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‘I would rather be unemployed than unhappy’

By Emma Musgrave | |5 minute read

The next challenge facing HR managers and business leaders seems to fall back to employee happiness, with more willing to give up their post without another role lined up if they’re unhappy — particularly the younger generations.

The latest Workmonitor report has revealed a significant shift in how employees value their happiness at work, and the lengths they’re willing to go to get it.

The study broke down sentiments from different generations:

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  • Generation Z (18-24 years)
  • Young Millennials (25-34 years) 
  • Older Millennials (35-44 years)
  • Generation X (45-54 years)
  • Baby Boomers (55-67 years)

According to the report, 50 per cent of Gen Z employees either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with the statement: “I would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job”.

This was followed by young Millennials (42 per cent), older Millennials (39 per cent), Gen X (38 per cent), and Baby Boomers (28 per cent).

Similarly, 68 per cent of Gen Z employees either strongly agreed” or agreed with the statement: “I would quit a job if it was preventing me from enjoying my life”.

By comparison, 55 per cent of young Millennials either strongly agreed” or agreed with the statement, followed by 50 per cent of older Millennials.

Meanwhile, 42 per cent of Baby Boomers either strongly agreed” or agreed with the statement, as did 38 per cent of Gen X employees.

“With a significant percentage of Gen Z, younger and older Millennials indicating they would rather be unemployed than work in a job that makes them unhappy, it’s clear that employers wanting to retain talent have their work cut out to keep their staff happy," the report flagged.

“Contrast this with only 28 per cent of Baby Boomers saying they would leave a job they are unhappy with and it paints a picture of a future talent gap.

“Looking further at priorities of the younger generations, the picture becomes even more stark. Sixty-eight percent of Gen Z and 55 per cent of younger Millennials as well as 50 per cent of older Millennials said they’d quit their job if it stopped them from enjoying life, while a quarter of Gen Z and 38 per cent of younger Millennials say they have previously quit a job because it didn’t fit with their personal life. This is in contrast to the more conservative, older generations (22 per cent of 45-54-year-olds and 17 per cent of 55-67-year-olds).”

The report also shed light into employer loyalty, posing the question: “I feel committed to my employer and am likely to stay with them”.

The Gen Z cohort was the generation that had the biggest “strongly agree” or “agree” rate at 66 per cent. 

Meanwhile, 60 per cent of Baby Boomers either strongly agreed” or agreed with the statement, followed by 57 per cent of older Millennials, and 54 per cent of Gen X employees.

The younger Millennial cohort offered a different sentiment with 46 per cent saying they strongly agree or agree with the statement.

“A key lesson that emerged from the events of the past two years is that employees, particularly younger workers, want more meaning from their jobs. It’s clear that Millennials and Gen Z are at the forefront of a movement to find greater satisfaction and happiness through employment,” the report continued.

"After a tumultuous two-year period in which many entrants to the labour market have never even stepped inside an office, the workforce in Australia is ready to make what seemed like a temporary paradigm shift a permanent transformation.

“Employers will need to determine how they evolve their corporate culture and workforce strategy to accommodate this phenomenon. Today’s employees realise that happiness is key to success in life and at work, and they are ready to let employers know how they feel.”

RELATED TERMS

Unemployed

An individual who is not working but is actively seeking employment is referred to as being unemployed.

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