Why has quitting your job so popular now?

Photo credit: DepositPhotos
Photo credit: DepositPhotos

Millions of people have left their employment in the recent years. Quitting has, in some ways, gained popularity, but that’s not always a good thing.

The term “the Great Resignation” was created in 2021 by organizational behavior professor Anthony Klotz to identify a pattern. Klotz now questions whether he ever made a prediction that came true.

Quitting has spread like wildfire, both online and in person. In the US, for example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January that nearly 49 million people quit their jobs in 2021, and more than 50 million quits in 2022.

Some polls show that many people who didn’t quit their jobs are still thinking about it. For example, a LinkedIn poll of 2,000 workers found that nearly three-quarters of Gen Zers and two-thirds of millennials are considering quitting this year. In addition, 55% of Generation Xers and a third of Baby Boomers also consider leaving their jobs.

People who quit give many reasons, like wanting more freedom, money, or perks or wanting to leave a bad company culture. But there’s also the idea that quitting leads to more quitting. Researchers came up with the term “turnover contagion” to describe a situation in which, when one person quits, the likelihood that their coworkers will do the same goes up. According to a study, as many as 25% of their coworkers will follow suit. Klotz says that since the number of resignations has been all over the news, the effect has spread quickly through the working world.

Klotz says the “coolness factor” of leaving a job can benefit workers somehow. “During the pandemic and even in the years prior, many of us felt helpless,” he says. “Leaving your job can give you a sense of freedom.”

Klotz says that’s tempting because “it feels like freedom. It makes me feel free.” “It can be hard to keep from quitting,” he says, “when people quit are in the news all the time or when there are viral videos of people quitting.”

Klotz says, “Before it went viral, leaving was a taboo subject you dealt with alone. It was done in secret. But people have become more comfortable talking about it in the past few years.

But only some things are good. People can forget that leaving a job is hard for many because stopping is trendy.

Klotz says that one of the problems with how public leaving has become is that people think this is a quick and easy choice. That could make them decide to quit on the spot instead of thinking about it. Klotz says that it seems easy if everyone is doing it, but it’s one of the most important job choices you can make.

Caitlin Porter, an assistant professor of management in the United States and co-author of a recent review of studies on turnover contagion, says that people rarely talk about how complicated the trend of people leaving is. “Do you know how it feels to leave a job? “If you live in a city, you might be able to find another job, but if you don’t, you might be moving your family,” she says.

Quitting is equally as hard

It’s also challenging to start a new job. “It usually takes at least six months to a year to learn the job and make the connections you need to do it well,” says Porter. “Your whole life is turned upside down. Getting a new job is one of the most difficult things you can do. It’s a lot of work. It’s so tough.”

Porter says that the newfound glamour of stopping can also be attractive to the wrong people. People who are less “embedded” in their jobs, like younger or “low-tenure” workers in other groups, are most likely to quit when others do. This is because they may not be in the best position to quit.

Even if a new job pays more, gives you more freedom, or has other perks, moving around a lot can make it harder to move up the ladder. Experts say workers may hurt their careers if they stop before they “should.” This means they must do more in their current job to help them in the next one or have yet to be there long enough to get a good reference.

That can be especially bad for groups already on the outside, like women and people of color, who “don’t rise to the same levels in organizations as members of authority groups,” says Porter. She adds that this is partly because these groups have the highest change rates. It’s a problem made worse by the trend of people leaving.

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Klotz says that workers shouldn’t quit just because it’s the “cool” thing to do right now, even though he probably had something to do with making leaving a big deal. Instead, he says that changing jobs shouldn’t be seen as a simple shift but as a big change in your life, which is exactly what it is.


The Great Resignation: Has quitting become too ‘cool’?