UCL School of Management

21 April 2023

The Great Resignation: Is the grass always greener?

Image of UCL SoM Associate Professor Anthony Klotz

UCL School of Management Associate Professor Anthony Klotz has recently featured in an article published by BBC Worklife to discuss the prevalence of workplace resignations in the post-pandemic era and the sudden ‘cool factor’ that seems to accompany resigning. Known internationally for coining the phrase, ‘The Great Resignation’, Anthony, an expert in organisational behaviour, shares his thoughts on the notion that resigning has now become a glamorous endeavour and explores whether it is the right solution for everyone.

Data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics highlights that nearly 49 million workers in the US quit their jobs in 2021, with more than 50 million workers resigning in 2022. Interestingly, these statistics transcend age demographics, with BBC Worklife citing a recent LinkedIn poll of 2,000 workers that found that nearly three-quarters of Gen Zers and two-thirds of millennials are planning to resign this year, as well as 55% of Gen Xers and a third of Baby Boomers.

So why are so many employees leaving their jobs en masse and has this created a culture in which resignation is glamorised? For Anthony, it could be the pull of more flexibility, money or benefits or to simply escape a bad company culture that leads many employees to resign. However, there’s also research that suggests the presence of ‘coolness factor’ when leaving a job. As Anthony notes, ‘Many of us felt a bit powerless over the years of the pandemic, and even the years prior to it. During our relationship with our employer, the employer has the power. We need a pay cheque, so we put up with things that the employer wants us to do, even if we don’t want to. Once you start to think about quitting, that power dynamic starts to shift. And that’s really intoxicating and appealing. When you start to think, ‘I don’t need this anymore. I could do what my co-worker did and go work at this other organization,’ - it’s a surge of power’.

However, despite coining the phrase, ‘The Great Resignation’ during the pandemic, Anthony warns employees to resist quitting simply because it might seem like the ‘cool’ thing to do within that organisation or on social media. It could have adverse effects on those who are perhaps early in their career and aren’t in the best position to quit. Research suggests that frequent changing of employment - or ‘job hopping’ - could make it more difficult for employees to climb the ladder. As Anthony notes, ‘In some ways, there’s overlap between resigning and breaking up a long-term relationship in your personal life. It’s complicated, it’s emotional and you don’t really know how you’re going to feel about it until you’re past it. It’s hard to predict how it’ll all turn out.’

Read Anthony’s full comments in the BBC Worklife article

Last updated Monday, 24 April 2023