Connect with us

Jobs

Why do people stay in bad jobs?

Published

on

Analysis: There are many reasons why so many of us might stay in jobs that we find unsatisfying and stressful

The business press is still awash with stories of people withdrawing from the workplace. We saw quiet quitting (doing the absolute minimum your job requires) become a buzzword. A more creative variation of this is now starting to draw attention: coffee badging involves showing up for work, going on a coffee break and not coming back to the office until the following day.

The big one, however, has been the Great Resignation – the idea that many of those who left their jobs during the pandemic never came back. Some people left the workforce altogether, but many others found better jobs rather than returning to their pre-pandemic job. While the “Great Resignation” title makes it sound like workers left in droves, quit rates rarely went above 3 to 5% in most countries, meaning that 95% or more of workers did not move on to better jobs.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Brainstorm, the impact of a talent exodus on any organisation’s future performance is hugely significant

The fact that the overwhelming majority of workers did not participate in the “Great Resignation” is surprising, especially considering the number of workers employed in jobs that are, by any reasonable definition, bad ones. There are many reasons jobs can be bad, ranging from bad management to toxic work culture, lack of recognition or room for growth, bad pay, unfair treatment, or difficult and dangerous work. There is compelling evidence that bad jobs are a source of stress and dissatisfaction, and that working in a bad job can have a negative impact on workers physical and mental health. It can literally kill you!

I think the big question is not why so many people left their jobs, but why so many people stayed in their jobs, particularly in bad jobs. There are many explanations for why people might stay in jobs that they find unsatisfying and stressful. You can explain a lot about human behaviour by simply citing the law of inertia. People often fear change, and staying in your present situation can be less stressful than the thought of moving on a to a new job.

There are also nonwork factors that may lead workers to stay in bad jobs, particularly if moving to a new job might entail moving to a new town. Suppose your children are in good schools, your family is nearby, and you like your community. It might be very difficult to move somewhere else, even if your job is a source of stress or even distress.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime, recruitment expert Louise Campbell on how to answer those questions about strengths and weaknesses at job interviews

There are also work-related factors that can lead people to stay in bad jobs. People can be surprisingly loyal to their work organisations, even when these organisations treat them badly. Management is often quite successful in pushing the idea that “we are all family” in the workplace, and this idea often persists even when the organisation acts in in ways that do not seem very family-like (e.g. layoffs, unpredictable work schedules etc).

Workers may also conclude that they will develop useful (and marketable) skills if they stay even if their current job is bad. There is the often-misplaced faith that things will get better if you simply stick it out. Some employees with valuable knowledge and skills are often shackled by “equity handcuffs“, such as unusual pay or benefits or stock options that lose their value if they leave their job.

Should you consider leaving your current job? As a serial job hopper (I have worked in five different universities and three consulting firms over a 45-year career), I would say yes, but it is always worth thinking through three major questions. First, what are your current colleagues like. If you like your colleagues and you believe you are treated reasonably by your organisation, leaving might not be a good idea. It is easy to leave a workplace where backbiting, bullying and abusive supervision are the norm. If you work in an organisation where the culture is supportive rather than toxic, you should not assume that you will find the same culture in your next organisation.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Brainstorm, the future of work

Second, are you rooted to your community? My observation working in both the United States and Ireland is that Irish workers often have stronger ties to their communities than American ones. Job changes that necessitate moving to a new community can be very stressful if you have strong ties (e.g., family, good friends) to your current community.

Finally, what do you know about the work culture of your new would-be employers? When I was young, I would ask questions about salary, benefits and workload when interviewing for a job. Over time, I learned how important it was to find out about the norms of your workgroup and about how people treated each other at work.

One of the maxims of my field is “the people make the place”, and bad jobs are often the direct result of being surrounded by or being supervised by bad people. In the movie Harvey, Jimmy Stewart says “in this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” This strikes me as pretty good advice for looking at a prospective now job. Are the people working there happy? Do they treat each other well? If the answer is no, do what just about everyone has done and stay put!

Follow the RTÉ Brainstorm WhatsApp channel for more stories and updates


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ


Continue Reading