Why is the Great Resignation Strengthening?

The great resignation is gaining steam. More employees report that they no longer feel engaged at work. Most are interested in developing new skills and would leave their current employers for a unique opportunity. 

There’s also a growing contingent of people who are disillusioned and angry at workplace culture in general. They are frustrated at a combination of policies and value systems that seem to always benefit businesses while workers struggle.

Need further evidence of this? Head over to Reddit, and witness the explosive popularity of the antiwork page on that site. The group is dedicated to encouraging workers to reclaim their power by:

  • Leaving jobs with low pay or abusive management tactics
  • Boycotting companies that don’t take good care of their workers
  • Unionizing
  • Reporting companies with illegal labor practices

More notably, members are encouraged to rethink the notion that a person’s value stems from their loyalty to an employer and their ability to be productive. While many of the sentiments expressed on the page are quite controversial, ignoring the frustration and anger driving them would be foolish.

What exactly is going on? Why is the great resignation growing instead of slowing down? What can companies do to address the concerns that are being raised?

There Is a Backlash Against Anti Worker Sentiment

To a large extent, the great resignation is an inevitable response to anti worker sentiment that was prevalent even before the pandemic. Consider the push to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour. 

While many people strongly favor a minimum wage increase, the issue became more fodder for the culture war. Many politicians, pundits, company executives, even regular citizens sneered at the idea that “burger flippers deserved that much money” and claimed that people should “just find better jobs.”

Additionally, several states have passed or attempted to pass “right to work” or other anti-union legislation. This push has left workers feeling disillusioned and unappreciated. 

Worse, many feel powerless to make changes within the system. It’s much easier to leave a job when there’s no meaningful way to otherwise protect one’s interests.

Grind Culture Is Grinding to a Halt

Before the pandemic, it seemed as if everyone had a side hustle. People were regularly taking on gig work, freelancing, or moonlighting. Workers felt pressured to always be available and productive. All of this was part of a “Grind Culture” that, on the surface, appeared to promote entrepreneurship, achievement, and an extreme work ethic.

People believed that by grinding, they too would achieve the American dream, or at least they would finally get the recognition they deserved from their employers. That didn’t happen. Now, people are rejecting the grind in favor of work-life balance and employers who respect that balance.

The Pandemic was a Major Catalyst

During the pandemic, employers sent many workers home. Others were deemed essential and remained on the job. It turns out that people in both groups spent a large part of the pandemic feeling demoralized, unappreciated, and in many cases, unsafe.

People who stayed on the job cited the following concerns and frustrations:

  • A lack of workplace safety protocols
  • Customers who refused to comply with masking and distancing requirements
  • Failure by management to provide adequate shift coverage
  • Loss of hours
  • More duties with less time to complete them
  • Abusive customers
  • Lack of paid leaves

While many who were laid off qualified for enhanced unemployment benefits, they also struggled during the pandemic. At the same time, many felt shamed by politicians and members of the public who insinuated that these extra benefits were just encouraging people to be lazy and take advantage of the system.

It certainly didn’t help that while workers struggled, many companies showed record profits during the pandemic, and executive pay continued to grow exponentially.

Ultimately, workers became frustrated during the pandemic, questioned if their employers valued them, and began to question whether they should make some major changes. Many of them did make those changes. They developed new skills, pulled the trigger on impending retirement, began freelancing, or simply left the workforce entirely.

Workers are Frustrated by Response to the Great Resignation

The great resignation has been going on for a while now. Unfortunately, the response to it has been less than stellar. Many workers feel as though their positions have been misunderstood, and in many cases, deliberately misrepresented.

There are claims that people, especially Millennials and Zoomers, simply don’t want to work for a living. Businesses blame limited hours and slow customer service on their inability to hire and retain workers but do little to offer workers incentives to stay. Instead, they appear intent on whipping up anti-worker sentiment.

Even those who are sympathetic to workers don’t always understand the issue. For example, many forget that the ability to resign is a sign of privilege. People struggling with low wages often don’t have that luxury. 

Others support band-aid solutions that do nothing to create equity or make systemic changes to prevent the exploitation of workers.

Listen and Make Meaningful Structural Changes

There’s hope underneath all of these layers of anger and discontent. The truth is that people do want to work and will reward good employers with loyalty and engagement. 

Employers can surely weather this storm with their staff intact, and those that are struggling can choose to make changes that are truly geared toward addressing workers’ concerns. Here are some steps to take:

  • Use culture analytics to collect information that can help you understand how workers and candidates perceive your company
  • Review your salary and benefit offerings to see if they are competitive in your industry and region
  • Be proactive about managing your employer brand
  • Work to improve employee engagement by providing professional development plans, training, and other support
  • Make meaningful changes in your workplace culture where needed, including in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion

By making these changes, great businesses will continue to build teams of talented individuals. 

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