, however, people are “pushed” to leave a job. Quitting can be the culmination of myriad frustrations, unmet aspirations, and the relentless pursuit of a more fulfilling professional journey.
Some work challenges you manage, of course, and the exercise can make you a better employee for the effort. But sometimes stressors outweigh the benefits of your job. They push you to consider a very hard choice: Is it time for a change?
The core motivations for employees to change jobs have remained relatively consistent over the years. But changes in the job market, technology, and societal shifts – especially since the pandemic – have produced some new reasons. Below is a list of the top eight pain points for professionals. If you are experiencing any of them, it may be worth exploring better opportunities.
1. Career Control
The past year has seen a rash of layoffs, especially in the tech sector. One might expect employees to be holding fast to their jobs for fear of a weakening employment market. Ironically, that’s not happening. The U.S. quits rate remains quite robust (2.3%) and well above the long-term average of 2.02%. In fact, more people are planning a job change this year than last year, according to career platform The Muse.
How can this be? Well, in a climate of layoffs, mergers, and ever-changing job scopes, concerns about job security can push someone right out the door. Nobody wants to feel like a sitting duck, waiting for the corporate ax to fall. If you’re not calling the shots in your career, you feel like a pawn in someone else’s game.
These days, employees want career control, not job security. Anticipation of future layoffs and salary freezes was the third most common reason respondents gave for wanting a new job in The Muse’s report. After enduring three layoffs in a row, Kia Banisadre, fed up, hired career management firm The Barrett Group to learn how to regain control over his career. To his delight, he landed a role within two months. Even better, he wrote his own job description.
Under-compensation is one of the most common – and constant – reasons to change jobs. Currently, more than 1 in 4 American workers are dissatisfied with their pay, according to a Pew Research survey.
Compensation is a direct reflection of how valued an employee feels within an organization. When remuneration is below industry standards or doesn’t align with the level of effort and skill required for the job, it can lead to feelings of resentment and demotivation. Over time, the disparity between effort and reward erodes job satisfaction and commitment to the company.
Then it prompts people to seek greener pastures.
3. Poor Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance surpasses compensation as a factor driving quits, reports The Muse. Poor work-life balance is an insidious issue that gradually saps an employee’s enthusiasm, health, and personal relationships. When work consistently encroaches on personal time, leaving little room for relaxation or family, the impact extends far beyond office walls. Employees may find themselves perpetually drained, both physically and emotionally.
The problem often arises when colleague departures aren’t backfilled, leaving remaining employees to pick up the slack. Sometimes responsibilities are even layered on without commensurate pay, as Kayvon Bahramzadeh experienced. “I was doing three completely different jobs in different time zones. I got little support and no additional compensation,” said Kayvon.
It’s no surprise, then, that work-life imbalance pushes individuals to leave a job for the sake of fairness and wellness.
4. Toxic Work Culture
Unhealthy work cultures are perennially problematic, sometimes rising to the level of toxic. In a toxic work culture, the atmosphere is rife with negativity, undermining the very essence of teamwork and shared goals. Employees might face bullying, gossip, or manipulative behaviors that breed insecurity and mistrust. Managers may perpetuate this culture through favoritism, lack of accountability, or just plain poor leadership.
Sometimes, the problem starts at the top. The inconsistent expectations, public humiliations, or blatant disregard for employee well-being of a “boss from hell” can demoralize even the most resilient team members. Productivity suffers as people are more focused on navigating the toxic environment than achieving company objectives.
Although hard to define, toxic work cultures are pernicious. The Muse lists toxic work culture as the leading factor driving people to look for another job. When the emotional toll becomes unbearable, the prospect of a healthier work environment is too alluring to ignore.
5. Lack of Growth
Stagnation is the silent career killer. When a position offers no challenges or room for advancement, it can feel more like a hamster wheel than a career ladder. You’re not just stuck; you’re essentially going backward as your skills atrophy and your market value diminishes. Pew Research reports that one in five American workers feel dissatisfied with their opportunities for developing new skills. And nearly one third are dissatisfied with their opportunities for promotions.
After 16 years at her company, Jocelyn Hirschfeld was among these ranks. She felt that she’d hit the ceiling. Although she was well-paid, she felt unchallenged. She was reluctant to rock the boat, initially, but she is very glad that she ultimately did. “It could be the greatest success I will ever have,” said Jocelyn enthusiastically about her new role.
When staying feels like accepting mediocrity, it’s time to look for an exit.
6. Working Remotely
The desire to work remotely has emerged as a significant pain point for employees in the wake of the pandemic. Many employees grew accustomed to working from home. Some even decamped to far-flung locales to take advantage of outdoor offerings unavailable near big cities – so-called “Zoom towns.” This year, however, companies are offering fewer work-from-home options.
Nevertheless, interest in remote and hybrid work remains strong. Although the number of remote jobs offered on LinkedIn has shrunk to 11%, those jobs are attracting as much as 50% of total job applications.
The desire to work from home is not just about dodging the commute. It’s about having the flexibility to balance life and work in a way that makes sense for the individual. In an era where remote work is feasible – and frequently more productive – an employer’s refusal to offer it feels like a giant step backward. Worse is when employers rescind the work-from-home option AFTER an employee has been hired, as many tech firms have done.
The balance of power in this dynamic is still in flux. Businesses may have hardened their policies, but those changes have driven many of their employees to quit in droves. To attract the talent they want, employers will be pressed to meet employees where they are going forward.
7. Meaningful Work
When work becomes just a paycheck, devoid of purpose or meaning, it’s hard to stay invested. Staying in a meaningless role isn’t just uninspiring, it feels like a betrayal of one’s potential and purpose. A job that aligns with personal values, that feels like a contribution to a greater good, becomes an enticing goal. The pandemic, in particular, catalyzed people to prioritize meaningful work.
Meaningful work isn’t as elusive as many people think it is. With a background in administration, Bibi, for one, never expected her dream of working with trees to materialize. She not only found the position of her dreams, but also she wrote the job description.
It takes courage to search for fulfilling work. But the payoff is usually well worth the quest.
8. Feeling Undervalued
When your contributions go unnoticed or unappreciated, it’s a fast track to career disillusionment. Feeling undervalued isn’t just about the paycheck, it’s about the lack of recognition and respect for your skills and efforts. It breeds low morale and job dissatisfaction. You start to wonder, “If they don’t see my worth here, maybe someone else will.”
That sentiment is what motivated Justin Kinney to take his career into his own hands. His efforts succeeded in landing him a job at a higher-level role – and with higher compensation. Today, he is enjoying the recognition he deserves for the value he brings.
Your Skills Are Valuable
The decision to quit a job should not be taken lightly. But if you’re grappling with career control, limited growth prospects, an unhealthy work environment, or any of the other pain points discussed here, you are justified in wanting to seek better opportunities. Remember, your skills and well-being are valuable; don’t settle for a workplace that doesn’t work for you.
Read next: The Magic of Paying It Forward