Bruce Feiler of The Nonlinerar Life recently explored the origins of our phrase of the moment, the great resignation. He also found that it might be a myth, or that at the very least, it's been slowly happening for about 20 years. And it has little to do with people suddenly being able to walk away from their jobs during the pandemic.

Feiler credits a professor of management at Texas A&M for coining the phrase while speaking as an expert on why people quit their jobs to Bloomberg reporter Arianne Cohen early last year.  Feiler quotes Professor Anthony Klotz, “I was sharing my research and mentioned that I think it's really valuable that she's doing this story, because I think there's going to be a great resignation in the US and the coming months.”

Feiler then decided to look at some statistics from the labor department having to do with the quit rate. The quit rate is the number of people who quit their jobs every month. These aren't people laid off, furloughed, or fired. Just people who voluntarily quit their job.

He found that four and a half million people quit per month in 2021. Which sounds like a great resignation right? Except four million people quit per month in 2020. Three million quit per month in 2018. And two million per month in 2012. He found that "the quit rate has increased every year except one for the last two decades—and that year was following the Great Recession."

He also found a consensus emerging on why people quit their jobs, and it's really not that surprising if you ask me. Looking at various studies, he found that people quit their jobs for the following reasons:

  • Personal Opportunity - And a lot of this has to do with how much people are paid, opportunities for advancement, work flexibility and benefits.
  • Toxic Work Culture - Money isn't the main reason people quit their job. Work cultures that failed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion along with workers feeling disrespected or companies engaging in unethical behavior led people to quit.
  • Weaker Work Friendships - Research shows employees pick a place to work not just for rational reasons, but also for social reasons. Our new work from anywhere culture weakens not only the attachment to the office but also weakens our attachment to work friends making it easier to leave a job.

Feiler's takeaway from this is twofold, one is that people are trying to take control of their lives back from external forces -- whether they are parental expectations, societal pressures, or employer demands. His second point is, yes the resignations are real, but it's been going on for decades, and thus, the great resignation as a result of the pandemic is a myth.

Truthfully, nothing in this is surprising to me. For those that sign on for a broadcast career, be it television or radio, leaving for personal opportunities is somewhat understood. So is occasionally finding yourself in a toxic environment that is less than ideal. And in good situations, the hardest part of moving on in a broadcast career, many times is the work-family you leave behind.

In fact, to me, the great resignation as it's called has always been part of my career. Because it's the nature of the business. So maybe it's not something I've seen keep growing and growing as more people aggressively try to better their lives by moving on.

I think it's healthy to want to be paid what you're worth in a job. And I think it's healthy to move on to greener pastures. Or to pursue positions that will help you grow in your chosen field. And yes, it's absolutely essential to one's mental health to move on from positions that impact your mental health negatively. And I'm encouraged people from all walks of life are engaged in this behavior.

It might stink if you're a human resources professional, or someone tasked with keeping an assembly line rolling, a restaurant staffed up, or a corporation that's always looked at your human assets as an expenditure.

But I agree completely with Feiler when he says people finding work that's meaningful and more suited to our own needs is something we should all embrace. That's a good thing for us mentally, physically, and hopefully for our bank accounts.

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