The Great Resignation is Real . . . and It is Marvelous


By the end of 2021, people were quitting jobs at record rates. Although it could seem counter-intuitive for people to quit jobs during a pandemic, statistics reveal that the pandemic actually opened a rare opportunity for this trend to occur in the face of long-term workplace systemic issues and cultural context.


In November 2021 alone, 4.5 million workers in the U.S. left their jobs. At the same time hiring records were set, about 3% of the workforce quit in a month and it has been suggested that up to 33% of the workforce has either changed or considered changing jobs (Buddy Punch / MSN).


Behind the complexity of the Great Resignation lies a little acknowledged reality concerning dissatisfaction among workers. An MIT review of 34 million workers who left their jobs found that they did so not primarily because of pay, but because of toxic work cultures. In fact, it was discovered that culture was 10 times more likely than pay to be the issue. Toxic culture has been defined as including disrespectful treatment, unethical practices, and a lack of inclusion or diversity. A search for better benefits was considered another major contributing factor.


The Great Resignation has also been fueled by growing labor shortage problems, leading to work opportunities previously difficult to obtain. Some politically oriented websites, politicians, and media blamed this shortage on moral defects of people, claiming “unemployed handouts created huge worker shortage “ (The Western Journal). However, a key study behind this (Texas Public Policy Foundation) only linked the shortage to the timing of pandemic-related unemployment benefits. It did not take into consideration such factors as reduced availability of child care or students requiring home supervision during community lockdowns / quarantines. These factors are a direct result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The study completely neglects how the family response to COVID affects workplace decisions. Other studies show that employees are often driven by family circumstances in making workplace decisions. A Talroo State of Job Seekers Report found that 52% of job candidates turned down positions because of childcare-related concerns, especially impactful for millennials who are overwhelmingly in child-rearing ages.


The Texas Public Policy study also did not take into consideration the impact of a 49% reduction of legal immigration resulting from policy changes of the last administration. In the past, healthy levels of legal immigration were seen as ways to keep labor supply strong.


All of these factors have played a role in accelerating salary growth, an area sorely neglected over years of a growing divide between socioeconomic classes in the U.S. An overall 8.2% growth in wages occurred in 2020. In one of the lowest paying sectors, Hospitality and Leisure, an increase of more than 10% took place. For the first time in a long time, employees hold more power in the workplace and are leveraging it to attain greater job satisfaction, pay, and quality of life.

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