Balancing act: Survey says lack of balance, manager support are job 'deal breakers'

Published: Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:00 a.m. MDT

According to a new survey, a low salary isn't the most likely factor that will cause someone to leave a job. Rather, a lack of support from managers and limited work-life balance are the real deal breakers.


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When I left my career as a full-time journalist about three years ago, it wasn't because I didn't love the job anymore.

I grew up wanting to be a writer or editor for a newspaper, and I'm grateful that I was able to make a living doing exactly that for decades.

It wasn't even the downturn in the news industry that made me start looking for something different, although that did play a part in my decision.

What really led me to make a career change was the "always-on" aspect of the job, especially when I started working for the paper's website. When every second of every day is your deadline, it's hard to find work-life balance.

I looked at my wife and four children and realized that I wanted to support my family with both my earning power and my time. In order to do the latter, I had to make a change.

I guess you could say that a lack of balance proved to be a deal breaker for my career in journalism. And according to a June survey from Utah-based BambooHR, I'm not alone.

The company's online survey asked 1,034 U.S.-based workers over the age of 18 why they left previous jobs and how annoying various aspects of work were on a scale from "acceptable" to "deal breaker," meaning something that would make them want to leave.

According to the survey, the top reason respondents left their previous jobs was lack of opportunities for advancement, at 22 percent. The top five deal breakers for employees were:

"Your boss doesn't trust/empower you."

"You are expected to work/answer emails on sick days, on vacations and/or after work hours."

"Management 'passes the buck' when things don't go as planned."

"Work is not flexible with regard to your family responsibilities."

"You don't get along with your co-workers."

Have you noticed what's missing from this list? That's right: money.

"Sure, having a salary that is lower than expected is annoying, but according to the study it doesn’t rank as one of the leading irritations," said a survey summary from BambooHR. "In fact, slights in compensation become increasingly easier to swallow as employees age …

"Complaints related to compensation are highest in the 18–29 age range and steadily decline as employees get older. Conversely, a lack of fringe benefits progressively becomes more of a deal breaker as employees age."

I was surprised to see that salary issues didn't make the top five deal-breakers list, but as I thought about it, it made sense.

While I believe that people can be lured away from a job by a significantly better financial offer from another company, my personal experience and my years of writing about work-life balance have taught me that family issues should not be overlooked when it comes to a person's job satisfaction.

That's not to say that everyone feels exactly the same about these issues. The BambooHR survey showed that the response regarding working or answering emails after hours was polarizing, with some people seeing it as one of the most acceptable issues.

"Men find it more acceptable (1 in 5 men vs. 1 in 10 women), and women see it as more of a deal breaker (1 in 3 women vs. 1 in 5 men)," the survey summary said.

That gender divide also showed in responses to the item about work not being flexible with regard to family responsibilities. One in four women responded that it was a deal breaker, while only one in eight men said so.

The respondents' ages played a further role in how they felt about work-life issues.