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Nov 14, 2022

What 2021 has taught us about the Great Resignation

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Alexandra Martin

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18 min

Last modified date

November 14, 2022


The Great Resignation explains recent job shortages, job-hopping, and why professionals navigate a rapidly-changing work environment.

It must have been early February 2021 when I first noticed the people around me experiencing ennui after long months of lockdown. Some were adjusting their WFH systems and family dynamics. Others were recovering from a terrible bout of COVID-19.

“I’ve lived through hell—now what? Am I supposed to come back to work and keep grinding?” So, after (careful) consideration, some of them left their jobs.

I wasn’t that connected to the news due to the widespread fear-mongering and political tug-of-war, so I brushed off the phenomenon that would soon get popularized as “The Great Resignation” by Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist and professor, in an interview for Bloomberg.

What’s up with the name? “The Great Resignation” is somewhat reminiscent of the Great Depression or the Great Recession, inevitably priming people into thinking it will have undesirable long-lasting consequences on the labor market.

But the Great Resignation is fundamentally unique—imagine a VENN diagram of a growing talent pool, job shortages, and a rapidly-changing work environment.

We’ll probably see different iterations in the decades to come. It is a lot like a tidal wave—a powerful movement—and professionals across industries are riding it in droves.

In this think piece, I’m sharing what I believe is the unifying link behind apparently disparate reasons for turnover, i.e. employees leaving their positions. Plus, I’ll outline some predictions for 2022.

The “new normal” — a global trend

Back to the story. In mid-spring of last year, I started getting recommendations in my social media feed. I received tips in my newsletters on how to tell my boss I’m quitting, how to look for a job while on the job, how to quit my job without burning bridges, and so on.

If someone accidentally read my mail, they’d think I was secretly looking for a new job. Still, friends and coworkers kept riding the wave and people around were quitting at unexpected rates.

The part-structural-part-cyclical unemployment of 2020 forced people to stay home when businesses and factories halted production and when hotels and restaurants closed down.

You’d think that after the health crisis stabilized, people would go back to pre-pandemic work, back to “normal”. That’s when it dawned on me—the new normal might be just this—finding normalcy in a new (work) environment.

Great Resignation Wave

The evidence was all around me—the Great Resignation proved to be global. Though not as exacerbated as in the United States, most developed nations were experiencing a similar trend.

At that point in mid-July, there were worries whether the Great Resignation would spill over Europe in light of a 15% increase in layoffs across European countries. At first it wasn’t clear whether employees quit their jobs out of dissatisfaction or due to the job shortages in the industries directly affected by the pandemic.

In Germany, the ‘Great Withdrawal Wave’ (die große Kündigungswelle) was more prominent than in France or Italy, who were confident that companies and the labor market would not face the disruptions the US was experiencing.

In Japan, the ‘Great Retirement Era’ or the ‘Age of Great Retirement’  (dai taishoku jidai) targeted mostly white-collar jobs (e.g. clerical jobs). The movement picked up pace possibly in an attempt to change the rigid employment practices and seniority-based wage system, among other reasons.

Similarly, China’s ‘lying flat [on the floor]’ (tang ping) is a different shade altogether—instead of quitting their jobs,  employees decide to revert to an energy-saving mode, so to speak—somewhat like a form of protesting against the status quo.

The numbers

The Great Resignation didn’t affect only low-wage workers (Bloomberg, 2021). The US Bureau of Statistics notes that the voluntary turnover rate of high-performing white-collar employees was 3% in 2021, and another 3.4% for private companies, not including layoffs, thus setting an all-time high this fall.

On average, 3 to 4.5 million employees quit work each month on average, amounting to almost 35 million (JOLTS, 2022).

One in five (25%) employees changed their jobs willingly, while almost a third (29%) were laid off or discharged by the employer (Apollo Technical, 2022).

Granted, there are other mitigating factors. The sanitary crisis brought about other separations such as retirement, death, transfers, and disability due to long COVID-19. Long COVID-affected knowledge workers experienced brain fog, burnout, higher cognitive load, and mental fatigue.

The Great Why

In a sense, the Great Resignation was bound to happen. It’s because for once, the world stopped turning. Indeed, the pandemic provided the inner drive and the outer justification to actuate some sort of change—a career change in this case. And who can blame them?

“So, Covid was simply a knothole, an opportune catalyst. A pause that gave me time to ponder, and I realized… after over thirty-five years on the job, I was burnt out, a little. I was also a little bored. And I was feeling a little unappreciated.” Rick Hernz, via Quora.

What the Great Resignation actually did was simply provide justification. Regardless of the (actual) reason, people just went for it. And they did it unapologetically.

The Great Resignation comes in stark contrast to other turnover trends in history when certain generations were blamed for not helping the economy enough.

In the 2020s, society is no longer judging and blaming, but understanding and empathizing with the unfulfilled or burnt-out employee. Society understood that individuals took the leap because the door of change had been wide open.

I’ll try to outline a few of the contributing factors to the Great Resignation. All of these are intuitive – you’ve probably heard them from your peers or acquaintances, just as I have.

Firstly, I noticed a pattern that the people around needed a motivation boost—I daresay rightly so. And by this, I don’t mean a pep talk, but a focus on intrinsic motivation, namely:

1. a need for autonomy

The freedom to determine where, when, and what to work on is indispensable in the hybrid workforce. Autonomy goes hand in hand with flexibility.

Lockdowns and restrictions forced companies and institutions to establish remote work policies. That’s when employees and companies reached common ground – choosing where to work from improved productivity. Latest surveys show that 62% of employees expect to keep working remotely post-pandemic (Intuition, 2022).

In order to reduce social contact in the office or lessen the strain on working parents caring for their children during remote learning, flexitime was a given. Choosing when to work engendered a greater sense of autonomy (Glowacka, 2020).

Choosing what to work on is a great intrinsic motivator that empowers workers across industries. The pandemic forced companies in particular to focus on the “vital few” tasks that generated the best outcomes. As a bonus, they had to cut down on bureaucracy and red tape. It’s Pareto’s Principle at its finest.

A different kind of intrinsic motivation, highest on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is:

2. a need for self-actualization

There have been alternative terms for the Great Resignation exactly to pinpoint the need for self-fulfillment, for peak experiences and personal growth. Called the Great Reevaluation, it affirmed people’s need to engage in something meaningful, higher than themselves.

When faced with a global crisis, people stopped for a moment to reevaluate their work. This reflection—that they’re no longer working for a paycheck—gave them the spark to actuate change. It is why employees left their office jobs to pursue their passion, start their own business, or switch careers to find their ‘ikigai’, their ‘reason for being’.

3. a need for better compensation

Thirdly, extrinsic motivation such as higher paychecks, bonuses, recognitions, and perks are mandatory to compensate for the hard work done while being exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Thanks to the dynamic labor force, people could shift out of poorly paid jobs. Or, they felt empowered to advocate for better pay and benefits. More power to them!

Higher remuneration is a great motivator to deal with short-term labor shortages. In a study by TalentLMS and Workable, 76% of respondents cited remuneration, i.e. salary and benefits, as the top criterion when selecting a company to work for.

Not to sound morbid or anything, but the health crisis pushed people prematurely into a resting state. It’s undeniable that there have been losses worldwide – 5.66 million succumbed to the coronavirus and other comorbidities to present (January 31, 2022).

Plus, there’s retirement to account for. Older professionals or retirees who used to engage in a sort of contractual work or freelance basis permanently retired. I’m also talking about teachers, doctors, and other professionals choosing to retire early due to health concerns or health risk of in-person work for the elderly.

How do you increase willingness to take on low-prestige yet essential jobs? You offer better compensation. Job shortages and a lower labor force participation rate led to an increase in the minimum wage starting January 2022 in 26 states across America, expanding to other states by the end of 2026.

4. health concerns

Mental health, burnout, long Covid, the stress of overwork, makeshift work policies, the pandemic. These are legitimate concerns and undebatable reasoning for considering turnover. If COVID-19 taught us something, it is to value health and safety first.

Burnout and mental health issues are ​​clear predictors of resignation.

In 2021, 66% of millennials and 81% Gen Zers quit their jobs due to mental health reasons (Mind Share Partners, 2021). It’s not just mental health – the pandemic left people recovering for months.

Immunocompromised employees had to rethink their job arrangement in industries that no longer offered safe and sanitary working conditions. They would rather change jobs than compromise their health. Plus, remote employees often had to be carers for elderly parents or sick family members.

In fall of 2021, occupational burnout was at an all-time high. According to TalentLMS, when afflicted with occupational burnout, 89% of respondents consider quitting their jobs. Under normal circumstances, that number would drop to half.

5. a need for a lower-pressure society

Call it a sort of civil disobedience towards work, call it counterculture—it’s the ‘lie flat’ movement going against the brutal ‘996’ work culture [working from 9 am to 9 pm 6 days a week].

In the aftermath of the pandemic, people found solace in the idea of a lower-pressure society, where people could focus on personal life, on work-life balance, on family, and on finding meaning outside of work.

To most individuals, COVID-19 was life-altering. So, to keep the pre-pandemic work culture—the super-productivity mentality, constantly climbing the ladder, the hustle culture, the heavy work and stress—felt dreadful, or even insulting.

It’s dreadful to keep overworking to the point of death—see the karoshi phenomenon in high performance work cultures predominant in Asian countries. Even more so in a changing work environment seethed with uncertainty.

Others find work insulting. It is the case of ‘Antiwork’ (r/antiwork), a subreddit that’s accrued over 1.7 million users to date.

As Vice put it, “Predictably, these members have different views on what it means to be “anti-work.” Some on the subreddit want to advocate for a universal basic income, some rail against capitalism more broadly, some just hate their shitty boss, most want to strengthen the organized labor movement, some just want to be paid a decent wage and be treated with respect.“

A third of these members identify as socialists, a third identify as democrats and progressives, while the last third is split evenly between anarchists and non-left-wing, according to an internal survey. Only half of the respondents have a form of employment.

Their slogan, “Unemployment for all, not just the rich!”, is the guiding motto of people who rallied to a forum that tackles a bizarre mix of anti-work ideology within post-left anarchism and a sort of civil religion, in which laziness is a virtue:

“What we call laziness is actually people reaching their limits for very good reasons that are outside of their control,” Doreen Ford said. “Well, some of us are lazy and we just don’t want to work.”

Ford’s view was embraced by some redditors called ‘idlers,’ who pride themselves on doing the bare minimum not to get fired and still collect their paycheck.

After the latest predicament and backlash over the disastrous Fox interview, the antiwork movement feels misrepresented by moderator and spearheader, Doreen Ford, who failed to articulate the crux of the movement.

At the moment, the future of r/antiwork is unclear since members hold too disparate views on work. Whether the subreddit further fragments into specific sub-movements or creates a more cohesive vision, it is unknown. So far, a part of the members migrated to the r/workreform subreddit.

Coming back to the Great Resignation. I’ve outlined five major reasons, yet I’ve barely scratched the surface. A combination of these factors engender readiness for change—either for a change in scenery, new work habits, remuneration, or for a newfound appreciation for life and one’s sense of purpose.

All in all, the key to hopping on the Great Resignation is knowing how to state your case. So, having any kind of justification for turnover inevitably crafted narratives.

The 3 narratives

We use language to craft and explain our experience, which is why people have been failing to reach consensus on the name of the turnover phenomenon. Here are three cognitions:

Reshaping

The Great Reshape, or the Great Reshuffle. Those employees who felt they chose the wrong profession, or who felt they didn’t have much say in their careers due to societal pressures and undue expectations before the pandemic can use this chance to hop on the Great Resignation bandwagon and travel someplace new and exciting.

Intrinsic motivation is at the core here. It’s about taking on a new leadership role because there’s been an opening in a new department. The Great Reshuffle is a lawyer-turned-author or banker-turned-entrepreneur kind of success story.

Relaunching

The Great Relaunch. Those employees who want to start anew or are seeking a more challenging position or better compensation can use this chance to shoot for the stars and aim for the moon.

Extrinsic motivation is at the forefront here, among other factors. The Great Relaunch is aimed at those who seized the opportunity to get back to work after child-rearing, long leaves, gap years or a sabbatical. The timing was just right to ask for a promotion or a pay raise.

Refocusing

The Great Refocus, or the Great Reflection. Those employees who got a little too workaholic, grinding for years, or lost sense of what’s truly important to them can use this chance to calibrate their lens focus.

Work-life balance (mental, physical, and relational health) is the main reason. It’s scaling down or selling that business, downshifting on the career ladder or switching to part-time to spend more time with family and friends, or to focus on personal growth and health.

When the wave strikes hard

The whole world went through high water to regain normalcy, and the pandemic has made us question our priorities and raison d’être, our sense of purpose.

On with our metaphor. We’ve been standing on the heaving deck of this ship, of the status quo, figuratively speaking. We’re watching in disbelief as some of our friends or coworkers—our employees, in some cases—have jumped ship and are now riding a huge wave. They seem to be having fun, enjoying the thrill, all by themselves. Now, the rest of us are left on this ship… and the ship is burning… “Traitors”, we think. Right?

Obviously, not everyone resonates with the Great Resignation. Not everyone’s quitting. Many employees don’t want to resign because they have good reasons why they’re in a good place, and they made a rational decision to stay on board. Surely, there have been some much appreciated tweaks to their work arrangement – flexitime, bonuses, WFH hours, etc.

To those left behind, the Great Resignation feels a bit bitter, frustrating even. It’s because the job shortages constrained us to pick up the slack and add extra responsibilities to our already heavy workloads in order to fill in for those who resigned.

Great Resignation Wave strikes hard

Putting in more effort when we’re already exhausted adds to the fire—remember, our ship is still burning!—making us feel like we’ve been fooled. We’ve pulled the short straw.

They’re excited about their change—rightly so—and they are romanticizing the whole process. It’s sending the message that they have something great going for them, and we’ve somehow missed out on riding the wave.

In truth, this is cognitive dissonance. This intense polarization, the “us-versus-them mentality”, adds to our psychological stress as we participate in actions that go against our goodwill and ‘evolved’ paradigms. We find ourselves being petty or experiencing Schadenfreude if their career change was unfortunate.

Also, we might get defensive, and we justify the wisdom of our choice even though our reasoning was clear—”staying behind makes sense”. We justify it by finding reasons to dismiss the alternative, namely that the Great Resignation doesn’t make sense.

We might try to justify ourselves before others. “I could have gotten that job if I wanted to; I just haven’t applied because <fill in your excuse>” or “Sure, my actual job is not that great, but changing jobs in the middle of the pandemic could be fatal.”

This is why social psychologists warn us of in-group (“us”) and out-group (“them”) biases. We tend to self-justify and stick with the people from our in-group, who share our beliefs, also known as confirmation bias. Both sides do it, and both parties are to blame.

Conversely, I believe this is partly why the r/antiwork movement gained momentum despite the group heterogeneity and diversity (since their common ground wasn’t too far and wide). People could churn and share empathetic yet inciting memes, e-mails, and screenshots, which undoubtedly fueled their in-group bias under the guise of solidarity. If their workplace was that toxic and they heroically got away, does that mean that the ones to stay on are bad people?

Needless to say, the string of resignations might put the rest of the team in survival mode. Too much turnover can result in a loss of institutional knowledge and be destabilizing.

For sure, here’s where management comes in and alleviates some of the pressures through hiring and human resource reallocations. Generally, entry-level employees typically cost 50% of their salary to replace. Plus, it is also a lengthy process.

Here’s my advice if you’ve noticed this tension yourself. Try not to polarize the work environment. Don’t unfriend your former coworkers on social media and LinkedIn. Be on friendly terms. Reach out, go out for a cup of coffee, if social distancing allows, and ask how they’ve been doing.

And to be fair, everyone has benefited from the Great Resignation to a certain extent. With every disruption, there’s opportunity for growth and change. There’s a skill shortage because knowledge workers are in such high demand, which in turn allows them to be more choosy.

Also, persistent lockdowns led to mass digitization efforts which have proved successful to varying degrees. Cutting down on paperwork and useless bureaucracy has been such a boon!

A lot could be said about the Great Resignation—underlying factors, psychological behaviors, socioeconomic aspects, cognitive narratives, and a tiny bit of polarization. Now, let’s get practical and cover some predictions for 2022.

Predictions for the Great Resignation

Well, I wouldn’t call them predictions, since these have been growing trends in the past months. It’s highly likely these will keep growing.

1. Hybrid models will keep developing

As Benjamin Granger put it, “The value of offices has evolved from simply being places for people to work from to creating opportunities for collaboration and socialization. Understanding what people need to be effective and efficient in their roles is essential for curating workspaces that will encourage employees to bring their best selves to work.” (Qualtrics, 2022)

Remote work and flexible work arrangements that prioritize long-term employee well-being are mandatory in this day and age. 81% of respondents in one study cited flexible work options as the main driver to employee loyalty. In 2022, the nine-to-five work schedule is reconsidered.

Although one study shows that 81% of tech workers are most productive during the traditional time frame—57% from 9 am to 1 pm and 24% from 1 pm to 5 pm—they’d rather retain their flexibility and autonomy. It’s highly likely they will continue to carry out their tasks within the classic nine-to-five work schedule, anyway.

2. There will be returnship programs

Due to job shortages and a lower labor force participation rate, companies are offering returnship programs (Glassdoor, 2021). These programs are advertised explicitly, stating their terms clearly:

  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise: “If you have five or more years of experience and left the workforce for a minimum of 12 months, you could qualify for the Career Reboot experience.”
  • “The Path Forward Return to Work program at CloudFlare is an 16-week paid internship for experienced professionals returning to the workforce after taking time off for caregiving . . . as a way to expand our talent pool to include the best and the brightest, regardless of any gaps in their career journeys.”
  • “GTB’s Returnship program is a 10-week paid program giving women (who have cycled out of the workplace for two or more years) the opportunity to re-start their careers.”

These short-term contracts come with the possibility of full-time employment and help professionals transition back into the work environment.

3. There will be boomerang programs

Similar to returnship programs, ‘boomerang’ programs create the framework for employees to return to their former workplace—not necessarily their old position.

There are concerns that most boomerang programs backfire, yet in light of the pandemic and the vacillation of the workforce, the consensus is that “the boomerangs are on their way back”. The trend will be on the rise for the next 3-5 years, until it steadily flattens.

Boomeranging is helpful if former employees move back home, miss their old job, or are disillusioned by their ‘Great Resignation’. Or even better, your former boss might make you a boomerang offer simply because “1.5 jobs are available for every unemployed American” and employers would rather hire a familiar face (USA Today, 2021).

Anthony Klotz argues for an increase in boomerang programs, thanks to changing work dynamics, “Let’s say you quit your employer because you didn’t want to go back into the office,  . . . Lo and behold, you find out three months later, they’ve switched to a hybrid situation. And you’re like, ‘Well, if you guys were hybrid, I would have never quit’.”

The catch is that for the boomerang to work well, employees have to have left on good terms. All the more reason not to burn bridges in the heat of the moment (pun intended).

To be fair, not every “follow your heart” decision is a good decision. The Great Resignation could be a fad for those who did it for the sake of it.

Take, for instance, TikTok’s #quitmyjob 218.1 million views (by January 31, 2022). We’ll have to blame sociogenics and group mentality for reckless turnover.

Or what about the antiworkers who are unemployed but are no longer cashing in on federal aid and stimulus checks?

We haven’t forgotten about the “mad gainz” of the millennial Bitcoiners (Cointelegraph, 2021). It is estimated that 4% of the en masse quitters did it thanks to crypto-related market gains.

That’s great, but almost two-thirds of those who had quit their jobs due to “mad gainz” earned under $50,000 per year (Civic Science 2021), which won’t last for a long retirement. What then?

What if you rode the wave and ended up in the flats? For all the floaters who went with the flow only to regret their decision, don’t despair. Without savings or a clear plan ahead, most likely you’ll want to “relaunch”. For sure, throw away your pride, take responsibility for your choice and own your decision.

I am in no way gaslighting those who have left their jobs due to a toxic culture or serious problems in management. Aaron Alburey, managing director of HR consultancy LACE partners, is of the opinion that “people who left because they felt that their employer may not have treated them as well as they could have during lockdown are the ones most likely to come back” (Wired, 2021).

If your old job seems enticing, go for it. Test the waters first—see how your former coworkers are doing, and muster up the courage to apply for the boomerang program. Or send your boss or manager an email.

4. There will be an increase in contingent workers

In a market study by Gartner 2021, the consensus is that contingent workers will be the immediate solution for the job shortage. Freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or other outsourced and non-permanent workers fall under the umbrella term of ‘contingent workers’.

Moreover, 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure—also to fill in the gaps left by job surfers.

5. The Great Resignation is a transition phase

It’s not going to be a continual job search, swiping left for the next job. It’s a transition phase.

Like any market correction, so will the labor market experience equilibrium. It’s not realistic to have a Great Resignation spanning a decade. Experts argue that it could be over, possibly by 2024 at the earliest.

(That’s if another black swan or dragon king doesn’t come along to destabilize the world again—I don’t mean to catastrophize.)

Yes, I know two years is a lot when talking about the economy. The low labor force participation rate had a trickle-down effect. We’ve yet to see the ripple effect and the full extent of the disruption it has produced.

But by then, the workplace will have grown, and will have developed for the better—with the right people working in the right field, experimenting with new technologies, and new roles.

6. The new work environment will be more synergetic

Accountability and responsibility. Employees will stop blaming toxic management, and employers won’t scoff at Generation MZ (a blend of millennials and Gen Zers) for feeling entitled.

In the years to come, there will be better synergy between employees and their leadership. Great employees will be scouted from a more sizable talent pool. Great companies will continue to thrive as they create new rules of engagement when attracting said talent.

As a means of attracting talent, employers are adapting their working models to hybrid or fully remote, and offering higher wages. They are nurturing their existing employees and showing them recognition and appreciation. Another important policy is to provide career development opportunities and more specialized training.

The onus is on both the company and the employee to thrive. It takes two to tango to the tune that’s somewhere along the line of, “Your success is my success—and vice versa”.

7. Remote jobs will be highly competitive

Better in-office and remote work experiences will make said job openings highly desirable, and thus more competitive. In turn, there will be better employee monitoring focused on employee resilience rather than efficiency. I daresay, we’ve been making this shift in work culture for the past 23 months.

A lot has been said about remote work. Do read this article on pre- and post-pandemic remote work statistics for a bigger picture.

How do I ride the wave?

Say you don’t want to lose momentum. You don’t want to miss out on the wave. What should you do?

First and foremost, give it a lot of thought.

  • Analyze all the reasons outlined in the Great Why section.
  • Don’t fall prey to #FOMO. You’re not missing out on whatever your favorite Instagram influencer preached. What works for them might not work for you.
  • Make a list of pros and cons for both scenarios — leaving and staying on the job.
  • Think of the psychological opportunity cost. What could you otherwise do with the time or money if you quit/stayed on the job? Then, go through the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations again.
  • Discuss your decision with your significant other. Or with someone close you trust, a mentor or a confidante, who could give you clarity or honest advice. You don’t need to have everything figured out. You could phrase it as, “What if I…” and see how it goes from there.

Great Resignation ride the wave

Secondly, have a friendly chat with your superior. I don’t think each and every company out there has entrenched biases and a toxic culture.

  • Discuss your salary, WFH arrangement, and growth opportunities.
  • Know the company’s timeline and plans. They may not be able to give you the raise you want right now, but it might be feasible in 3 months. See if that’s reasonable.
  • Depending on the company, you might want to explore a different role, team or department.
  • Or make adjustments to the role you already have. Tweak the job especially if you are struggling with productivity and time pressures. How can you get more autonomy or better feedback? Would you be interested in a variety of tasks to hone a new skill? Does your work positively affect people?
  • If you’ve concluded that this position is a dead-end, leave on good terms—you might boomerang back at some point. Who knows, maybe the company will grow or adopt a more hybrid model in the future.

And lastly, know you did your due diligence. Avoid unnecessary risks. You may have this passion for a new industry, but don’t quite have the skills for it or the time isn’t quite right. The Great Resignation is here to stay, so no need to rush.

What I have against TikTok hashtags, influencer content, and Reddit posts—though well-meaning—is that they seem to ignore some hard facts. They might have different expectations or fewer responsibilities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and this type of content can come across as insensitive and patronizing rather than inspiring.

What if you’re the sole income provider in your household? Do you have debt or bills to pay, but no savings or emergency fund to lean on? Unlike the US, European countries provided little financial aid (if any at all) to individuals during lockdowns. Yes, there is a hefty recovery plan for Europe.

Yes, there have been fiscal policies, state aid and government subsidies across Europe that have been effective in protecting employment by supporting hard-hit companies. In a sense, the EU paid companies to keep people employed. (To see how countries worldwide fared with fiscal policies and relief efforts, read this informative article.)

I might sound overly cautious—is my outlook on job turnover too European? My point is – don’t feel pressured to go with the flow if you don’t have good enough reasons to make (a however) radical change.

The silver lining

What’s my stance on the Great Resignation? I think it’s fascinating. Tidal waves may look daunting, but they transmit kinetic energy—the energy needed to put things in motion. It’s the energy we need in a fast-paced ever-changing society marked by incredible breakthroughs in STEM.

It’s also fascinating to know that there’s ebb and flow to every tidal wave. We’ll eventually reach labor market equilibrium.

Triggered by the pandemic, the Great Resignation was a jolt back to reality to all of us who have been living on autopilot. It made us reexamine our priorities, our purpose, and review our life.

The Great Resignation jump-started a dynamic work environment full of potential to innovate. It challenged the status quo and changed systems for the better. This realization brings great solace to everyone in the workplace.

Yes, the disruption is here for a while. Indeed, it’s taken us outside of our comfort zone to a pain threshold we did not know we had. Let’s not forget that humanity went through a ravaging pandemic that was indeed an ordeal—and we’ve all done our best to survive. Now we can thrive.

First published on March 4, 2022.

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