During the Great Resignation of 2021, more than 47 million Americans left their jobs. While some left for better pay and career advancement, according to a recent survey, a majority of people who quit their jobs left for one simple reason: They were unhappy.
Though there is no single cause of employee dissatisfaction, there are common themes employers can learn from to retain workers in the future.
Let’s take a look at the issues on workers’ minds and what changes need to take place to prevent a future mass exodus.
Most Workers Are Annoyed with Their Bosses
Three-quarters (75%) of the 1,000 workers surveyed say they are frustrated with their managers. Other research has found that more than 4 in 5 workers would potentially quit a job because of a bad boss. In comparison, employees who report having positive relationships with their supervisors are more likely to build longer careers at their workplace.
Bad bosses aren’t unheard of in the workplace. They’re a source of conflict in movies like Office Space, 9 to 5, and Horrible Bosses. But the real sources of frustration are anything but comical.
Poor communication is the top complaint workers have with their bosses, with 31% of those surveyed by Real Estate Witch reporting their managers do not communicate clearly. In some cases, communications are not only unclear but also harmful. Nearly 1 in 5 employees (19%) report they have experienced personal attacks or unkind remarks from their managers, and 1 in 7 employees (15%) say they have experienced harassment or bullying.
Problems with communications are not limited to business hours. Only 32% of employees say they are expected to respond to messages from their bosses only during work hours. That means more than 2 in 3 employees are answering e-mails, texts, and phone calls from their bosses after hours.
The other leading sources of frustration with managers include micromanagement, cited by 27% of workers; favoritism of other employees (27%); and a lack of follow-through (27%).
Toxic Work Culture
Bad bosses are only one part of a toxic work culture. In many instances, they’re an indication of greater problems in a workplace.
While nearly half the survey respondents (45%) say a workplace that values diversity, equity, and inclusion is very important, discrimination continues to be a problem. Of those surveyed, 46% of respondents say discrimination, prejudice, and harassment are issues at their workplace.
Among those 46% of workers, the 3 most common issues they report are pay gaps (35%), racism (33%), and sexism (30%). Other forms of discrimination in the workplace include weight discrimination (25%), homophobia (24%), ageism (22%), religious discrimination (22%), transphobia (20%), nepotism (20%), and ableism (17%). Women in particular are more likely to face gaps in pay, as well as sexist remarks and behavior at work.
While there has been an increase in awareness of the issues marginalized employees face, particularly people of color, there is still room for growth. These survey findings signal a general lack of understanding for employees and employers in creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
Though toxic workplaces existed before the pandemic, employees who faced discrimination and harassment had some relief from these serious issues while working from home. When faced with returning to a workplace where they did not feel safe or included, many employees chose to find new jobs.
Money Isn’t Everything
When an employee gives notice he or she will be leaving, an employer’s first response is often to offer more money. But for most workers, the offer of a higher paycheck is not enough to stay at a job that makes them unhappy. In fact, 56% of workers say they would take a pay cut if it came with a guarantee they’d be happy at work.
Besides higher pay, employees say the 5 key factors for job satisfaction include good leadership (61%), good benefits (59%), good work/life balance (56%), opportunities for career growth (52%), and a positive company culture (51%).
Issues with paid leave, in particular, are a common source of dissatisfaction among workers. While 51% of employees reportedly receive more than 15 days of paid time off (PTO) every year in compensation for the hours they work, about half say they use 10 days or fewer. Those workers say they believe taking time off would negatively impact their careers and that it would cause them to fall behind at work. Some workers say their employers discourage them from taking time off or do not approve their requests.
Nearly 1 in 10 employees (9%) say they do not receive any paid leave. That takes a toll, with 56% of those workers saying it negatively impacts their mental health. About 40% say it generates negative emotions toward their employer, and 25% say it causes burnout.
Paid family leave in particular has had an impact on employee satisfaction. While the United Nations Children’s Fund recommends that new parents take 6 months of leave after welcoming a child, it’s rare for American workers to be granted that much time.
Some Americans are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Only 24% of U.S. employees, however, receive at least 12 weeks of paid family leave. And with most people unable to afford 12 weeks of unpaid leave, many employees return to work early or choose to leave their jobs.
By providing employees sufficient time off—and creating a culture where using all of one’s PTO is encouraged—employers can benefit. Not only will they be more likely to retain good employees, but they will also have a rested, happier workforce.
Another way employers can retain workers is by offering more flexibility when it comes to working on-site. After the pandemic closed most offices, many employees converted to working remotely. When called to return to the office, some employees opted to find online jobs that allowed them to continue to work from home.
Not all employees want to work from home full time, but about 70% of office workers say they would prefer to work remotely at least part of the time. By working from home part time, they can save time and money usually spent on commuting, putting them in a better mood for work.
Luke Babich is the Co-Founder and CEO of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions.