The Great Resignation becomes a “great midlife crisis”

With prices soaring and analysts predicting a recession on the horizon, now might not seem like the best time to quit your job. But that doesn’t stop American workers, especially older and more tenured ones, from doing it.

Better-paid workers are increasingly quitting their jobs, as the Great Resignation – also known as the Great Reshuffle – enters its second year. Earlier in the pandemic, the trend was led by younger, less permanent workers in low-wage sectors like retail, restaurants and healthcare. Now, the main growth in quit rates is coming from older, more tenured workers in higher-paying sectors like finance, technology and other knowledge-worker fields, according to data from two separate human resources and engineering firms. ‘analysis. These workers say they seek less tangible benefits like meaning and flexibility.

This changing composition of those who quit smoking paints an increasingly complicated picture of the state of work in America and suggests that while quit rates have fallen slightly from their peaks of last year, the phenomenon hasn’t stopped yet.

“The Great Resignation is almost like a train, where it’s built up all this momentum and it’s hard to slow down, but some workers get off the train and new workers come in,” said Luke Pardue, economist at Gusto, which provides management software. payroll, benefits and human resources management for small and medium-sized businesses.

Quit rates are still highest among younger workers – those who tend to be less invested in their jobs and whose lives are less stable. This was true at the start of the pandemic, when these workers quit their jobs amid increased demand for better wages and conditions elsewhere (although those gains are unlikely to be permanent). But those dropout rates have declined. Data from Gusto, which typically works with companies that have around 25 employees, shows that the average tenure of people who quit has increased across all age groups and across almost all industries. In other words, older people who have held a job longer also quit.

A similar change is happening in large enterprises, according to data from people analytics provider Visier.

Between the first quarter of 2021 and 2022, the strongest growth in resignations was seen among people aged 40 to 60 and those with tenure of more than 10 years, according to a Visier dataset of companies with more than 1,000 employees. Older, more tenured people are particularly likely to quit in knowledge worker sectors like finance and technology.

Their reasons are innumerable.

“Don’t look for a single thing that drives the big quit,” Ian Cook, vice president of people analytics at Visier, told Recode. “It’s actually made up of a combination of different models and will continue to change as the labor market changes and the economic recovery changes.”

Among the most financially stable groups, resignations are motivated by everything from the desire to continue working remotely to a greater search for meaning to simply having the means to do so.

Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky calls this iteration of the Great Resignation the “Great Midlife Crisis.”

“In midlife, we become aware of our own mortality, and that allows us to reflect on what really matters to us,” Galinsky said. The pandemic has amplified this effect. “A global pandemic obviously causes people to reflect on their own mortality in terms of fear of dying themselves or of seeing a loved one or family and co-workers die.”

It is important to note that people who quit to get the jobs they want or give up work altogether are usually those who have the financial means to do so.

Galinsky, who is currently on a sabbatical in Hawaii, says he’s seen it among his peers and other well-paid knowledge workers now working from his island getaway. He mentioned a Bloomberg employee who quit after the financial publication called workers back to the office and is now working on a pasta truck.

These workers, because of their savings or the income of their spouse, have the freedom to seek other work, including on-demand work, or to set up their own business. A Gusto survey of new businesses shows that they have moved from e-commerce startups at the start of the pandemic to more professional services, such as, for example, an accountant starting his own business rather than working for someone else. ‘other.

Many of these workers, especially those who are older and more stable in their careers, now have the opportunity to reflect on what they really want from their life and work.

After more than two years of successful working from home, many knowledge workers are loath to return to the office, and some jump ship if they feel compelled to do so. Makes sense. Data from Slack’s ongoing survey of 10,000 knowledge workers has just revealed that with a third of them now back in the office five days a week, their work-related stress and anxiety have reached their peak. highest level since the start of the survey in 2020.

The growth in knowledge worker quits could also simply be people copying each other.

“Workers who have that experience, who have changed jobs, who have become more flexible, talk about it and how they had a great experience, and it gets their neighbor or friend to do the same,” Pardue said.

They also quit because there are plenty of jobs for them. The number of job openings in business and professional services is at an all-time high, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the job site Indeed, the number of high-paying job postings hasn’t declined as much as low-paying job postings (postings for both remain above pre-pandemic levels). .

So while the future may look bleak, the present looks very good for these workers, who are confident in today’s tight job market. As Galinsky said, “people believe less in global warming on days when it snows.”

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