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Great Resignation
The Great Resignation Over-Hype. Was this really the #1 Story?
November 16, 2022

*An asterisk indicates a subject we will write about in the future.

Intro: Making use of the Great Resignation

Has “The Great Resignation” been overhyped? You’re probably tired of hearing the story.  Apparently no one wants to work.  But yet, we’re all still working.  Employees and applicants are still looking for jobs that give us purpose and put money in the bank.  Recruiters are looking for ideal placements.

Our clients? They are simply looking for employees who can fill open positions.

How did this become such a challenge?  What can we all gain from the “Great Resignation”?

The “Great Resignation”: Another term “Coined” or Mislabeled.

So much for The Great Resignation. We loved talking about– complaining about– the “Great Resignation”: A term used to describe the elevated rate U.S. workers quit their jobs around the Spring of 2021—about a year into the Covid pandemic.  Unquestionably, the world felt different for most of us.  But what was the difference compared with the prior decades of our lives? We still needed money, a means to provide.  It seems like we all worked through the Great Resignation. Why were we so enamored with the idea of a Great Resignation? Because, more than ever, we search for a purpose. 

We wondered why there was no Great Resignation after other world changing events like 1929 (Wall Street Crash leads to Depression), 1962 (Cuban Missile Crisis), 1966 (China goes full blown Communist), 1982 (Mexico Debt Crisis), 1987 (Stock Market Crash), 2001 (9-11), 2008 (Financial Crisis). Stop arguing causes and think about employee reactions. Great Resignation or just Reprioritization?

Why Covid-19 Great Resignation Different?*

Workers said their attitude changed: Great Resignation or Reprioritization?

Workers rattled off the reasons we all would suspect, and accept, for a Great Resignation. Low pay, lack of respect in the workplace, difficulties managing child care when schools we’re still operating remotely and, of course, simple burn out.  The Covid pandemic forced an opportunity for people to reflect on how they wanted to live their lives and what really mattered.  But businesses needed to maintain business—build, provide the goods and services for which they exist.  Workers we’re reflecting, and businesses were, and still are, facing a talent retention crisis.

(Pro Hint: We have heard this forever. We think that American workers were finally given the opportunity to pause their work lives for an extended period of time, all at once. This happened while the government paid them enough to survive.)

We expect this hint just upset a few of our readers

The Great Resignation does have legitimacy beyond the hype. Here, thoughts from a real pro.

Organizational psychologist, Anthony Klotz, is credited with introducing the phrase —In an interview with Bloomberg, Klotz announced within a year of the pandemic onset, “the great resignation is coming”. Fortune magazine summarized the story.  https://fortune.com/2022/04/04/great-resignation-could-last-years-expert-says/

Then came the Punditocracy. The “Great Resignation” was Impactful

Soon we realized Klotz’s forecast .  The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) revealed that, in the Spring of 2021, over 4 million workers quit their jobs.  It wasn’t a blip– JOLTS showed that as of February 2022, we experienced the ninth consecutive month that quitting work exceeded over 4 million [former] workers.  Klotz expected the trend to continue.  Workers continued quitting, and, seemingly, people continued “sorting out their lives,” said Klotz. 

Which made us think….

It wasn’t, and isn’t, simply about work dissatisfaction—we’ve experienced that without mass resignations since the industrial revolution brought us into the collective workspace.  Maybe the Great Resignation had legitimate staying power in some respects.

Now, as more companies ramp up return-to-office plans, it’s evident that workers aren’t prepared to give up the autonomy of working from home and some are quitting as a result.

Great Resignation
Mike thinking, “This can’t be right”.

Kim Parker gets closer to the real cause: Great Resignation or Greater Opportunity?

Writing for the Pew Research Center, Kim Parker and Juliana Menasce Horowitz https://www.Pewresearch.Org/fact-tank/2022/03/09/majority-of-workers-who-quit-a-job-in-2021-cite-low-pay-no-opportunities-for-advancement-feeling-disrespected/

This article nails the “low pay” and a “lack of opportunities for advancement” as the main reasons why Americans resigned last year. (We Agreed) However, Kim also found that those who those who quit and subsequently found new work are more likely to now experience higher pay with more opportunities for advancement in addition to better work-life balance and flexibility.   (We only partially agreeNo surprise—respecting your employees contributions and promoting their happiness enhances retention and productivity.

(We were not surprised.)

What the “Data” says about the Great Resignation

You may already know what we think about data generally – It’s assembled to prove a point so it’s inherently biased. Plus data has a way of giving you half right answers that are difficult to argue against, because it’s data…Still it’s worth a look:

A closer look at why people left to begin with, around half stated child care issues and a lack of flexibility and paid time off was a major reason for resignations. For the most part, workers who quit a job last year and are now employed somewhere else see their current work situation as an improvement over their most recent job. At least half of these workers say that compared with their last job, they are now earning more money (56%), have more opportunities for advancement (53%), have an easier time balancing work and family responsibilities (53%) and have more flexibility to choose when they put in their work hours (50%).

Pro Hint: See all those 50% numbers? That means the data shows nothing changes job to job really.

Part 1 Reclassifying the “Great Resignation”: Conclusion*

Each one of us needs to question the headlines and the conclusions from the punditocracy. It’s the easy way out to agree.

But to cut and paste reasons for something called The Great Resignation into a post or weekly meeting deck has impact.

Did anyone ask, “Is this really a Great Resignation or is it a shift in the way businesses work and how that shift impacts the employee?”


How many of these resignations were “resign or be let go” alternatives?

Think about it, share your comments and look to Part 2 on Tuesday.

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