What Led to 2021’s Great Resignation?

Maya KosoffFuture of Work

As you may have heard, or seen via a series of viral, maybe-real iMessage exchanges between bosses and workers quitting their jobs, tons of people are quitting their jobs right now. It began in April, when the number of employees who quit their jobs in a one-month span broke a record. Then it happened again in July and again in August, when 4.3 million people quit their jobs — about 2.9 percent of the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calls these people “quits,” and they exist within every industry.

In fact, over the past several months this tidal wave of Americans quitting their jobs has only grown, including a record 4.4 million Americans quitting their job in September, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To better understand this Great Resignation, as it’s known, the Predictive Index surveyed 1,906 employees from more than 15 different industries earlier this year. A report from The Predictive Index offers clues to why so many workers are quitting. And it may not be for the reasons you think.

Though the Great Resignation began with the service industry in light of the pandemic with rising health and safety concerns, more workplaces across sectors have encountered retention issues, with attrition rates that may be more closely linked to psychological wellbeing than physical safety. According to the survey, 48% of employees have thought about changing careers within the past 12 months. And of those who have considered a career change in the past, 57% are thinking of leaving their company within the next 12 months.

One reason why workers may be looking to head elsewhere is likely not physical safety — after all, 79% of people reported feeling “feel comfortable” working in-person post-COVID.

It may, in part, have to do with managers. 65% of the survey’s respondents considered their managers are either “good” or “world-class,” and only 13% considered them “terrible” or “not-so-great.” The remaining 22% said “average.” But of the respondents who said they have bad managers, 63% are considering quitting in the next year. Only 27% of those with a good manager (good or world-class) said the same. Of respondents with a bad manager, a staggering 70% said “some” of their team members are thinking of leaving the team or company.

Managers are also experiencing a wave of burnout, and this burnout is impacting managers and their teams alike. The Predictive Index 2021 State of Talent Optimization Report found that 32% of respondents said managers are experiencing the highest level of burnout, and it’s clear there’s a perception that managers are struggling to stay afloat. 36% of respondents agree that their managers seem burned out, which left unaddressed can lead to bigger issues of attrition. Of respondents who said their manager is burned out, 58% are considering quitting. Of those whose managers aren’t burned out, just 16% are considering leaving.

According to the survey, the number one skill employees value from their managers is confidence, and the number one skill employees feel their managers lack is communication. The lack of communication is even more pronounced among respondents with burned-out managers. Employees with good managers are more likely to say their company is helping them adjust to change. Addressing burnout across levels at companies may not only help managers, who are facing a crisis in American workforces — it can help other employees feel more engaged and connected too.

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