Great Resignation: nearly half of job quitters think they were better off in the old job

great resignationNearly half of people (43 percent) who quit their jobs as part of the so-called Great Resignation during the pandemic now think they were actually better off at their old job. This revelation comes from a six-country survey of nearly 4,000 people by UKG  that examines sentiment about quitting during the Great Resignation, including if job leavers felt that they made the right decision, the disconnect between managers and employees about why people quit, and the chances workers would boomerang back to their old job.

The full report, Resign, Resigned, or Re-Sign? Pandemic-era job quitters and their managers wish they had a do-over (registration), compares survey responses of 1,950 employees who voluntarily left their jobs since March 2020 with 1,850 people managers who had people on their teams quit across France, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, the U.S., and the U.K.

The authors claim that with more job openings available than people to fill them, employees have more choices than ever before in this hyper-competitive job market. One in 5 people who quit say they were not actively looking for a new job, and 41 percent said they contemplated quitting for less than a month before they gave their notice. Unsurprisingly, that same 41 percent of employees admit they quit their jobs too quickly.

Of people not fully satisfied in their new role, 62 percent admit, “The job I quit was better than my job now.” When all job leavers were asked what they missed most about their former job, the top answer was their peers/co-workers (38 percent), followed by familiarity and comfort in the role (31 percent), the customers they served (22 percent), compensation/pay (19 percent), and work-life balance (16 percent).

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]There’s a disconnect between managers and employees about other reasons people resign[/perfectpullquote]

While pay/compensation tops the list of why people have changed jobs in the last two years, fewer than half of all pandemic-era job changers actually received a pay rise at their new position — about a 15 percent bump, on average. In fact, 1 in 5 people took a pay cut to move on to a new role.

Outside of pay, there’s a disconnect between managers and employees about other reasons people resign. When asked why they believed their people quit, managers only correctly named two of the next top five reasons for quitting: poor work-life balance/burnout and lack of career development opportunities. Employees say not feeling valued or like they belonged, frustration with executive leadership, and poor company culture were the other top reasons. That said, a full 25 percent of employees admit never discussing frustrations with their managers before they gave their notice.

Additionally, 3 out of 4 managers say their organisation supported them in their efforts to retain good people, yet only 48 percent of employees felt like their old boss made an effort to keep them. People managers also overestimate the relationship they have with their teams, as 91 percent believe they create an environment where employees are comfortable communicating frustrations — yet only 64 percent of employees agree.

Nearly 1 in 5 people who quit during the pandemic have already boomeranged back to the job they left. For those who have not yet gone back to their old job, a whopping 41 percent would consider it if it were an option. Similarly, 60 percent of managers believe employees made the wrong decision in leaving their roles, and 72 percent feel these departed employees would consider returning within the year.

Specifically for U.S. employees who boomeranged back to the job they left, quitting was done for more personal reasons, such as family care matters, a desire to move locations, and lack of flexibility. Boomerang employees also more readily admit that they left their original job too quickly (64 percent), and half (49 percent) say they had been looking for a new job for less than a month.

Compared with all job quitters, boomerang employees say their manager fostered an environment where communicating frustrations was possible (77 percent vs. 64 percent), made an effort to keep them (77 percent vs. 50 percent), and conducted at least one stay interview when they were previously employed there (77 percent vs. 55 percent). Boomerang employees were also more likely (66 percent) to discuss looking for a job elsewhere when they first began contemplating quitting.

Yet, good managers are also likely on the quitting block, too, as 2 in 5 people managers are contemplating quitting themselves — and that number skyrockets to more than half (53 percent) of leaders in the U.S. and the U.K.

“Nearly half of all people who recently quit would say their resignation was anything but great,” said Dr. Chris Mullen, executive director at The Workforce Institute at UKG. “While it’s promising to see organisations open to welcoming back millions and millions of boomerang employees2 — even more than when we first studied it back in 2015 — leaders would rather keep their good people. Our data shows that it might only take one bad day or one bad experience for employees to start looking elsewhere in today’s job market. We must continue to build trust between managers and employees by conducting impactful one-on-one and career discussions, and holding stay interviews to ask why happy employees remain before it’s too late.”