Written by Gabriel Dillard
“Is your company prepared for the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of The Great Resignation?” The question was the opener in a mis-guided solicitation letter (I am not in HR) from a company selling Human Resource solutions: “…Better Workplaces, Better World.”
A top story still very much in the headlines, “The Great Resignation” began when record numbers of employees quit their jobs while in the throes of the hellacious past year (the pandemic, gun violence, racial tensions, the wrath of mother nature, the brutal economy, the destruction of the planet, increased UFO sightings, and, and, and…) in search of something else: living their best lives.
The latest research on this subject, released just last month, showed that some 4.5 million people voluntarily left jobs in November 2021 alone, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics called an “all-time high.” Since April 2021, nearly 33 million people have left jobs, amounting to more than one fifth of the total U.S. workforce.
What is interesting, besides the fact that our nation has finally begun to scrutinize the percentage of our lives given over to work for pay, is the list of reasons for this long-overdue reckoning. A recent report (Stillman, J. January 18, 2022. “…Top 5 Reasons People Are Quitting During the Great Resignation…Hint: None of Them is Pay), contends that the top reasons are based on employee feelings and emotion. Stillman found that the desire for higher pay did not even make the top five:
- — Toxic work culture
- — Job insecurity and reorganization
- — High levels of innovation
- — Failure to recognize performance
- — Poor response to COVID
In addition, the lack of “nonwage benefits,” like work-related social events after hours, has caused employee loyalty and company culture to decline
In contrast to America’s traditional “work till you drop” ethic, many of the disillusioned are now lauding those “idlers” or minimalist colleagues who do the least amount of work needed to collect a paycheck. These ne’er-do-wells who were previously considered annoying at best, have become a kind of “anti-hero.” It is perhaps they who have had the right idea all along. Is it the personal and financial satisfaction we derive from giving all our energy to our jobs, or the pursuit and pleasure of our personal interests that matter most in a balanced and happy life?
Doreen Ford, who works for Reddit and monitors “Anti-work” social media pages, says: “Everyone has had their limit with COVID, overwork, mortgages, rent payments, and so many things with capitalism. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a break from that and do less of it.” Ford says she sees “a major snub towards capitalism” afoot.
While some blamed the rash of quittings on Generation Z — known in general for their slower, less ambitious outlooks on life — many quitters span the age and career-stage spectrum. Could the examples set by other forward-thinking countries (like in Europe) where the work-life balance is honored as an important aspect of personal happiness, finally be coming to America?
“We are experiencing a moment of worker empowerment,” says Anthony Klotz, the Texas A&M University professor and organizational psychologist who coined the phrase “Great Resignation.” Klotz predicts that around 23%, one-quarter of the American workforce, will seek new jobs in 2022. The tighter labor market is forcing companies of all kinds to offer employees more: higher salaries, better benefits, and flexible schedules/work locations.
A surprising side-effect of the pandemic for many workers was the freedom to work from anywhere, but especially from home. According to polls by ResumeBuilder.com, this flexibility is highly valued by workers, even more than higher pay. With remote work now offered as a perk of employment, the cursed commute to and from work could become obsolete.
As opportunists peddle would-be solutions to our beleaguered society, we must acknowledge that the sign of these times is change. In the solicitation letter (Better Workplaces, Better World), the HR company promised to “ease the burden on employers to find new workers, and relieve the stress, anxiety and burnout (caused) by employee turnover.” While acknowledging that today’s workers want: “…new positions more aligned with their revised personal and professional needs.”
Eternally relevant but especially today, Bob Dylan is still correct: the times are indeed a-changin’. A progressive group in Congress very recently proposed a bill to change the standard work week from five days and 40 hours to four days and 32 hours.
Whether it happens sooner or later, it seems clear that big changes in our work culture are on the way. Hopefully the Great Resignation will finally usher in more authentic and evenly balanced life choices for us all.
Diane Skouti is a resident of Fresno and has a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration and Leadership from Fresno State. She works at San Joaquin College of Law as the Alumni Coordinator and is a freelance writer in her free time.