The Great Resignation: Why Millions of Workers Are Quitting Their Jobs
In 2020, just a few months after the pandemic began, Texas A&M University Professor Anthony C. Klotz coined the term “The Great Resignation.” Also known as the exodus of workers, The Great Resignation is an informal term used to describe the widespread trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic which has now led to millions of people quitting their jobs.
Almost two years after it was first coined, The Great Resignation has created hiring challenges for companies and left millions of jobs unfilled, and caused employers to rethink the needs of their employees. According to Bankrate’s August job seeker survey, more than half of U.S. workers surveyed said they plan to look for a new job in the coming year.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Professor Klotz described four trends related to the pandemic that led him to coin the term. The first trend, Professor Klotz explained, is due to a backlog of resignations. In 2020, many employees who would have otherwise quit their jobs decided to stay put because of the pandemic. But as the economy improves and vaccines started becoming available, many of these employees decided it was time to leave their jobs.
Second, Professor Klotz said there was also a heightened level of burnout across the economy from frontline workers to the executive suites. As we all know, burnout is a predictor of employee turnover which leads to heightened resignations. In a study of 613 physical education high school teachers in 47 U.S. states, researchers found burnout to be a predictor of turnover.
Professor Klotz is right. According to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the quits rate, which is measured against total employment, rose to a series high of 2.9% in August.
Professor Klotz described the third trend as a shift in identity or epiphany people had during the pandemic. As such many people decided to make a major shift in their life and focus on what matters–family, children education, work-life balance, etc. In many of these cases, most people decided to leave their old jobs and look for new jobs that align with their new identity and life goals.
Finally, Professor Klotz shared the fourth trend about individuals who have been working remotely over the past 18 months. Many of them are excited to return back to the office but a majority of them are not. So, a percentage of these workers decided to quit rather than go back to the office. Professor Klotz also told CNBC:
“We were all able to take a step back in the last year and spend more time doing other things and really question the value of what we’re doing at work. A number of people have made the decision, ‘I need to make a change.’”
Professor Klotz is not alone. Others also share Klotz’s views. Katie Lynne, a YouTuber who herself escaped the corporate rat race, thinks there is a deeper underlying issue than what we see on the surface. Lynne argues that the “I quit trend” certainly did not happen overnight. She explains that even before the pandemic, the vast majority of the workforce has already been living in silent agony working at their jobs.
In light of the above reasons, it makes sense to see why a record 4.3 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in August. But the job resignation is not evenly spread across all sectors of the economy. For example, the latest data from the US Department of Labor data shows that the number of people leaving their jobs is particularly high in the leisure and hospitality sectors. Professor Klotz told Bloomberg Businessweek that companies should expect employee resignations as the workforce stabilizes.
Another study conducted by Microsoft confirms Professor Klotz’s view and also explains why companies are finding it difficult to find the right workers. In June, a Microsoft study found that 41% of workers worldwide are considering quitting their jobs, with 54% of Gen Z, aged 18 to 25, saying they are contemplating the decision, the World Economic Forum reports. Across the nation, 15.4 million Americans are not working and are collecting unemployment checks from the government as of mid-May.
Even as companies are offering all kinds of perks and bonuses, millions chose not to return back to work and decide to quit their jobs instead. So far this year, companies are experiencing a mass exodus of employees only one year after we’ve seen the highest unemployment rates since the great depression.
Today, CNBC also released a 12-minute mini-documentary to find out why millions of people are quitting their jobs. CNBC also used the above survey to shine some light on why people are leaving their jobs in droves. According to the survey, some 56% of respondents said adjustable working hours and remote work were a priority. Working women have faced an additional burden, juggling childcare duties, virtual schooling, and their careers.
So, why are millions of people quitting their jobs? Watch the video to find out.