4 Reasons Why Employees Stay Even When They Hate Their Job

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 21, 2024 at 8:24PM UTC

As employees leave their jobs in unprecedented numbers during the Great Resignation, employers are left to wonder: why do employees stay — even if they’re not happy with their jobs?

Even during this period of massive quitting and massive hiring, some workers are sticking with jobs they hate. Here are four reasons why that’s the case.

1. They’re scared.

Fear. It’s something that drives us to act — or, as the case may be, not to act.

Some employees worry that opportunities for people with their skill sets, or lack thereof, don’t actually exist. Others may be scared of change, especially if they’ve been with their employers for a considerable amount of time. Or, they wonder if they’ll be a small fish in a big pond somewhere new.

That uncertainty can prevent people from taking the leap and finding a better-suited job. The risk is just too much to handle.

2. The pay and benefits are great.

If you have a great salary with top-notch benefits, it will probably take a lot to lure you away — the comfort and security of having this high-paying job beat out the prospect of another role where you may or may not be happier. Why take the gamble? You have more than enough to allow you to enjoy a satisfying life and lifestyle, so the risk may just not feel worth it. 

Some may not be able to afford that gamble. Perhaps they have a family to support or loans to pay off, and they simply can’t risk the idea of earning a lower salary elsewhere, even if it means a happier work life.

3. They feel lost.

Some people stay in roles they hate for years, even decades, because they don’t know what else to do. They aren’t sure what they would rather be doing to earn a living. Perhaps they believe that dream job exists — they just don’t know what it might look like. So, they stay with what’s comfortable, the job that they’ve always known. 

But comfortable is not the same thing as happy. You may be stuck in this job because you feel lost and don’t know what the next step is, but as the years pass, you feel more and more uncertain about your future — and more and more stuck and unhappy.

4. They’re loyal.

This is a big one for people who have been at their companies for a long time, too. If you’ve had the same job and/or employer for years, not only will you grow more comfortable in your role (even if it’s a bad fit), but you could also feel increasingly loyal to the company.

Perhaps you love your coworkers — even your boss. Maybe you feel like at this point, the company would have trouble running without you (this can be especially true if you were an early team member or leader at a startup). That sense of loyalty, however misplaced, can be enough to make someone who should really leave for their mental health stick around for far too long.

If you recognize yourself on this list, then it’s time to reassess your priorities and consider why you’re staying at a job you hate. At this point, opportunities are plentiful, and chances are solid that you can find a role that’s better suited to you and will make you happier.

If you recognize an employee on this list, consider what you can do to make your employees happier in their roles — not because they feel like they have to but because they want to.

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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