The Great Resignation is here!

The Great Resignation is here and it is real. The phrase describes the trend of workers resigning from their jobs in 2021. In the United States, 4.36 million workers resigned in September 2021 [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics].

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Nicole Stratton
December 10, 2021 1:31 pm

Add my name to the Great Resignation statistics!

My resignation came from a mixture of burnout, a toxic work environment and no progression prospects. Many people will be feeling the way I did. If you are one of them, hopefully my story will give you some comfort in knowing you are not alone.

When I graduated from college, I didn’t have a clear direction. I was interested in health and sports, but I didn’t have nearly enough sporting talent to make anything of it. I jumped around from job to job getting my feet wet and hoping that I would find my calling in the process. Eventually I found myself in a high-pressured sales job. I didn’t see myself working in sales but life throws you a curveball now and then. A friend had been working there and had wooed me by the perks. They were hiring for executives and my friend put in a good word for me. The job was mine!

Fast forward a year later and I knew this wasn’t my calling. The money was good, so I resolved to stay for a few years and then find something more to my liking. That plan came crashing down a few months ago. When I first started the job, my boss and colleagues were really nice to me. The environment was high-pressure but I thought it would be manageable because the team was so nice. I was a junior employee but I felt respected. My boss was a super nice guy. People in my team warned me he had a temper but I didn’t see it. He was a soft teddy bear. Or so I thought.

In my first weeks, he would check up on me to see if I was doing ok. He’d ask how I was settling in and frequently praise my work and attitude. It felt great. However as time went on and I lost my sparkle as the newbie, his behavior changed. He would point out errors in my work and sometimes they would be so insignificant that I wondered why he even brought it up. Things like not capitalizing a letter in a spreadsheet. I didn’t answer back at these criticisms. I was a junior employee after all and I assumed this was just the way things were done.

In one embarrassing incident, my boss called the team in to express how happy he was with our progress that quarter. Unexpectedly, he singled me out and said although the team was performing well, he was disappointed in my work. He said when I started, I showed a lot of promise but I wasn’t living up to it and I needed to step up a gear. I felt a shiver run down my spine. Not only was it embarrassing to be targeted in front of the whole team but I also felt like a failure. I wasn’t living up to my expectations. Because my boss had been so nice and supportive when I started, I blamed myself. This was my fault, I thought. I really need to step it up.

I came into the office earlier and was always one of the last to leave. I would check my emails at night and reply to urgent requests at 1am in the morning. Sometimes I’d skip lunch altogether and keep working at my desk and I’d log extra hours on weekends. My boss’ mood would fluctuate. He would be nice to me on some days and then revert, putting me in another tailspin of anxiety and trying extra hard to please him. I’d later realize this was deliberate manipulative behavior.

It came to a head one afternoon in the office. The boss was in a bad mood. The rumor going round was that there were marital problems at home. He called me into his office and asked why I had make an error in logging details of a sale on the CRM system. Before I had a chance to respond – I don’t think I had logged anything incorrectly – he screamed at me, “Why are you always f***ing up!?” He threw his coffee cup on the floor, smashing it into pieces.

I was numb. I walked out of his office, grabbed my things and went home. When I got back to my place and closed the door shut, I burst into tears. It was uncontrollable. Head in hands, I kept asking myself, “Why has my life turned out like this?” After 15 minutes of feeling sorry for myself, a line of reasoning popped into my head. And thank goodness it did! I don’t know what would have happened otherwise. This wasn’t my fault. I was working hard, putting the time in and contributing to the team’s success. I could go back and be even more eager to please my boss. Instead, I saw him for what he was. A bully and manipulator. I wanted no part of this.

The next day I handed in my resignation. It was such a liberating feeling. I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I haven’t found another job but I have enough to keep me going for now. The Great Resignation is happening for a reason. Working ourselves to death at the mercy of manipulative and narcissistic bosses is just not worth it. If anyone is reading this and might be in a similar situation, please understand that it’s not normal and it’s not your fault! If you have a boss like I did, get away from them as soon as possible. It won’t get better unless they are out of your life. You’ll be better for it. Good luck 🙂

Ernest Vicente
December 13, 2021 6:58 pm

I resigned from my company before quitting became cool 😛

Plain and simple, I think we are all fed up. Why do people celebrate the coming of the weekend like it’s the best thing ever? #FriYAY. The weekend is associated with freedom. We regularly count the days till Friday and clock-watch on a Friday afternoon, ready to make our escape. Wednesday is ‘hump day’, the cause for a mini-celebration because we’re over the hill again for another week. This tells us what society thinks of our jobs.

I left my job because I wasn’t suited for office work. Freelancing has worked much better for me, especially organizing my hours the way I want. There are pros and cons, but from my perspective, the cons of office work outweigh the pros. I think more and more are realizing this and have had enough.

I must admit to being a bit naïve when I first joined the workforce. I was in a multinational that had its values plastered all over the place. I came in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed expecting everyone to work together for a common cause. Doh! 🤦🏽‍♂️ I learnt soon enough how much modern day work takes out of us. Here’s a list of negatives we have to put up with. It is by no means exhaustive:

  • Working late without recognition;
  • Co-workers trying to take credit for your work;
  • Internal teams sabotaging each other because of petty personal issues;
  • The sycophancy;
  • Having to defer to senior management’s decisions;
  • Co-workers appealing to authority to get their way (“The Head of X Department agrees with me, so let’s go with my idea”).
  • Co-workers who don’t read their emails. Believe me, I don’t want to chase you as much as you don’t want to read my emails.
  • People being promoted despite poor performance.

The last one is what tipped the scales in favor of freelancing. I couldn’t work in a place that was the opposite of a meritocracy. I know it’s naïve of me to think a true meritocracy exists in the corporate world, however many companies describe themselves as such. From the sounds of it, very few companies.

Employees across the world know this and now they’re doing something about it. Leaving. In April 2021, Jonathan Frostick made a post about his heart attack on LinkedIn. During his recovery he listed some decisions following his near death experience. One of them was “I’m really not going to be putting up with any s#%t at work ever again – life literally is too short”. He was speaking for himself in that post, but I guarantee that almost all of the 298,000 people who liked, commented on and shared that post felt the same way.

Melissa Chan
December 12, 2021 11:51 am

People don’t quit companies, they quit bad managers – so they saying goes. There is truth to this. your story is a vivid illustration of how a bad manager can ruin your working life and have it affect your personal life. Most of us can relate to bad working environments. It’s why films and series like Horrible Bosses, Parks & Recreation and The Office are so popular. They are comedies based on elements of reality that make us cringe, laugh and shake our heads in real life.

Without a doubt, the pandemic is an enormous contributor to the Great Resignation. For so many people it has been a horrible 2 years involving stress, loss and uncertainty. When 2021 came round, we just wanted to forget 2020. Unfortunately the pandemic has continued to disrupt our lives well into 2021 and for some of us it feels like there is no end in sight. It has encouraged us to reframe our thinking. What’s really important? Life is short. Do we really want to spend it doing something unfulfilling?

In the company I work for, a head of department who had been there for 15 years unexpectedly resigned. Everyone was so used to him being around. It was a shock to hear he was moving on. When we asked about his future plans, he said he had none. He wasn’t joining another company and all he wanted to do was get away and travel. The funny part is he was known as a methodical planner.

Burnout will push you over the edge. For many people working life involves living on the precipice. They’re thinking of resigning and following a different path but there is something that is stopping them from taking that leap of faith. It could be bills to pay or the fear of the unknown. Burnout from the pandemic is giving many of us the kick we need to make the decision we have been contemplating for months.

Sean Ellis
December 12, 2021 2:17 pm

Virtually all companies try to fix bad managers with training. Nothing fixes a bad manager“. That’s a quote from the CEO of Gallup in the State of the American Manager Report. He proceeds to say that a manager with little talent will deal with problems through manipulation and office politics. The fact that talented managers are rare is why we are all too familiar with toxic workplaces. Uber was known for it, and as a recognition to nothing fixing a bad manager, the board got rid of CEO Travis Kalanick instead of trying to fix him.

I agree with a lot of what’s been written here. A good boss can make you feel secure and provide autonomy to make decisions. Not to feel like an unimportant statistic that can easily be replaced. I can’t think of a worse boss than a micromanager who doesn’t have any trust in their team and wants to be CC’ed into every email. I worked for one manager who had so little trust in the team that I was actually hesitant to go to the bathroom. He made me feel like I should be tied to my desk at all times.

The Great Resignation isn’t a random blip in the statistical trajectory. We’re leaving our workplaces in record numbers because it took a global health crisis to get us to re-evaluate our lives. The question is, why is a toxic workplace so familiar to all of us? According to Gallup, only 1 in 10 people have the talent to be a great manager. 90% of managers aren’t leading. They are just higher up in the pecking order. To add on to what’s already been said, 50% of US employees have left their jobs to get away from their manager. And of course when your boss is toxic, unmotivated and is fully steeped in manipulative office politics, the incentive to work hard and go the extra mile is non-existent. There are very few choices left other than to resign in search of a better workplace environment.