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These are the top reasons people leave their jobs

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While getting paid is perhaps the main reason most people work, it is no longer employees' top priority when deciding whether to stay at their job or strike out in search of a new one. 

So what is most important to job seekers in today's labor marketWork-life balance is the top factor for workers across every generation except for baby boomers, according to a new report from The Muse, a career development and search platform. 

Among all generations with a foot in the workplace, Gen Zers (often defined as people born between 1996 and 2012) put the highest premium on a healthy work-life balance when looking for a new job. Of this group, 60% said that was the most important factor in evaluating a new job opportunity, while 40% said compensation was most important.

Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and members of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) also expressed a preference for a positive work-life balance over income, but by a smaller margin, according to the study.

"The pandemic made a lot of people realize that life is too short to do something that you hate," The Muse founder and CEO Kathryn Minshew told CBS MoneyWatch.

Toxic stew

But what, more specifically, leads workers to yank the ripcord and bail from their jobs? Unhealthy, unsupportive work environments are the top culprit, The Muse found.

Some 34% of respondents said they felt driven to search for a new job because of their employer's toxic workplace culture. Just over a quarter also pointed to inadequate flexibility by management or lackluster work-from-home policies. Other reasons to move on included rising layoffs and the specter of future job losses, salary freezes and lack of diversity.

Among the generations, millennials were the least tolerant of toxic workplaces, followed by Generation X workers.

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When the survey was conducted in February 2023, three-quarters of nearly 7,000 respondents said they planned to look for a new job over the next 12 months. That's up from 65% in 2022. 

"So much of the commentary I read says that the tables have turned and employers are back in the driver's seat. While in some sense, that's certainly true, the sentiment data we uncovered indicates that many employees — especially those who perceive themselves to have a lot of employment options — don't see it that way at all," Minshew said. "They still expect to make choices and expect to be able to prioritize what they want out their career, versus the narrative that now that economy is bad they have to take what we give them."

Employees expect "so much more"

To be sure, a decent paycheck still matters. But work-life balance now has a slight edge over compensation, with 3% more respondents calling it their top priority. 

Overall, 70% of survey respondents said they evaluate a company's work-life balance to determine if it's a good fit for them, followed by 67% of respondents who ranked pay as the most important measure. Other factors workers consider in choosing an employer include: 

  • 59% — Learning and growth opportunities
  • 59% — Office culture and colleagues' likability
  • 58% — Job perks and benefits
  • 47% — Job security
  • 41% — Company leadership 

Additional data from The Muse showed that job listings for remote roles receive three times as many applications as job openings tied to geographic locations.

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Although both women and men put work-life balance at the top of the list among the criteria they use to assess a new job, more female workers, or 76%, ranked it as their top factor, compared with 65% for men, according to The Muse. 

"There used to be more of a common understanding that work meant trading your labor for a paycheck," Minshew said. "It was a very straightforward transaction, and the dominant narrative was you give your time and effort in exchange for money. But over the last several years, we've seen an employee base that expects their employers to provide so much more." 

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