Why We Stay

Why do we stay in our jobs? Are we happy with that answer?

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. — Newton’s First Law

Inertia undoubtedly explains why we stay [in our current jobs]. It’s also far more nuanced than simply saying, “I’m already here” or “change is hard”.

In order to leave our job, it’s as though a giant force is needed. We must hear, see, and believe exactly the right thing at the right time — or so it seems. To stay, we must believe — even half-heartedly — just one thing at any given point throughout the day.

  1. We stay because we don’t believe the grass is really greener on the other side.
  2. We stay because we don’t want to trade known problems for unknown problems.
  3. We stay because work can become an abusive relationship, where our self worth is destroyed and we believe we aren’t worthy of more.
  4. We stay because of the money, the insurance plan, or because society says we must.
  5. We stay because our American Puritanical values have told us that to work hard is to be good.
  6. We stay because we don’t want to admit we have failed.
  7. We stay because we don’t want to fail.
  8. We stay because we are hopeful that it will get better.
  9. We stay because we believe that it’s us who are the problem. If only, we could change this one little thing, then everything will fall into place.
  10. We stay because we believe that it’s them who is the problem. If only, we could get them to change this one little thing, then everything will fall into place.
  11. We stay because we don’t know who we are if we don’t work.
  12. We stay because it’s too scary to apply to new jobs.
  13. We stay because we are afraid of being rejected in our job search, even though we keep telling ourselves “you only need one job”.
  14. We stay because we haven’t brushed up our resume.
  15. We stay because we believe that we haven’t done anything worthwhile in our current role to put on our resume.
  16. We stay because there is “just one more thing to finish”.
  17. We stay because our coworkers are our friends.
  18. We stay because everyone else is staying.
  19. We stay because we aren’t honest.
  20. We stay because we aren’t honest with ourselves about how unhappy we are.
  21. We stay because we aren’t honest with our coworkers who would probably get it, because we fear that maybe we are wrong.
  22. We stay because we complain endlessly to our non-work friends and partners but none of them “get it”.
  23. We stay because we want to believe that we are the super hero who can fix it.
  24. We stay because our best friend hasn’t yet told us to leave.
  25. We stay because as soon as we’re “in it”, we lack the appropriate perspective to see just what we’re in.
  26. We stay because just like boiling a frog alive, it went from great to terrible one degree at a time.
  27. We stay because there’s one thing that is “good enough” — or that’s at least what we tell ourselves.
  28. We stay because our parents’ can’t imagine the horror of quitting a job without having a new one lined up.
  29. We stay because we can’t turn off the work with 24/7 slack messages and emails.
  30. We stay because after a terrible day staring at your computer, the last thing you want to do is get on your computer and apply for new jobs.
  31. We stay because we are so burnt out that when we are interviewing, we aren’t our best selves, so no one wants to hire us.
  32. We stay because we are so burnt out that we wouldn’t even want to hire us.
  33. We stay because we believe we are critical to the company and that we matter oh so much.
  34. We stay because they told us we were important.
  35. We stay because our promotion or raise is just around the corner.
  36. We stay because we don’t know how to think of the time spent as sunk cost.
  37. We stay because we worry about our team members and mentees. How will they ever survive without us?
  38. We stay because we care.
  39. We stay because we want to do better.
  40. We stay because we let ourselves believe that our stock options might be worth something.
  41. We stay because we believe we are building something bigger.
  42. We stay because as appealing as that unstructured time off is, it’s equally as daunting.
  43. We stay because the perfect opportunity hasn’t yet fallen in our lap.
  44. We stay because we are afraid that we will miss out on something amazing.
  45. We stay because leaving feels so final.
  46. We stay because we are privileged. We have the opportunity to make this choice today or at some point in the future.
  47. We stay because we are not privileged. We need the salary, health insurance, or routine structure.

Here’s to the lucky ones. We stay because we find meaning in our work is meaningful. We believe it is impactful. We have autonomy. We enjoy our colleagues.

Why do you stay? Are you happy with your answer?


I don’t have all the answers; I’m not going to pretend I do. I don’t even have all the questions. I do know I’m not alone in my quest to love work again.