What is "The Great Resignation"?

human resources Mar 6, 2024

In recent years, the global workforce has witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon dubbed "The Great Resignation." This movement began in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which radically transformed the landscape of work, prompting millions to reevaluate their careers and life priorities. In 2021 alone, a staggering 48 million people in the United States chose to voluntarily leave their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This mass exodus from the workforce did not show signs of slowing down, as by August 2022, 4.2 million individuals were still quitting each month, surpassing the previous record set in 2019 of an average of 3.5 million monthly resignations.

The roots of The Great Resignation are complex and multifaceted, reflecting a profound shift in the collective mindset of the workforce. To understand this phenomenon in depth, we will explore ten critical aspects that have contributed to its development and persistence:

  1. Pandemic-Induced Reflection: The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for many individuals to reassess their work-life balance, career goals, and overall satisfaction with their employment. The enforced downtime and shift to remote work allowed people to reflect on what they truly value in their professional and personal lives.
  2. Seeking Higher Pay: Economic pressures and the rising cost of living have driven many to seek better-paying opportunities. The realization that their skills and contributions may be undervalued in their current roles prompted a significant number of workers to pursue higher wages elsewhere.
  3. Demand for Work-Life Balance: The pandemic highlighted the importance of balancing work demands with personal life, leading many to seek positions that offer more flexibility, remote work options, and a healthier approach to work-life integration.
  4. Career Advancement and Opportunities: A lack of growth opportunities and clear career paths within organizations has been a significant factor driving the Great Resignation. Employees feeling stagnant in their roles are more likely to leave in search of more fulfilling and progressive career opportunities.
  5. Pursuit of New Career Paths: The pandemic period has inspired many to pursue entirely new career paths aligned with their passions, values, and desired lifestyle. This shift is not just about job satisfaction but about finding purpose and meaning in their work.
  6. Family Care Responsibilities: The demands of child care or elder care have forced some individuals to resign, especially when their jobs did not offer the flexibility or support needed to manage these responsibilities effectively.
  7. Lack of Flexibility: The rigid structures of traditional office jobs have become increasingly incompatible with the modern workforce's expectations. Flexibility in working hours and location is now a priority for many.
  8. Relocation: The ability to work remotely has opened up possibilities for individuals to live away from their places of employment. This newfound freedom has led some to relocate to areas with a better quality of life or lower cost of living, necessitating a job change.
  9. Feeling Disrespected at Work: Workplace culture plays a crucial role in employee satisfaction. Feeling undervalued, disrespected, or mistreated by employers or colleagues has been a powerful motivator for individuals to leave their jobs.
  10. Hours, Benefits, and Job Security: The desire for more stable, secure employment with better benefits and reasonable working hours has also fueled the Great Resignation. Many seek roles that offer a sense of security, adequate health benefits, and a sustainable work pace.

The Great Resignation signals a profound transformation in the workforce's relationship with employment. It underscores a collective push towards more meaningful, satisfying work lives where personal well-being, respect, and growth are prioritized. As we move forward, it is clear that employers must adapt to these changing priorities by offering more flexible, supportive, and rewarding work environments to attract and retain talent.

In conclusion, The Great Resignation is more than a temporary reaction to the global pandemic; it represents a seismic shift in the workforce's values and expectations. This period of extensive change has prompted individuals and organizations alike to rethink what it means to work, live, and find fulfillment. As the dust settles, the legacy of The Great Resignation will likely be a more humane approach to work, where the well-being and aspirations of employees take center stage, leading to more resilient, engaged, and satisfied workforces.