Is there really a Great Resignation?

Photo of a square piece of brown paper taped up with the words I QUIT!Yes, I think so.

People have been arguing with me about this, but the data don’t lie. (Yes, I insist on “data” being plural, thank you.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that April and May, 2021, had the highest “quit rate” EVER. As in, never before this high. As in, really, really high.

Look, I get the impulse to heave a sigh of relief and – well – bluntly – stick your head in the sand and pretend we can go back to “how it was before.”

We can’t.

As Greg McKeown, author, speaker, podcaster, has said multiple times on his What’s Essential podcast, the last 18 months have been the global equivalent of the parental instruction to teenagers: “Go to your room and think about it!”

We’ve thought about it.

And the result of thinking about it is that most people don’t want to go back to “how it was before,” and they’re willing to vote on that with their feet. In one survey I saw reported by Fortune magazine, 57% of millenials said they’d look for a new job if their employer insisted on them coming back to the office full-time.  (Link to the full survey results is here – it includes a lot of other questions around travel and dining.)

What the surveys don’t seem to be exploring is the ways in which “thinking about it” has resulted in a deep desire for more meaning, more humanity, more engagement, more flexibility … more trust.

These have gotten lip service aplenty over the years, but for all the employee engagement surveys conducted – how much change has there really been? Given Gallup’s dismal reports on the subject, year after year, I’d say – not a lot. (The 2020 results: 54% “not engaged,” 14% “actively disengaged,” and 36% “engaged.”)

Meaning, humanity, engagement, flexibility, and trust aren’t merely “nice to have” any more. No longer can we survey without taking impactful action. Not if you want your best people to stick around, anyway.

It’s time to have conversations about what your people want. It’s time to listen to them, hear them, and collaborate with them on creating a more humane workplace.

How to avoid the Great Resignation: talk to your people, hear them, collaborate with them on creating a humane, trusting workplace. Incidentally, you'll have more fun AND greater profitability. Yay.Click To Tweet

Funny thing happens when you do that: you and your employees have a much more fun and enjoyable working experience AND you experience demonstrably greater profitability, growth, and success.


If you’re ready to have these conversations, you need leaders who know HOW. Let’s talk


gljudson Change leadership, Strategic thinking