There are plenty of good reasons for leaving a job. They range from poor management and inadequate pay to inflexible work hours and no opportunity for remote work. With Americans quitting their jobs at historically high rates, many workers are contemplating whether it’s time to make a career change. A 2022 McKinsey survey showed 40 percent of workers across the globe are thinking about leaving their jobs in the near future.
Reasons for Leaving a Job
- Compensation and benefits
- Company direction and stability
- Manager relationship
- Toxic culture
- Career advancement
- Entrepreneurial pursuits
- Purpose and passion
- Skills development
Built In spoke with business and job search experts, company leaders and employees themselves about quitting a job. If you’re considering whether it might be time to put in your two weeks notice, here are 10 reasons to leave a job.
10 Reasons to Leave a Job
1. Wanting Better Compensation and Benefits
A 2021 report from TalentLMS, a learning management system backed by Epignosis, found 72 percent of U.S. tech employees surveyed were thinking about leaving their jobs in the next 12 months. For three-quarters of respondents, salary and benefits was the top factor they reported considering when deciding whether to work for a company.
“It’s a difficult decision for an employee to leave [their company]. It must happen after careful consideration,” said Periklis Venakis, chief technology officer at Epignosis. “Even if you feel that your company is not catering to your needs, make sure that you’ve communicated these needs clearly and express to your manager what will make you more productive. Then, judge by the willingness of your management to listen to your needs, and decide if you’re going to make the big step.”
2. Desire for Stability and a Fresh Start
When companies undergo organizational changes like an acquisition or new business model, employees may take a step back to assess if the organization’s future plans still align with their interests and career goals. If employees feel a company is unstable or their job is in jeopardy, that might prompt them to look for a new job before facing a potential layoff.
Clearlake Capital acquired talent management software company Cornerstone OnDemand in October 2021, transitioning Cornerstone from a publicly traded company to a privately held company. Some employees left because of the change, Kim Cassady, Cornerstone OnDemand’s chief talent officer, told Built In in 2022. Cornerstone’s turnover rate is between 18 to 20 percent, which is in line with industry averages.
“We are essentially the same as every other organization,” Cassady said. “People are looking for something refreshing and new because they’ve been doing the same thing in the same place.”
Employees who are considering another job should have a conversation with their manager about what they’re looking for and see if there are other open roles at the company that would be a fit, Cassady said.
In 2019, Stacey Epstein committed to spending two years with ServiceMax when it acquired Zinc, the company she’d been running. Epstein left her job in March 2021 after reaching her two-year post-acquisition milestone and joined SaaS company Freshworks as its chief marketing officer. Having worked with many startups to bring them through growth stages and liquidity events, Epstein said she was looking to join a company at a more advanced stage.
“For me, it was all about wanting change, wanting new challenges and new experiences,” Epstein said. “I really relate to that need for change.”
3. A Bad Manager
Working under a toxic boss is another factor that drives people away from their jobs, said Richard Jolly, a clinical associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“A toxic boss is somebody who could actually undermine your self esteem,” Jolly said. “If you work for a toxic boss, get out, but very often, it’s just working with somebody who’s not a skilled boss.”
Around 60 percent of managers are poor leaders, Jolly noted. For companies to retain their employees, managers need to do a better job of facilitating two-way communication, especially as more companies manage hybrid or remote workforces, he said.
“The role of senior managers is not about being supervisors in the traditional sense,” Jolly said. “It’s about actually creating a context where people really feel highly engaged. They really feel that they understand who we are and where we are going. They really understand what their role is in that process, and they really feel as if they’re growing and developing.”
4. Toxic Workplace Culture
A toxic boss is bad enough, but if your whole company’s culture is toxic, that’s also a good reason to leave a job. Company culture is all about the shared set of values, beliefs and attitudes that guide an organization in how it treats its customers and employees. Signs of a toxic workplace might include poor communication, constant turnover, lack of enthusiasm from peers and a sense of fear across the organization.
Companies with toxic cultures can face mass departures when employees get fed up with how they’re treated. Just look at the food and entertainment brand Bon Appétit where more than a dozen of its on-camera talent quit in response to how the company treats its employees of color. Or see luggage company Away whose revolving door of chief executives started when Slack messages from its CEO and co-founder revealed a practice of publicly shaming employees and overworking customer service representatives.
“I would argue that, looking forward, the most sustainable form of competitive advantage is not strategy, it’s culture,” said Jolly, who is also a director of the consulting firm Stokes & Jolly Ltd.
5. Not Enough Schedule and Location Flexibility
Brett Wells, global head of people analytics at Perceptyx, said his research shows that two out of three employees want the flexibility to choose when and where they work, whether that’s in a physical workplace or working remotely.
Companies that don’t have flexible hours or work environments stand to lose talent as more employees desire remote-flexible roles. There are plenty of other benefits to allowing employees to work from home, too, like increased productivity and lower office costs.
“Now that they see they can do it, they’re not willing to go back to the office — not all of them, at least — and they are open to new proposals.”
A Perceptyx study released in August 2021 revealed one in five employees would leave their jobs if their employers weren’t meeting these top five most important attributes or employee value propositions: company stability, manager quality, team quality, social responsibility and remote-friendliness.
“The shift in the way work is being done is much more prominent in the technical industry,” Venakis said of remote work. “Now that they see they can do it, they’re not willing to go back to the office — not all of them, at least — and they are open to new proposals.”
6. To Advance Your Career
Leaving a job after a year or two indicated unreliability 15 to 20 years ago, but today there is much more acceptance. Job hopping — the idea of moving from job to job after a short period of time — no longer carries the same stigma it once did.
“Job hopping used to be seen negatively,” said Mark Anthony Dyson, a career writer and founder of The Voice of Jobseekers. “Now it is the way that people are going to advance their careers.”
The narrative around switching jobs has changed as employees have realized it’s not guaranteed that companies will recognize and reward their loyalty. Moving to new companies also allows employees to gain new skills and experiences.
“Whether you’re young or old, you can build skills the market desires and needs,” Dyson said. “If there’s demand for that skill, you’re going to be in demand.”
While Baby Boomers and Gen X workers might spend their entire careers at one or two organizations, the younger generations of employees are more willing to leave companies for career growth opportunities, according to Jolly.
Millennials and Gen Z workers are more open to leaving jobs because work doesn’t define their identities, Jolly added. They also tend to place a high value on balance between work and their personal lives.
“What these people are doing is extracting as much value, mining as much value as they can, out of their organization, then moving on,” Jolly said. “Rather than just sitting there with diminishing returns in terms of how much they’re really learning and growing and developing, both as people and in terms of their skills.”
7. To Pursue Entrepreneurship
As the founder and CEO of a startup incubator, Jake Hare has started to see more people leave their jobs to launch their own businesses and startups. Launchpeer works with nontechnical founders to take their very early stage ideas and turn them into funded startups.
“They want freedom. They want control. They want to fulfill their potential,” Hare said. “Those are things that, unless you work in a great place, are very difficult to find when you’re working for someone else because the regular corporate culture is not designed for that. It’s designed to have you fit in with a large group of people to accomplish a goal.”
Realizing that the instability of the job market can put any job at risk, more people have been willing to take on the risks of entrepreneurship to become their own bosses, Hare said.
With the rise of remote work, startup founders are not restricted geographically. Plus, in recent years, access to technology and software templates has become easier than ever, meaning that founders do not need to be skilled developers or build original code to start a company.
“If everything’s remote, that puts everybody on a much more level playing field,” Hare said of his clients. “It’s not really costly anymore. You don’t need to have all the skills, or you don’t need to fly overseas to meet someone or be living in San Francisco. The only excuse that people have now is time. Are you willing to dedicate a few hours a week to just get things off the ground and then transition over into full time?”
8. Desire for Purpose
If your passions aren’t fulfilled by your current job, it might be time to consider a change.
It took contracting Covid-19 to change Kyle Walker’s perspective on work and his career. While hospitalized with ventilator support, Walker decided he would leave his job to do something he was actually passionate about if he recovered.
“I didn’t want to come out of that and then go into another year or two working a job just to pay bills and take trips,” Walker said.
So, when Walker left the hospital, he quit his job running a call center remotely in Raleigh, North Carolina, and went head first into building a startup.
“I didn’t want to come out of that and then go into another year or two working a job just to pay bills and take trips.”
Rayna Stamboliyska left her job as vice president for governance and public affairs at YesWeHack in October 2021 to found her company RS Strategy. She felt the time was right to focus on her diverse interests around making tech more responsible and holding tech companies accountable.
“I realized that now or never is the time for me to go out and bring things that only I can bring,” Stamboliyska said. “People were coming to me — for me — to advise them, to help them out. They were not coming to me because of my employer.”
Burnout is when an employee has reached a critical level of exhaustion and disengagement, often because they’ve been overworked, mistreated, undervalued or subjected to extreme stress in the workplace.
The TalentLMS study revealed that 58 percent of respondents suffer from job burnout, and those who suffer from burnout are twice as likely to quit their job than those who don’t.
“People are asking themselves some quite fundamental, you might say existential questions, about why am I doing this?” Jolly said.
Stamboliyska said European companies place an emphasis on evaluating psychosocial risk factors that affect how people deal with stress at work like high workloads and tight deadlines. These stressors can lead to physical and mental health issues and cause employees to quit their jobs.
10. Not Enough Skills Development
TalentLMS’s study revealed that nine in 10 workers would like to get more learning and development opportunities from their company, and 62 percent said more learning and training opportunities would make them more motivated at work.
“Not only are companies threatened by this global competition from remote job opportunities, so that they don’t lose their workforce, but employees themselves can feel threatened by the fact that the company might more easily replace them with someone who will cost less in different parts of the world,” Venakis said.
The antidote to this is upskilling and reskilling, Venakis said. Employees who learn new skills or advance their skills are in a better position to find new jobs or grow at their current companies. And companies who encourage this learning are more likely to retain their current talent.
Explaining Your Reasons for Leaving Your Job in an Interview
Once you’ve decided to take the leap and quit your job, you’ll more than likely face the question “Why are you leaving?” It’s an incredibly common job interview topic that you need to be ready to answer in your search for another position. Getting flustered when asked why you left a previous job or why you’re leaving your current job can communicate to an interviewer you’re on bad terms with a past employer or might not be totally committed to leaving your current position.
In an interview for a new job, it’s important to be clear and concise about why you’re leaving. Be honest with the interviewer, but don’t ramble. They don’t need to hear every detail of what made the workplace so toxic, such as rampant gossip among coworkers or a manager who regularly shirked their responsibilities. Instead, a response like “I’m leaving because the company culture wasn’t a good fit for me,” might be more appropriate.
Rather than speaking purely about the negative aspects of the role or company you’re leaving, think about crafting a forward-looking answer. Don’t just offer an explanation of why you left a company, but also what you’re looking for out of a prospective employer. For example, you might mention that you’re looking for more skills training, a culture that gives you a clear sense of purpose or opportunities to rise up the ranks.
When Is It Time to Leave a Job?
If you’re in a toxic situation, yes, you should leave your job as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’s important to do some self-reflection before deciding to quit. Can you find more meaning in your current work through conversations with your manager about ways to tweak your role to better align with your interests? Have you had direct conversations about paths to grow your career at your current company? If you’re still not feeling fulfilled or seeing a future for yourself at the company, it might be time to start looking elsewhere.
As for leaving your job to start your own venture, that certainly depends on your own tolerance for risk, but as Hare said, staying with a company is not always stable either. If you’re looking for more flexibility or salary than your current job can offer, it can be useful to get a sense of what the market can offer you.
“I would always advise everybody to have a sense of what your market value is. You need to get a sense of what is your value in the external marketplace,” Jolly said.
Epstein encourages others to really consider if their needs will be a fit with a new organization before quitting a job where they’re established.
“I know lots of people that are sorry that they left what was a pretty good thing just because they were restless.”
“Just really think long and hard about the reasons that you’re leaving, and are you sure those results are going to be satisfied at a new place because that grass-is-always-greener syndrome is a real thing,” Epstein said. “I know lots of people that are sorry that they left what was a pretty good thing just because they were restless.”
Before leaving a job, Jolly encourages adopting the concept of job crafting, which comes down to how can I do my current role in a way that is more meaningful for me? Trying to shape your role before leaving can spare you from that grass-is-always-greener effect, where you may be joining a new company with the same problems as your last.
“What you don’t want to do is constantly be in that sort of state where organizations are seducing you with wonderful job offers, and you end up with no better off than where you started,” Jolly said. “Think deeply about what really matters to you in your career. When you look back over your career, what will success look like? What would have really mattered to you?”