Why do people stay in a job that makes them unhappy?

Changing job can be just as daunting as it is exciting and perhaps this is the reason why more than half of the UK workforce dislike their jobs but do nothing about it.[1]

There is always a degree of risk when leaving an employer to take on a new role elsewhere, but is it healthy to let these worries hold people back and trap them in a job or workplace that makes them unhappy?

Let’s look at the reasons why people may stay in a such a position:

  1. Money – First and foremost, most people will stay in a role for financial reasons. If a job pays a generous salary it is a huge incentive even if someone is not particularly happy. However, being unhappy every day will have an impact on a person’s mental health if it goes on for a long period of time. If other companies don’t pay the same salary, or there are only roles at a lower level available then this can feel like you’re trapped in your job. In these circumstances it is worth taking stock of your outgoings and asking yourself if you can afford to take a temporary cut with a view to working your way up elsewhere. Are you able to cut back and save for a few months before you move jobs to ensure you have a backup?

  2. Comfort zone – Generation Z and the Baby boomers are far more likely to stay in the same job for long period of time (20 years plus)[2], compared to Millennials who are renowned for job hopping. Whilst stability is an attractive goal, is this the reason people are staying with their employer or is it because they feel safe within their comfort zone? It is understandable that after being in the same job, with the same employer, and the same routine for a number of years, that there may be some anxiety around change but it is important to be honest with yourself. Are you staying in the role because you want to or because you are afraid to step out of your comfort zone? If it is the latter then you need to reconsider your options. Nothing great ever comes from the comfort zone, and you may be denying yourself of greatness!


  1. Relationships – Building relationships at work is a hugely valuable tool. Within the business, having strong relationships could mean a variety of things for example; being able to rely on your team mates to get things done by working together, having a core group of people to socialise outside of work and meeting people who you genuinely consider as friends. These factors all contribute to the reasons why someone may stay in a job they dislike. Making connections outside of the business with other professionals is important too, not only does it help build your networking skills and your reputation within the business industry you work in, these connections may also prove valuable if you do decide to change employer.


  1. The career ladder – the traditional view of climbing the career ladder values time served with an employer. The longer someone has worked within the organisation, the more likely they are to be next in line for promotion. For this reason, people may stay in their role despite being unhappy because they are hopeful that they will be promoted at some point and this will make them happier. However, most employers will promote based on merit, not time served so you will need to be doing the right things to get noticed for the right reasons. Unhappy employees are more likely to be demotivated so perhaps a new, fresh environment is needed to re-motivate and refocus. It is the passionate and motivated employees who are likely to succeed in climbing the ladder.


There is no doubt that changing jobs shouldn’t be taken likely, not just for the reasons previously mentioned but also because job hopping isn’t appealing to many employers. However, if you are looking for a new role for the right reasons then the help of an expert recruiter can be a fantastic support on your job hunting journey.


Check out our website to find out our approach to recruitment as well as lots of other HR related blogs.


[1] https://inews.co.uk/news/business/half-uk-workers-unhappy-jobs-512777

[2] https://fortune.com/2016/05/10/baby-boomers-millennials-jobs/