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What's Causing the Great Resignation?

Why 40% of Workers Are Considering Quitting Their Jobs Soon?

Have you heard about “The Great Resignation?” It is a term that describes the trend of the mass voluntary exit of employees from their employment obligations. The term was originally coined by Anthony Klotz, a management professor.

Many believe that this trend of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs began in early 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but in actuality, the pandemic may have simply exacerbated an already occurring, if not yet overwhelmingly pervasive problem. The Great Resignation is the term generally used to describe the pandemic’s effect on the workplace, particularly relating to employee-decided resignations during the pandemic.

What are Some of the Reasons Behind the Great Resignation?

Dr. Simone Phipps points out that there are many reasons behind the Great Resignation and workers’ priorities play a significant role in their decision to resign. Phipps states that: “Older employees may have used the pandemic as their opportunity to retire and as a result, protect their health and life, and spend more quality time with family and friends. Younger employees who are not as susceptible to Covid and its menacing outcomes if contracted may have heard and observed the daunting stories, images, and videos of sickness and death, and decided that they have one life to live and they want to live it to the fullest. Living life to the fullest usually does not include a job where one feels unappreciated (or underappreciated) and/or a job that inhibits their ability to do the things that really matter to them.”

More than 4 million people have left their jobs each month in the U.S. so far this year — and according to new research, this record-breaking trend isn’t going to quit anytime soon. 

About 40% of workers are considering quitting their current jobs in the next 3-to-6 months, a report from McKinsey and Co. published last week, which surveyed more than 13,000 people across the globe, including 6,294 Americans, between February and April, has found. 

“This isn’t just a passing trend, or a pandemic-related change to the labor market,” Bonnie Dowling, one of the authors of the report, says of the elevated quit rates. “There’s been a fundamental shift in workers’ mentality, and their willingness to prioritize other things in their life beyond whatever job they hold. … We’re never going back to how things were in 2019.” Resignation jpeg

Implications for Employers

The Great Resignation has implications for companies, many of which are struggling to attract and retain employees — a pattern that had undoubtedly caused a lot of headaches for HR departments throughout the U.S. but has also opened the door for job-seekers to take advantage of new opportunities that might have been out of reach before the pandemic.

Employers need to find ways to stem the rising tide of resignations. There is a real cost when this occurs: finding equally experienced new people, training them, and giving them the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace.

Of the people who quit without a new job in hand, close to half (47%) chose to return to the workforce — but only 29% went back to a traditional, full-time job, the report notes. These percentages come from a March McKinsey & Co. survey of 600 U.S. workers who voluntarily left a job without another one lined up.

The remaining 18% of people either found a new role with reduced hours through temporary, gig or part-time work or decided to start their own business.

“People aren’t tolerating toxic bosses and toxic cultures anymore, because they can leave and find other ways to make money without being in a negative situation,” Dowling says. “There are more opportunities for work now than ever before with our increased connectivity.” 

More people are choosing to be their own boss: Over the course of the pandemic, new business applications grew by more than 30%, with almost 5.4 million new applications in 2021 alone, the White House said in an April press release. 

It’s not just about escaping a toxic work environment, either. Such non-traditional pursuits also fulfill people’s growing desire for flexibility. The freedom to work from anywhere, or choose your own hours, has become the most sought-after benefit during the pandemic — so much so that people value flexibility as much as a 10% pay raise, according to research from the WFH Research Project.

The Importance of a Strong Work Ethic

I have my own take on the reasons for The Great Resignation. One is that unemployment benefits have increased since Covid, so some workers simply resign, take a period of time off from the job market, and then go back to work when they want or need to do so.

Perhaps the most important reason is a lack of work ethic. Long gone are the days where employees remained with one employer to build a successful career and remain in the employ of a company that is respected. Loyalty in this sense is nowhere to be found.

The loss of a strong work ethic exists in all segments of society, I believe. It may be due to the entitlement phenomenon that many associate with millennial workers. They, and others, feel the job owes them certain things – good pay, flexible hours, health benefits, advancement opportunities, and so on. Nowhere in the calculus is what they owe the job and employer.

Competing with the Chinese

We need to regain a strong work ethic if we are to compete with China and other Asian countries that have a strong work ethic in their DNA.

Asian college students tend to pursue careers in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in greater numbers than their American counterparts. Asian professionals gravitate to careers in Science and Technology fields. It could be that the work ethics necessary to be successful in these complex fields is too much of a commitment for some American college students.

Cynics have said that Americans prefer to seek out opportunities more aligned with being a videoblogger and social influencer because of what they see on a daily basis on social media sites such as You Tube, Instagram, and TikTok.

The following Harris Poll says it all.

Great resignation blog

The corporate world and university educators need to join forces and build a roadmap to incentivize American youth to study the STEM subjects and compete with the Chinese and other Asian students. We can't continue to lose the race in this regard and let the Chinese become the world's greatest economic power. The trend is in that direction already.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on August 4, 2022. You can sign up for Steve’s newsletter and learn more about his activities on his website  ( and by following him on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: