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Why is everyone quitting and how do I know if it’s time to quit my job?


PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

More people than ever are leaving their jobs.

They seem to come from all industries and span generations. Some are implementing long-delayed departure plans, no longer wanting or unable to wait for the end of the pandemic. Others are exhausted by too long shifts, late nights and unspent vacation days. And many say the public health crisis has forced them to reassess their work and priorities.

Whatever the cause, the rush to quit is accelerating: a record 4.3 million people – about 2.9% of the national workforce – quit in August, according to data from the Department of Labor released Tuesday. In September, the country’s unemployment rate fell to a pandemic low of 4.8%, but the drop was largely due to people leaving the workforce. What’s more, according to Gallup data, nearly half of American workers are actively seeking new opportunities.

Here’s what you need to know about The Great Resignation – and what to consider before you join us.

Who is leading the Great Resignation?

An exodus of workers from retail, warehouses, restaurants and bars, health care and social assistance has pushed departures to record levels, according to data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The burden of the pandemic has persisted as government support has dried up and the fallout breaks gender and socio-economic dividing lines: 309,000 women over 20 left the workforce in September , which means they quit or stopped looking for a job. In contrast, 182,000 men were added, according to data from the Ministry of Labor.

Women have borne the brunt of job losses since the start of the pandemic, according to research from the Brookings Institution. Overrepresented in low-paying service jobs, they’ve been caught in the crossfire between increased demands for childcare (thanks to the disruption of the delta variant of reopening schools and the lack of vaccines for children). They are also more likely to work in positions that require face-to-face work, which increases their risk of infection with the coronavirus.

And while workers 25 and over with college degrees fully recovered from pandemic job losses in May, Americans of a similar age group without a degree remain 4.6 million jobs in below pre-pandemic levels.

“People’s return to the workforce has come to a halt,” said Brad McMillan, investment manager for the Commonwealth Financial Network, in a comment this week. “The biggest problem is not that growth has slowed; is that people are still afraid to go back to work.

Why are so many workers leaving?

Workers are quitting at or near record levels in nearly every industry tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2001. But the pains are most acute among low-wage workers, who economists say are revolting against years of bad wages and stressful conditions. . Many are now less willing to put up with inconvenient hours and low pay and are giving up at this point in the pandemic to find better opportunities elsewhere.

Almost 40% of workers who quit in August worked in restaurants and hotels. Resignations are also skyrocketing among manufacturing and warehouse workers, who are under pressure from growing demand and shrinking supply chains.

Some have taken to TikTok to voice their grievances, posting videos under the hashtag #QuitMyJob that often refer to toxic workplaces. A notable example came last fall, when Shana Blackwell broadcast her resignation from a Texas Walmart (over the store’s intercom), claiming she was being pushed to the brink by what she had. called the store’s “toxic, sexist and racist” environment. The video has racked up millions of views.

Walmart told HuffPost it took Blackwell’s concerns seriously and took “corrective action” after his complaints were investigated, but declined to disclose whether disciplinary action had been taken.

Salaried workers are also at their wit’s end, tired of the tension between employer pressures to return to the office and the uncertainty surrounding vaccination mandates. Almost half of executives recently surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said their companies had experienced high turnover in the past six months.

Flexibility in when and where workers do their jobs now trumps pay as a concern for many workers, Grant Thornton’s recent survey of the state of work in America found, half of respondents saying they would forgo a salary increase for more flexibility. Burnout remains one of the main reasons employees seek other opportunities.

And an increase in savings thanks to government stimulus measures, booming stock markets and fewer spending options during the pandemic could mean some households have more funds to support them in the meantime.

What does this mean for the economy?

The wave of resignations is hampered by an existing labor shortage, which means employers are under more pressure to retain their employees. At the end of August, there were more than 10.4 million unfilled jobs in the US workforce, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Labor.

It also exacerbates uncertainties for businesses: Small business owners have become “pessimistic” about future economic conditions, according to the September survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Some 51% of business owners said they had vacancies that could not be filled, a record for the third month in a row.

“Organizations are currently very open to saying, ‘What can we do to retain employees? “Said Anthony Klotz, a Texas A&M professor who studies the reasons people quit.

The battle for talent has prompted some companies to raise salaries and offer sign-up bonuses and other business softeners to attract new hires. In May, for the first time, the national average hourly wage of non-managers in restaurants and bars exceeded $ 15. Costco, Amazon, CVS, and Walgreens all have hourly minimums of $ 15 or more. And over the summer, Walmart, Target and Amazon all announced they would start offering free tuition and textbooks to employees.

It is still unclear how this reassessment of work will play out in the future. For now, people are still hesitant to take the first jobs available to them, if they don’t believe they are good jobs. And they don’t hesitate to leave a situation they don’t like.

How do you know if it’s time to go?

The mass departures are being driven by a combination of factors, including the feeling among many Americans that there are more opportunities and better wages elsewhere.

But employees might be able to repair or redo their roles from the inside out, a process known as jobcrafting that has been studied for years. As researchers Justin Berg, Jane Dutton, and Amy Wrzesniewski put it in a 2007 article published by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, “Job designs are not fixed; they can be adapted over time to accommodate the unique and evolving backgrounds, motivations and preferences of employees. They argue that job creation can lead to more engaged and efficient workers, which ultimately benefits businesses.

So before resigning, experts say, workers can consider options such as: Can I change teams or departments? Is there a way for me to take on fewer or more interesting tasks, or shift some responsibilities? Is there anything my employer could offer – more money, a promotion, more free time – that would make the role more meaningful?

Given the current work climate, employees have stronger cards when pushing for change. If managers don’t engage, this could be the answer you need.

How to get out gracefully?

A literal resignation usually begins with a simple email or in-person meeting. It can be short, but should include a straightforward statement that you are leaving and why. Most businesses expect at least two weeks’ notice, but the time frame varies depending on the situation. You may need to leave earlier, for example, if the work environment is toxic or unsafe. In other cases, employees and managers may work on a longer window to ease the transition to work.

It’s best not to belittle your employer when leaving, labor experts say, and usually there’s little to be gained from doing so.

Klotz notes that the balance of power changes as soon as the decision is made to resign. At this point, “you don’t need it anymore, and weird things happen when people get that power surge. A lot of times our real selves really stand out, which is why people burn bridges and things like that.

He urged caution when using this power and suggested looking for ways to minimize the disruption your departure might cause.

Even if the position did not meet expectations, there may be aspects for which you can express your gratitude. If the job was difficult, for example, write down what you learned from overcoming these challenges? A simple “thank you” can go a long way in facilitating your departure.

If you want to go above and beyond to maintain a positive relationship with your (soon to be) former employer, consider making yourself available to offer advice even after you leave. It may be a sacrifice on your part, but it allows you to keep the door open for better opportunities in the future.