Resigning by Design: Why Workers Are Still Quitting & the Great Resignation Is the New Normal
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Since the pandemic, millions of workers have walked out on bosses, jobs, and industries who responded with tone-deafness toward the issues the pandemic exploited. Workers decided it was time to quit jobs that were stressful or that no longer served their careers. They quit bad bosses—as well as bad companies that enabled abusive bosses.
Many workers had desired to quit and join “The Great Resignation” before the pandemic (even before it was named). But the resigning is far from over. But the extraordinary statements that workers made and the efforts by companies to attract good employees are making a case for these actions to become a new normal.
How “Great” is the Great Resignation?
The window’s closing question is not whether more people will leave in droves. The open window was not accepting the same job with unfair benefits, pay, and flexibility. People leave their jobs not always because it’s terrible, but because the opportunities for growth and advancement are scarce.
People quit as that is the only option to find jobs offering what they need — a job with better pay, benefits, and flexibility. Workers will resign, not always in response to bad bosses or not because they don’t get to work remotely 100% of the time. Few people will “slog it out” despite pay disparities and mistreatment — it is increasingly common to reject a lousy employment deal.
There are other factors to consider whether “The Great Resignation” is truly “great,” or whether “resignation” truly means a better job or resigning a boss:
- Resignations increasingly have nothing to do with bad bosses, companies, or co-workers. The threat to a worker’s livelihood (mental health, child care, overall health) is disrupting more lives than ever.
- Resignations are a thoughtful, planned-out strategy for career advancement. Such resignations are not new, just more prevalent.
- “Frequent” resignations do not equal a lack of “stability.”
Signs of the Closing Window
Consider how resigning is not just a declaration of freedom or to escape an employer. It has become a career advancement strategy adapted by millions in all industries. It’s not just a hunt for a great employer. Millennials and Gen Z want a life in addition to having a thriving career and are intolerant of any controlling work or boss.
The rejection of traditional work values espousing that hard work and dedication will bring success is misinterpreted as a rejection of work. Since resigning is a plan for many of today’s workers and an exit strategy like a business owner would use, “great” as part of “The Great Resignation” needs reframing.
The mass resignations also signal a collective realization that life and livelihood mean much more than work. It wasn’t long ago that job candidates avoided questions about having kids to avoid discrimination. Now, it’s a primary reason for many workers, especially women, to leave jobs with duties encroaching on parenting responsibilities. This dilemma is ongoing and won’t go away unless the workplace becomes equitable in opportunity. Again, reframing and a redo need to occur, not the stifling of workers resigning to hold on for dear life.
Workers will find companies offering a 4-day week or 5-five-hour workday attractive as one way to quiet the call for a modernized workplace. It’s a great way to help employees manage burnout and offer flexibility for people to get back their livelihood. It offers a needed option for workers to manage the strain of work and life.
But if a company has bosses with reputations for mistreating workers, no one will be interested in the company, no matter their attractive benefits packages or amenities. This phenomenon has manifested in scarcely staffed restaurants, long lines for food, and people taking food home for their night out. Maybe your favorite restaurant is one of them.
Resigning is Not Always Random
The term “The Great Resignation” was a movement that created factions based on old-fashioned American values. Employers responded by offering more respect to employees, but the narrative is unquestionably changing.
Last year, we saw several instances where workers on all levels stood up collectively and walked away from jobs. It was a long time coming as adverse issues that lasted decades escalated. We’ve never seen businesses close or partially operate due to a lack of staffing, much less the pandemic safety precautions that inundated 2020.
Everything we were taught about resigning and its repercussions was tested and retried. But the rules were changed when many people were willing to walk away from traditionally essential jobs to expose these jobs’ true value. We love to socialize and grab a great meal at restaurants, where it was a revelation that we were all affected, even at partial capacity. But did it imply the restaurant was guilty of being a bad employer?
Bad Bosses: Standard, But Unacceptable
One can argue that companies with bad bosses were (in part) like an emperor without clothes with their employees not telling them they’re naked but instead accepting the nakedness as normal. The pandemic resulted in workers finding it unacceptable and growing intolerant as decades of patience collectively expired. Too few kings got dressed, fewer were removed, and the companies housing them begged the peasants and workers to return.
But that spirit is now normalized as companies now remember there is no kingdom without peasants. They are trying to figure out how to defuse the bomb before it goes off with increased pay, benefits, bonuses, and flexibility. That’s why four million stood up last November and December and walked out.
But that’s not the only thing employers will do to mitigate losses and potential pushback. All baseball pitchers throw brush-back pitches to ensure the batter stays in the batter’s box. Employers will do the same with employees, their hiring practices, and ways to ensure they know their place.
Why Employers Dislike Resignations
It costs employers lots of money to replace employees who either quit or are terminated.
Other surveys have analyzed whether there are negative perceptions of employees who job hop. Many employers are concerned if, when, how, and why an employee will leave them. It shouldn’t be a surprise that employees move to advance their careers. In the last 15 years, it’s more surprising a company has kept high-performing employees for more than five years.
On the contrary, employees who benefit their careers through job-hopping have counted the time lost in their strategy to gain or cut their losses because the job didn’t meet their expectations. Many millions of people have now chosen to leave their jobs. People have taken control of their careers and forced employers to reevaluate their approach to creating workplace culture.
Employers vs. Employees
The relationship between employers and employees is complicated, but the pandemic and economic downturn revealed not just a fractured relationship but an uncomfortable one. It’s been an us vs. them relationship and continues to fuel the wedge between the two. It’s impossible to count the number of documented hostile exchanges involving rank-and-file employees with team leaders, supervisors, managers, and so on — workers’ bad relationships with bosses prompt employees to quit and not wait to get the next job.
The anger from those exchanges moved them to publicly expose these exchanges to put the company in a bad light. But hostile interactions alone don’t define the adversarial relationship that exists. Arguments and fights don’t drive most people to the point of feeling undervalued or unappreciated. Bosses who demonstrate to their employees a lack of appreciation and a recognition of their value drive them away by omission and commission.
Job Stability: An Unstable Concept
Increased awareness and questions of ” job stability” start to matter whenever there is a rise of “job-hopping” or surge in resignations, increased awareness, and questions of “job stability”. Workers decide what they consider stable for themselves and their families and create narratives to offer hiring employers. Experts have theorized that “stability” doesn’t exist anymore in the last 10 years. With resignations becoming a frequent career advancement strategy, one could argue these moves are the new stability and career ownership.
Stability also came with having a retirement plan— three to five years with the company while earning the offered savings account match. While every financial expert says to save for retirement, a worker’s career advancement strategy is giving them money in the pocket, and possibly, negotiating an additional salary or signing bonus is helpful to put in a retirement fund of the worker’s choice and avoid the taxes.
There are many options now where career control is de-institutionalizing narratives such as retirement, job stability, and perception. Essentially, it’s putting more control of someone’s financial and logistical future than waiting on what the company will promise. The employee becomes a de facto contractor, knowing their time of employment will be determined by both the worker and the company. Partnership, not “family,” will be a more accurate emphasis of the relationship and disrupt the notion that resignations are expected and not an unwanted finale.
Rethinking Resignation: Wrap-Up
Workers are rethinking the concept of resignations. Just like how a star NBA player signing with a potential playoff team is welcomed, an employee becomes a contributor, not just another worker. It doesn’t take a high-profile worker to be a significant contributor for an employee. It’s simple: The worker solves a problem the employer needs. Once that is done, the employer will tell the worker if it’s time to go once the job is done or if time runs out. They can mutually continue or depart, and no party is at fault.
Today, we call such workers consultants. They aren’t subjected to stay interviews. Nor would they feel compelled to write a scathing or melancholic email saying how they are glad or sad to leave. They would already have fixed their eyes on what’s next.