The Great Resignation has been in full swing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Droves of dissatisfied workers quitting their jobs has been one of the fundamental questions with regard to the recovery of the economy and return to normalcy post-pandemic. Employees have been given a new perspective on their work life, as the pandemic redefined the relationship between employee and employer.
First, a look at the current trends. In a survey, 41% percent of current employees are planning to leave their job within the next year, and 53% of workers are more likely to prioritize well-being over work than before the pandemic. Job-quitting remains consistent at over 4 million quits each month.
New hires are a large cost to employers, who have a strong desire to retain employees. With a definite lack of retention in many workplaces, it’s clear there is a weak incentive for much of the working population to continue for their current employer.
The Great Resignation is not in vain. Those who have changed jobs over the past year have seen a 16.1% increase in annual pay. Contrarily, job-stayers have only experienced 7.6% median change in annual pay — well less than half of those seeking to work somewhere else.
While the job market is slowly regaining its balance from earlier in the year, the Great Resignation is incessantly pervasive as companies continue struggling to hire workers. Amidst inflation and economic uncertainty, labor markets are tight. Over the summer, employers continued to add new jobs which far outpaced the employees able to fill the open positions.
The Great Resignation is not an enigma. Workers nationwide have re-evaluated fundamental views on their employer and work life, and have become more aware of their leverage as an employee in a job market. Workers’ incentives have shifted, and the economic power within employment has been able to shift as well.
Plainly, employees feel like their work is not treating them fairly. Workers across the board have realized their conditions may be too unsafe or too demanding, and these jobs do not properly compensate for its risks and demands. Office workers, upon working from home, have realized that it may be unnecessary to always be physically present, as in pre-COVID-19 times, and are pushing back against fully returning to work.
American work culture is outdated. The gritty and selfless expectations of workers do not appear to hold up in the 21st century. Though older generations may accuse younger ones of lethargy and lacking ambition, personal values have been changing.
The Great Resignation should not be a pejorative. Instead, it should be an indicator that workers are gaining more individual mobility and flexibility within a job market. Employers must adapt to how modern work is expressed.
Many argue for the need for unions to solve labor issues. The idea of unionization has been slowly growing in popularity, but in practice has had no large feats, with unions forming mostly in workplaces such as Starbucks. Union membership has been declining over the years — collective bargaining is slow and awkward, encumbered by drawn-out negotiations and its own bureaucracy. Workers need their own independent facilities, not answering to two bosses.
Instead of unions, much more economic efficiency comes from independent and self-interested workers, which the Great Resignation promotes. This labor trend is a catharsis for our economy. It is a push for better employee-employer matching. Following this period of economic turmoil is a new, healthier and more productive economy.