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Job satisfaction: Why senior IT leaders stay and why they go

Our IT Salary Survey 2012 shows that salary is not all it's cracked up to be when it comes to job satisfaction.

What do senior IT leaders working for an international packaging company, a global plastics manufacturer and a nonprofit with 57 locations have in common? What they make in a year holds little sway over why they choose to stay at their company-- or in the case of one of them, why he plans to leave his current job.

Pulling out the data for senior IT leaders in our IT Salary Survey 2012, only 8% said they stayed in their current job because of their salary. The majority of the 691 senior IT executives who answered the question of why they stayed said they did so for three reasons: because their job was intellectually challenging (38%), because they enjoyed the working environment and co-workers (19%), and because they had a flexible work schedule (12%).

Why do senior IT leaders stay in their jobs

Why do senior IT leaders stay in their jobs?

The director of IS for the international packaging company is on the hunt for a job despite making $210,000 to $245,000, well above the average salary for senior IT leaders employed by non-IT related manufacturers, who on average make $98,201.

"The salary is great, but I rate my job satisfaction pretty low," said the executive, who asked to remain anonymous because he is seeking new employment. High up on the list of reasons he is choosing to jump ship is company mismanagement (the company is losing money every year and management will not listen to suggestions on how to fix such problems as low customer satisfaction) and a culture of fear. There have been more than a dozen layoffs since he joined the company almost a decade ago. "Senior management micromanages, so the morale is very depressed: Keep your head down, stay under the radar to hold onto your job. The environment is pretty toxic," he said.

I get a whole lot of positive feedback, which goes a long way.

Wendell Thomas,
director of IS and IT infrastructure operations, Safe Horizon

Job satisfaction and the culture factor

As the director of IS and IT infrastructure operations for a New York-based victim's advocacy agency and nonprofit Safe Horizon Inc., a culture of recognition for a job well done is a strong motivator for Wendell Thomas.

He makes between $80,000 and $90,000, right in line with the average salary for senior IT leaders in the nonprofit sector ($80,943), according to our IT Salary Survey 2012 data. He knows he could make more money in the private sector, but one of the main reasons he stays is the constant feedback he receives from people across the company.

"I know there is an appreciation for what I do and the value that I bring," said Thomas, who has been with Safe Horizon for five years. "I am not rewarded monetarily because we are a nonprofit, but I have a great working relationship with my boss [and] with the program leaders, and I get a whole lot of positive feedback, which goes a long way."

What doesn't go a long way for Thomas is a homogenous corporate culture. At a past job with a large for-profit company with 25,000 employees, he made a decent salary, learned a lot as a manager and was given "loads of training," he said. But "it was a very structured, be-like-us environment. There was a diversity of people, but not a diversity of thought. They all thought the same way and new ideas were slow to be accepted," he added.

More on past IT salary survey results

IT salary survey: Highest earners hard on IT

2011 Salary Survey: A guide

IT salary survey shows mixed levels of satisfaction

Like Thomas, Serafin Salgado ran into micromanagement at his past job with a technology services provider. "It eats away at you after a while," he said. Today, as an IT manager with Poppelmann Plastics USA LLC, he has free rein. His company is the North Carolina-based U.S. division of German-based Poppelmann GmbH, which operates in 70 countries.

"I am my own boss, and I never know what's going to hit me from day to day," Salgado said. As the first hire to head up Poppelmann's U.S. IT operations, he is pretty much left to his own devices, and he loves it whether those "devices" call for setting up laptops or high-end responsibilities, such as managing the network or implementing an ERP system.

And what is going to keep him there? The opportunity to grow with the company, learn new skills and mentor new hires. In other words, the job is challenging, and he likes it that way, even if he is paid less than the industry average for what he does. And he is not alone. Of the 90 senior IT executives who responded to the IT Salary Survey 2012 question as to why they left their job in 2012, 23% said they wanted a new challenge.

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