The Surprising Reason People Want to Quit Their Jobs

One in three professionals say their top work goal for 2020 is to find a new job.

Published: Jan 30, 2020

It’s the end of January, a time when many people are still clinging to their New Year’s resolutions. And when it comes to work, that resolution is this: to leave their current job.

Nearly one-third of professionals say their top work resolution in 2020 is to find a new job, according to a new Korn Ferry survey. Perhaps most surprising, they’re not looking for more money or better title: the biggest reason for searching is a lack of a fit between corporate culture and their own values.

At many companies, employees find there’s a lot of talk about creating a better culture, but little action.

To be sure, the discontent may reflect the timing of the survey. “The beginning of the year is a time of change,” says Susan Snyder, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and leader of the firm’s North America Organizational Strategy team. But she says it also reflects how important company culture—which encompasses nearly all aspects of the office environment, including pay, workforce diversity, work scheduling, and even dress codes—has become today.

At many companies, employees find there’s a lot of talk about creating a better culture, but little action. Some firms tell their employees that they are going to improve a culture and then don’t, which is worse than doing nothing at all, says Jennifer Streitwieser, a Korn Ferry associate client partner who specializes in engagement and culture. And even some firms that are very good at learning from employees aren’t so good at actually telling those same employees that the culture will change thanks to their input.  “You can’t just say you have it, but you can’t just have it, either. It’s the connecting the dots that’s really critical,” Streitwieser says.

So, what would keep people on? According to the survey, one solution may be for companies to give employees more chances to advance their careers, take on tougher work challenges, or both. Forty-one percent of people said that “creating a greater impact or making a difference” was their top work resolution. And even among the ones who want to leave, nearly a quarter of them, 23%, said that the reason they want to go is that they are bored.

In a different question, 28% said that getting assigned to a more challenging, high-profile project would most improve their opportunities to advance at their current employer. “This survey clearly shows that many professionals are not only up for a challenge but value it as a way to demonstrate they are making a difference in the world,” says Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solution leader in leadership development.

Fewer than 10% said that other traditional work-related aspirations, such as getting a raise, earning a promotion, or achieving a better work-life balance, was at the top of their New Year wish list.

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