The Top Reason People Quite, According to MIT: It Isn’t Pay

August 30, 2022

Man holding a sign saying "I quit" with box of office items

If your business has been affected by the Great Resignation, you aren’t alone. An estimated 24 million Americans quit their jobs between April and September of 2021. But, according to MIT, the most prominent reason employees were leaving the workforce in droves wasn’t pay.

Toxic work culture, not a bigger paycheck, was the most significant factor in workers leaving their jobs. Manipulative bosses, disrespect in the workplace, and failure to promote diversity were the chief concerns raised by the 34 million employees surveyed by MIT Sloan. A toxic workplace may be killing your business and productivity, but often, business owners may not realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.

There are three red flags of a toxic workplace, and we’re offering three good ways for employees to address them.

The Employer Makes Promises But Doesn’t Deliver

When employees are told that something will happen, be it a transfer to another department, a promotion, or even a more flexible schedule, and it doesn’t happen, they lose trust in their boss and the company. Even something as simple as a lack of equipment and supplies employees need to do their job effectively can make workers feel as if they’re being left hanging.

If your employer constantly makes promises and fails to deliver, begin communicating requests in writing. Maintain a professional attitude, but be sure to document everything. Begin advocating for yourself and holding people accountable for promises they make you.

Man yelling at female coworker

Disrespectful Treatment in the Workplace

Lack of respect, hostile communication, and an overall fear of making mistakes are common in toxic work environments. If people around you are constantly critical of others or shifting the blame for errors or poor productivity, it can quickly make doing your job almost impossible.

An overly competitive environment or a workplace with no regard for the individual’s personal needs is also a sign of disrespect in the workplace. Excessively critical or hostile communication norms in the workplace can make it hard to speak up about problems with work-related subjects without worrying about rejection, retaliation, or gaslighting.

If you note that the problem is widespread, focus on what you can control. Concentrate on completing your work and limit the people you interact with. Prioritize your mental health while you seek an opportunity at a more respectful workplace

Unfair or Unpredictable Work Policies

When work policies are applied inconsistently or haphazardly, it can be challenging for employees to predict what will happen if they make a mistake or encounter a work problem. For example, when some people or teams are allowed to work remotely while others aren’t, and there isn’t a clear policy that spells out who is eligible for what, people can become frustrated and feel like there’s a culture of favoritism.

If you’re exhausted from speaking up about unequal policies in the workplace and not having your concerns addressed, you aren’t alone. Ultimately, one individual cannot change the company culture, and you need to look out for your own needs.


A toxic work environment can quickly push workers to their breaking point. Many workers who participated in the survey said they would easily take a 10-30% pay cut if they could work somewhere with consistent policies, working hours, and less stress.

Last modified: August 31, 2022

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