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Surprisingly, the #1 reason why M’sians are unhappy at work is NOT because of salary

Just a couple weeks back, we ran a nationwide survey to find out just how dissatisfied – or satisfied – Malaysians are in their jobs. How often do they dream of resigning? Do they purposely take their own sweet time to do simple tasks? And more importantly, WHY are they so unhappy??

So together with our friends at AIA, we decided to run the ‘Geram Kerja Survey 2019’ to kepoh with our fellow Malaysians! (And trust us it was pretty awks to do with while our boss was with us…) Before we get to the results, some prelim info:

  • Duration: 8th – 26th May 2019
  • Respondents: 2,113
  • Gender: 47% male, 52% female, 1% identified as others
  • Top 5 locations: Selangor, KL, Penang, Perlis, Kedah (we had respondents from all states, but as expected, most were from Klang Valley)
  • Top 3 age groups: 21-29 (50%), 30-39 (39%), 40-49 (8%)

Ok ready? Lesgo!


1. The #1 reason why Malaysians want to quit their jobs is NOT because of the money…


Although, a nice salary *would* make us smile…

When asked to rank their top reasons why they wanna QUIT their jobs, here’s how our respondents answered:

  1. “This company culture sucks” – 44%
  2. “My boss is driving me mad” – 40%
  3. “I’m not getting paid enough to do what I’m doing” – 39%
  4. “People don’t appreciate what I do” –  37%
  5. “I’m not growing” – 31%

On the flip side, here’s what would make them STAY:

  1. “If I get a substantial salary increment” – 59%
  2. “If my boss were to be more understanding” – 42%
  3. “If people appreciated the work I did” – 40%
  4. “If the company would invest in my professional and/or personal growth” – 33%
  5. “If I get to do something more interesting within the company” – 32%

While money would certainly help with retention, it seems that it won’t guarantee happiness… and as a matter of fact, studies have been done about this. In a 2012/2013 study by job site, they found that factors impacting happiness were varied far beyond the paycheque.

“Employees used to be happy just to be paid consistently and hopefully paid well. Now, overall job and life satisfaction, sense of well being and the work that they do are intricately tied together.” – Heidi Golledge, chief executive at

Speaking of dissatisfaction…

2. 82% of Malaysians believe in something called the… ‘700 Day Itch’?

If you’ve never heard of it, well it’s not a rash from wearing the same underwear for 700 days… which in all honesty… we really wouldn’t recommend… O_O

Gif from a CBC footage

Gif from a CBC footage

The ‘700 Day Itch’ refers to the belief that dissatisfied workers are most likely to leave their jobs within 2 years of employment. And that’s precisely what got us really curious, cos not many local studies have been done about this. Is it just a syok-sendiri myth cooked up by recruiters, or is there some real substance to this?

So in our survey, 42% of respondents said they personally experienced the 700 day itch of wanting to leave their jobs within 2 years of employment, while another 40% personally know someone who has experienced this. Only 18% said it was a myth!

Actually, 2 years in an unhappy job is a really, really long time. We’d expect 6 months, but then again Cilisos writers are mostly millennials and you know what those jimmery boomers say about our generation. -__-”

"Look another millennial resigning! We shall laugh for we know not how we have caused them to be this way." Gif from Gifimage.

“Look, Margaret! Another millennial resigning! Let us ridicule them for having a different notion to life from us as we are always right!” Gif from Gifimage.

“Unhappy workers shouldn’t suffer where they are,” an AIA rep tells us. “There’s always an alternative.” And what she’s referring to is their very own AIA Elite Academy, an 18-month exclusive program that wants to develop a new generation of Life Planners – insurance agents that with skill, integrity, and who adds value to the lives of Malaysians. 

Gone are the days of insurance agents being dubbed as ‘con men’ or thirsty sales people pushing sales, sales and more sales – AIA wants to break that stereotype by only hiring people with calibre and training/mentoring them using leading technologies. So if you happen to ‘suffer’ from the 700 day itch, maaaybe this program could be your way out? 

Speaking of learning new skills…


3. Malaysians really, really want to grow and learn… even old folk 🙂

Old doesn’t mean cannot learn, ok! Other than flexible working hours, a higher salary, good benefits and culture, respondents in the 50-59 year-old bracket also ranked ‘learning opportunities’ as #5 on their list of what they’d want in an ideal job.

old people aia authorr

Even this 85-year-old uncle (right) took up the challenge to learn how to use the computer! Photo from

Actually, we found that ‘growth’ seemed to be a recurring choice in our survey. If you remember reading in point #1, a lot of respondents wanted to leave because they weren’t growing, and similarly, they’d want their companies to invest in their growth in order for them to stay. In a separate question, 73% respondents actually chose doing ‘a very challenging job that lets them grow’ over one that is ‘easy but has no future’ (15%) and one that ‘pays well but you HATE doing’ (12%).

But with every growth comes stagnancy at some point… so how can a bored-to-the-core person continue to develop? Among a few interesting points, executive MBAs told a Harvard Business Review writer that one must create opportunities whether within or outside the job. And that’s actually in the same vein as being part of the AIA Elite Academy too – the program aims to build up skills in many different aspects, so it almost feels like you’re guaranteed to grow some way or another.


Regardless whether you’re good or not-so-good in sales and marketing, there’s always an opportunity for you


4. 12% Malaysians said they make it a point to poop on office time!

Image from Malaysian TV habits.

Image from Malaysian TV habits.

When asked about what kinda time-wasting activities our respondents typically do at work,

  • 53% admitted to procrastinating with surfing the web for non-work related things (like what you’re doing right now, reading this article in your office…),
  • 14% admitted to purposely taking a very long time to do simple tasks (e.g. photocopying, scanning) and
  • 12% said they’d PURPOSELY keep their poop and take a dump in the office… cos it’s like getting paid to do it!

Fun fact: who ARE these office poopers anyway? Are they mostly guys? (Not to be sexist la, Cilisos male staff always take forever in the toilet and always come out busuk-busuk one.) We dug a little deeper and found the gender breakdown is pretty fair – male 52%, female 47%!

Time-wasting habits aside, we also asked our respondents about some of the naughty things they do at work… and found that 35% admitted to having printed their resumes for a job interview at their current office! Tsk tsk!

5 jobs in Malaysia that could keep your rice bowl safe during uncertain times

Another 30% also admitted to having a WhatsApp group without their bosses in it, so they could complain about them. Digging a little deeper, we also found that the gender breakdown was pretty even between male (45%) and female (54%) too. Most came from the mid-income salary group (RM2k – RM5k, 53%) and oddly enough, most of them are… single?! (47%).

In the old days, we had this. Photo from xxxxxx

In the old days, we had this. Photo from Twitter user @lantip

Anyway, despite having admitted to several naughty behaviour, majority (48%) of our respondents said they rated their performance as ‘good’! Surrrreeeeee… 😆


5. Malaysians generally seem to get along with their colleagues, but…

According to the Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace survey by AIA Vitality in 2017, Malaysians have one of the longest work hours, even compared to employees in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Malaysians spend a lot, if not MOST, of their time with their workplace colleagues.

We wonder if it might actually be too much time...

We wonder if we might actually be spending too much time with them…

Which was why we wanted to find out – do Malaysians get along with their workmates, and what would they do if there were any disputes between them and their colleagues? Well, from our survey, it seemed like Malaysians DO generally get along with their workmates, as we found out:

  • 21% of Malaysians frequently waste time at the office by chatting with their workmates at the water cooler;
  • 17% trust their co-workers enough that they would ask them for help if they’ve made a catastrophic mistake at work, while only 0.4% said they would tai chi the mistake to someone else;
  • and 43% cared about their co-workers enough, EVEN IF they were irresponsible, that they would help them get their sh*t together first before reporting them to the boss (18%) or devising a plan to get them fired (4%)!

Heck, we even found out that MOST Malaysians would actually let their coworker take the credit for a job they did, as long as the job gets done (39%) or even if it was a team effort (20%)! Of course, we also had to know about the Malaysians who aren’t as murah hati as this, and when we asked what were some reasons they would RESIGN from their jobs, 21% said it was because their colleagues were driving them mad while another 21% said they would only STAY if their colleagues were more helpful.

Any of you guys ever feel like this with your workmates? GIF from The Office.

Any of you guys ever feel like this with your workmates? GIF from The Office.

Of course, if you identify with any of the descriptions above, AIA is looking for team players who work well with people and can build long-lasting relationships to help them plan for the future. And so if this sounds like you, why not pay them a visit at this link to consider doing something different with your career while the rest of us move on to the next bit which is…


6. 40 year-olds are TWICE as likely to scold their bosses BACK compared to millennials!

"Erk... nod and type, just nod and type." Image from The Star.

“Erk… nod and type, just nod and type.” Image from The Star.

Speaking of people skills, we also tried looking at what Malaysian employees were MOST likely to do if they were to be reprimanded by their bosses for a mistake. Overwhelmingly, most (77%) said they would humbly accept the correction and do better while another 11% responded saying they would quietly accept the correction but complain on socmed after.

However, when we looked into the demographics of the respondents for this question, we discovered that female respondents were almost twice as likely to admit that they would complain on socmed (15%) compared to male respondents (8%).

Additionally, when we broke it down by age, we found out that those in their 40s were more than TWICE as likely (9%) to say they would tell their boss off vs respondents aged between 21-29 (4%)! Walao – maybe it’s because once you’ve raked in years worth of work experience, you’re more likely to stand for yourself, especially in Malaysia where companies tend to value status and seniority.

Then again, most Malaysians would probably rather endure getting hentam-ed by their bosses than anything as we also found out…


7. … 56% believe that the job market is just too bad to leave right now

Haih. Malaysians… complain complain complain… then why never resign??

arnold stop whining

Actually, although more than half our respondents expressed that they wanted to leave, here are the top 5 reasons why they HAVEN’T made that jump:

  • “Job market is bad” – 56%
  • “I have a family to support” – 40%
  • “I have no savings” – 29%
  • “It might get better” – 26%
  • “I’m too comfortable” – 25%

Recently, The Sun reported that Malaysia saw about 21,000 people losing their jobs in 2018. This year, the Malaysian Employers Federation estimates that 30,000 workers will be laid off, mostly due to the increasing cost of business. Adding to that, MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said that Peninsular employers are also affected by the 10% hike in minimum wage, as well as the new policy which requires Sosco for foreign workers. Good for workers, but bad for bosses… and when it’s bad for bosses, some flers are gonna head to the chopping board. Aduh… 🙁


If you’re unhappy where you are, there’s always an alternative

With the future seemingly bleak for dissatisfied workers, it would seem like they either have to make the best of what they’ve got, or secure a proper job before they actually leave. And that’s what the AIA Elite Academy is all about – it’s an alternative that anyone can consider, regardless of industry, race, age, and even employment level… like this dude who left his job as a senior VP at a bank:

But of course, what they’re looking for isn’t just any Ali, Ah Chong or Muthu… they want to invest in the best people, so if you’re just lazy to work then mebbe don’t apply la, heh. (Ed’s note: Don’t apply anywhere. Really wan.)

If you’re a hustler looking for a long-term career with a purpose, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider joining the AIA Elite Academy as your potential next step. On top of being able to meet new people all the time, you’ll also have the flexibility of managing your own time schedule.

FYI, joining an insurance company doesn’t mean your only job is to sell insurance yea… If sales and marketing isn’t your core strength, you can still do various jobs within the team. If you’re interested, just click here… but if you want more stats, nah! Ambik kau:

  • If their current jobs are so teruk, why did they even take it up in the first place? The most common answer was that “they had no other option” (31%), but right after that was “It sounded promising” (24%)
  • What drives Malaysians to work hard? The older you are, the more you’ll work hard to “support your family”. But for those 18-20 years old? Most said they “didn’t want to be a loser” (36%)
  • The more you earn, the more hours you work. 48% of respondents earning RM2k – RM5k work 9-12 hours/day, and that percentage increases with each salary bracket. 77% of respondents earning RM15k – RM20k work 9-12 hours/day.
  • Naughty! Most respondents who admitted to stealing office supplies are from Terengganu (31%)
  • 70% of respondents said that they got a raise sometime in the past 12 months… so err employers who don’t give raises, can you pls kasi chan *cough*attnCiliboss*cough* especiallythosewhohavebeenherefor5years



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