As countries around the globe face varying levels of economic slowdown, business leaders have been attempting to regain some of the power lost to employees during the pandemic and the Great Resignation era.
Just last week, Meta announced that it expected to lay off 10,000 employees in the coming months—on top of the 11,000 jobs that were cut in November—and previously called on staff to “find more opportunities to work with your colleagues in person.” Meanwhile, the world’s largest custodian bank and securities services company BNY Mellon threatened employees with “corrective action” if they don’t return to in-office working at least three days a week.
Layoffs, return-to-the-office mandates, and perk culling are just a few of the signs that bosses are back in charge—and employees know it.
According to research by the careers platform The Muse, around two-thirds of workers believe they have less power than they did just one year ago. The same percentage has also noted that hiring has slowed down in 2023.
Still, workers remain undeterred by the shifting power dynamic and are still willing to walk out on employers who don’t meet their wants and needs.
In fact, an overwhelming majority (75%) of the nearly 7,000 workers that The Muse surveyed are looking to change jobs in the next 12 months—up from 65% in 2022.
What’s more, 63% of respondents said that economic turbulence will not impact their plans to jump ship.
The top reasons workers want to leave their current employer
1. Toxic workplace culture (34%)
2. Lack of flexibility (26%)
3. Prospective layoffs (22%)
4. Salary freeze (22%)
5. Actual layoffs and/or hiring freezes (17%)
6. Lack of diversity (14%)
The finding suggests that workers may feel like they have less power but they will still walk out on toxic workplaces, with over a third of respondents citing that as the reason why they’re looking for pastures new. Meanwhile over a quarter of respondents pointed to a lack of flexibility and/or remote work policies as a cause for wanting to quit their job.
For workers, the idea of job cuts is more of a motivation to leave than actual layoffs. This could be because while rumors circulate in the lead-up to layoff announcements, employees may worry for the future of their role. To save face (and get ahead of the other future laid-off workers), such individuals may be contemplating dumping their employer before being dumped.
Every generation apart from Gen Zers are most focused on leaving toxic employers. According to the research, the youngest generation of workers is most fearful of future layoffs, with 39% of Gen Z respondents citing this as the reason they were considering making a move—with young men pointing to this more often than women, at 27% and 20% respectively.
In comparison, just a quarter of millennials said that potential layoffs contributed to seeking new employment. And as workers get more senior, it appears that this worry decreases further, with just 20% and 18% of Gen X and boomers respectively pointing to prospective job cuts as a reason for job hunting.
Separately, Asian respondents were the most motivated to change jobs over a lack of diversity (22%) followed by Black workers (20%), whereas white respondents were the least motivated ethnic group to do so (9%).
What workers want from future employers
The largest group of workers are job searching in the hopes of ditching a toxic workplace. But aside from keeping an eye out for red-flag language being used, like a boss boasting in an interview of the company’s “work hard, play hard” ethos, it’s hard to screen for culture before joining a company.
This is perhaps why, instead of focusing on a specific kind of office culture, most respondents (70%) said they want work-life balance from future employers. According to the researchers, this ranking has remained consistent over the past year, pointing to a permanent shift in priorities post-pandemic. What’s more, in the eyes of job seekers, work-life balance beats compensation (67%), learning opportunities (59%), and perks (58%) as an attraction.
Although both men and women ranked work-life balance as the top consideration for a new job, women felt this way more than men (76% and 65%, respectively). Women also favored perks and benefits, which include paid family leave, higher than men. Meanwhile, men ranked job security higher than women.
Plus, they’re not taking employers’ word on how good (and flexible) the company is. Over half of the respondents said they research testimonials from verified employees to evaluate whether a new job could be a good fit. Meanwhile, 45% said they look at anonymous reviews and a quarter consult social media.
Going to an event hosted by potential new employers and seeing how they act (and treat their staff) under pressure seems like a pretty far-fetched way to assess a company. Yet 27% of Gen Z respondents admitted to resorting to such tactics, compared to around 17% of the other age groups.
“One trend is clear among our survey respondents: Workers aren’t going to let fear about the economy make them complacent,” the researchers conclude. “And if their current employer isn’t cutting it, they’re ready to look for one that will.”