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October 16, 2012 > Counseling Corner: Why People Quit Their Jobs

Counseling Corner: Why People Quit Their Jobs

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Halloween is just around the corner and there is one thing that scares some adults more than ghosts, werewolves or even kids on a candy high. Believe it or not, the one thing that strikes fear and dread in some people is the thought of going to work. For these poor souls, weekends are spent obsessing about having to go to work on Monday and the rest of their week is spent wishing for the weekend. In short, these people's lives are misery all around.

As a career counselor, I am in a unique position where I get to hear people's unhappiness about their jobs and their reasons for quitting. With over ten years' of helping people transitioning to new jobs, I have gotten familiar with the usual reasons why people leave their jobs. Now, you might be thinking that people leave their jobs to get better pay. This is a good guess - a better salary is often part of the picture when people start to think about moving on. But you might be surprised to know that money isn't always the only reason people choose to leave their jobs. In fact, sometimes, money isn't even the trigger point that makes people decide to quit.

If I remove the money issue out of the picture, there are a few common threads to the stories that I have heard from clients over the years. These are the top reasons why people have been compelled to leave their jobs:

*Bad boss
Bad bosses come in all shapes and forms. I've heard stories about bosses who are true terrors on the job. These are the bullies at work - they yell at their employees, call them names, blame them for every little thing that goes wrong, and even throw things at them. Those with the misfortune to work for these bully bosses are usually completely demoralized and traumatized by the time they decide to switch jobs. Quite often, they are desperate to take any job, even one several steps lower, just to get away from the abuse they experience on a daily basis. Other bad bosses may not be this extreme, but they still inflict misery on their employees by being distant, arrogant and/or critical.

Some bosses are not necessarily terrible people, but their poor people and managerial skills make for miserable work teams. Other bosses who are micro-managing types don't trust their employees to do quality work and they end up micromanaging all aspects of their employees' work and making their employees' lives miserable. Equally bad are bosses who may not be mean or critical, but pile extra work on their employees without extra compensation, reward, or even recognition.

*Poor work environment, including dysfunctional team members
Bad bosses are often a major reason for a poor work environment... but not always. A poor work environment could be one where most of the employees are demoralized and unmotivated, or one where just one employee is a jerk and makes life miserable for the whole team. It just takes one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch, and one employee's dysfunction can ruin the entire work environment for everyone. Sometimes, the poor work environment is caused by a lack of caring on the part of management - oftentimes, I've heard people complain about their efforts being unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unrewarded. In poor work environments, communication problems are common. Colleagues might have difficulty communicating with each other for one reason or another, yet nothing is done to address this issue. The atmosphere at work remains tense, unfriendly, and even hostile.

*Lack of interest in job requirements
Sometimes, a person might be in a great company, with a great boss and colleagues, but may have simply become bored with the job. What they do simply doesn't interest or motivate them anymore and they feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their work lives, even if they are proficient in what they do. They might also grow disenchanted with their work and not believe in what they do. It is actually fairly common for people to grow out of love with their careers, even when they have invested much time, money, and effort into their current careers. Sometimes, people become disenchanted with the reality of what the job entails. I have heard lots of stories of doctors and dentists quitting their work - sometimes as soon as they become licensed to work in the field.

*High stress
A job may be inherently stressful (e.g. parking enforcement) or the stress may be due to tight deadlines, unreasonable expectations and overwhelming job responsibilities. Employees in these high stress situations generally decide to switch careers because they are burnt out. Their pay might be good, but they also see the toll that the stress has taken on their lives and their health.

I'm writing this article in hopes that managers out there might see themselves depicted here and might change their behaviors accordingly. If you are a manager or a boss and you recognize yourself or your work environment in this article, consider creating change in the workplace and in your management style so that things can improve for all concerned, including yourself. Know that most people want to stay in their jobs and most employees want to do a good job - so do what it takes to create the conditions so that this can happen. A very important skill that managers need to master is to learn how to give feedback to employees. Figure out what needs to be done to create a happier work environment - including learning how to be a better manager. The reward will be employees who are more motivated, more productive, and who are more likely to stay in your company.

If you are an employee who is experiencing any of the conditions described above, consider seeking help, whether it's from HR, a mental health professional, a career counselor, or trusted mentors. Ask yourself what you can do to improve your situation and make a serious evaluation of whether your work situation is likely to change. Sometimes your work life can be bearable if you make changes within yourself. In other situations, your work conditions might be so out-of-hand that there is little you can personally do to make life better for yourself. If the culture of the company has been a hostile one for 50 years, there is very little chance that you can make a dent. On the other hand, an interpersonal problem might be solvable with some help from HR or your supervisor.

Have a safe and happy Halloween, and try to do something about these workplace horrors!

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is

(c) Anne Chan, 2012

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