The Great Resignation

What is The Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is a continuing trend of employees voluntarily quitting their jobs, partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has launched a cultural shift in the expectations the workforce has of relationships and work life.

Also known as ‘The Big Quit’, The Great Resignation gained prominence amidst post-pandemic work life, specifically from spring 2021 until the present. 

The Great Resignation is most notable in the US and Europe where economic stability has motivated worker confidence and prospective job opportunities. The Great Resignation is also characterized by employees’ reluctance in re-assuming traditional workflows and their increased ability to seek out higher-paying jobs with digital workflows, digital workspaces, and contemporary benefits. 

The Great Resignation Statistics

4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September 2021. Post COVID-19 statistics revealed that in March – April 2020, a record 13 million workers were laid off.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the quit rate of workers exceeded 3%, with 6.4% of the workforce coming from the leisure and hospitality sector. 

Further statistical analysis for The Great Resignation shows that in August 2021, 73% of 380 employers surveyed in North America were struggling to attract prospective employees—three times that of the year before. 70% of employers expect that trend to continue into 2022.

Why is The Great Resignation Happening?

The Great Resignation, in part, was caused by an imbalance in the jobs market and a lack of skilled labor. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the deepening holes in the already fractured jobs market and empowered workers to demand higher wages. Amidst the pandemic, employees saw the benefits of remote work and the advantages of adopting a better work-life balance. 

That being said, The Great Resignation was primarily fueled by low-wage workers who switched to better jobs in industries offering higher wages and better incentives. The effect of job-hopping on businesses and the wider economy has been damaging, but we’re now seeing new workplace innovations and resourceful business models that are more conducive to change. 

One of the hardest-hit sectors throughout the pandemic was businesses with poor location and time independence. Business models that were chiefly characterized by the proximity of time and location weren’t prepared for the severity of the repeated lockdowns and impacted core business areas such as workers, participation, motivation, and wellbeing.

This had a direct domino effect on other crucial business areas such as suppliers, logistics, and vendor distribution which exacerbated the effects of The Great Resignation as a whole.

Who Coined the Term ‘The Great Resignation’?

Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University coined the term ‘The Great Resignation’ affront the mass exodus in May 2021. 

He was able to uncover two trends that were unique to the pandemic from very early on:

  • The first was a backlog in quits which were heightened due to the pandemic. 
  • The second was the widespread burnout that frontline workers faced during the pandemic. 

Klotz’s research ultimately uncovered that burnout plays a major role in turnover rates and predicted the onset of the Great Resignation many months before it happened. 

How is The Great Resignation Affecting the US?

The Great Resignation is a new trend within the U.S. labor market. This unprecedented job crisis has seen record numbers of Americans quit their jobs over the course of the pandemic. The number of Americans quitting their jobs has exceeded pre-pandemic levels for six months straight as less-skilled, low-wage workers are demanding better pay. 

The impact of The Great Resignation in the US (as of March 2022) can be summed up as follows: 

  • 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September 2021 alone.
  • The number of Americans quitting their jobs has exceeded pre-pandemic levels for six months with the trend predicted to continue.
  • Employees in low-wage/lesser-skilled sectors are struggling to fill open positions.
  • Workers are no longer willing to accept working conditions and payment accepted before the pandemic.

How is The Great Resignation Affecting the UK?

The overall effect of The Great Resignation in the UK is characterized by the migration of low-skilled workers to other industries that offer more competitive pay and benefits. 

The Great Resignation in the UK was sparked by a shortage of workers in multiple skilled industries which led to some companies offering signup bonuses of up to $12,000 to attract new recruits. These incentives, along with the onslaught of the pandemic, resulted in The Great Resignation hitting the UK hard, sending the manufacturing and labor markets into a frenzied meltdown. 

The UK is now healing from the effects of the pandemic and is seeing marked growth in recovery rates. A survey of 6,000 workers by the recruitment firm Randstad UK, found that 69% were feeling confident about moving to a new role in the next few months, with 24% planning a change within three to six months.


The Great Resignation is a massive wake-up call for employers who are watching the working landscape be redrawn in front of their eyes. The larger trend will continue into the future and speaks to the very heart of the employer-employee contract. 

The workplace has changed post-pandemic and it isn’t likely to revert back anytime soon. The rise in remote and hybrid work has offered people more freedom to strike a work-life balance that is beneficial to both the employer and the employee.

The effects of The Great Resignation will continue to be felt throughout the next few years as markets continue to change, fluctuate, and adopt policies that prepare for future-proof evolution. Companies now have to try and navigate the ripple effects caused by the pandemic and re-evaluate how to retain the most talented individuals.

Updated: March 01, 2022

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