Which Job Seekers Are Serious About Leaving Their Jobs?

It’s not uncommon that a bad day at work can send you to the job boards to see what alternative employment you might be able to drum up. Most of the time, we’ll browse for a bit, decide that our job isn’t that bad, or that it would be too inconvenient for us to leave, or that there aren’t any better jobs out there for us anyway and forget about the whole thing. Sometimes, though, this job search results in actually leaving one’s job. Swider and colleagues (2011) examine what influences whether people stay or leave, given the fact that they are looking.


Most previous turnover theories include four components: job search, satisfaction with the current job, the cost of leaving, and availability of alternatives. However, for the most part, these theories are framed such that these latter three components influence whether someone starts looking. The researchers in this study have reframed these relations and posited that satisfaction, cost, and alternatives are still important factors in determining whether someone actually leaves – after they have started looking for other jobs. Their results show that, indeed, for employees looking for other jobs, those that were less satisfied, perceived lower cost of leaving (measured as the level of embeddedness in their current jobs), and were in a labor market with more opportunities, were more likely to actually quit.


This may seem like a small, theoretical distinction, but it is important for future research to think about turnover processes in this new way. Also, these findings provide more support to what we already knew from turnover research. Specifically, organizations can try to reduce unwanted turnover by trying to increase satisfaction, encouraging their employees to be more connected to others at work and in their communities (thus increasing the cost of leaving), and paying attention to attractive labor markets. 


Swider, B. W., Boswell, W. R., & Zimmerman, R. D. (2011). Examining the job search-turnover relationship: The role of embeddedness, job satisfaction, and available alternatives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 432-442.

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