What makes quitting so contagious?
by Emma Goldberg  /   24 Jan 2022

“It catches quickly. “There’s a shock when you see multiple people leaving; it’s like, oh, is there something I’m not seeing?” said Tiff Cheng, 27, who left her job in digital marketing in July along with five of her close friends at the 40-person agency. “Is it my time to leave as well?” Quitting rates were high in August, September and October. Then, according to Labor Department data, they climbed even further: More than 4.5 million people left their jobs voluntarily in November, a record high in two decades of tracking. Economists explained the numbers by noting that competition for workers led to better pay and benefits, driving some to seek new opportunities.

Psychologists have an additional explanation: Quitting is contagious. When workers weigh whether to jump jobs, they do not just assess their own pay, benefits and career development. They look around and take note of how friends feel about the team culture. When one employee leaves, the departure signals to others that it might be time to take stock of their options, what researchers call “turnover contagion.”

So quitting begets more quitting, a challenge that employers cannot always solve with raises or perks. Even a single resignation notice can breed a “hot spot,” said Will Felps, who teaches management at the University of New South Wales and was an author of a study of turnover contagion. Felps and his team studied staffing at a hospitality company and a selection of bank branches, all in the United States, and found that one worker’s decision to leave is especially likely to inspire others who do not feel strongly embedded at the company. In a recent poll of more than 21,000 LinkedIn members, 59% said a colleague’s departure had led them to consider quitting as well.

The office has long been a petri dish for infectious behaviour. Lying, cheating and job satisfaction all tend to spread from desk to desk. Financial advisers, for example, are 37% more likely to commit misconduct if they encounter teammates who have done so, what researchers refer to as “peer effects,” noting that one case of misconduct results on average in an additional 0.59 cases. Employees also mimic the nutritional patterns of people they sit with in the cafeteria. Teammates are suggestible to one another in far subtler ways than they realise.

But when it comes to heading for the exit, peer effects are particularly potent. “When you walk by a restaurant and it’s full of people, it’s a clue this restaurant is pretty good,” Felps said. “Similarly, when the people you know, like and respect are leaving a job, you think maybe the grass is greener somewhere else.” Cheng saw her inbox begin to fill with resignation notes last summer. Every other week she got an email from a colleague who was quitting her company, where hours were long and career advancement options seemed limited. She decided to turn full time to her own coaching business, which she now runs from Vancouver, British Columbia.

“It’s always really scary to make a decision to leave your job, and it was nice to be able to see other people were doing it,” Cheng said. “It didn’t feel as lonely, or like I was an outsider.” A sense of workplace disaffection and restlessness started growing for many Americans in the early stages of the pandemic. For some, social media became a therapy couch, a space to vent those employment frustrations. Back in March 2020, Erika Cruz, 31, was working at a Silicon Valley startup, where she had grown disgruntled with the hallmarks of work life: “meetings that could have been an email” and lack of control over her schedule. She got the motivation she needed to leave that summer when she watched a friend she had met on Instagram ditch a cushy tech job to open a coaching firm.

Then Cruz, who had about six months of living expenses saved up, moved back to her parents’ home in the Bay Area and put in her one month’s notice at work. She sought advice from social media about how to start a business. Cruz realised, though, that there was no one-size-fits-all approach to upending a career. “If you Google banana breads, there’s over a million recipes online, and they’re all going to be good, but they’re all slightly different,” she said. “You have to choose your own recipe.” It is the story of the pandemic: When people posted their banana bread photos, they influenced their friends to start baking as well. But like quitting, it was something no two people did the same way.

The friend who inspired Cruz’s resignation, Cat Del Carmen, 34, agreed that it was important to develop her own quitting strategy. Del Carmen was able to leave a job at Adobe by cutting back spending on restaurant meals, vacations and TJ Maxx splurges. The six months after she left her job were high pressure financially. Del Carmen drew comfort from her correspondence with friends on social media who were also navigating the post-paycheck territory. That bond forged by resignation, as people look to one another for inspiration and affirmation, is a phenomenon that predates the pandemic. “It’s a huge decision,” said Anthony Klotz, an organisational psychologist at Texas A&M University. “If you Google how to resign from your job, there’s lots of conflicting guidance. Those answers are not in a company handbook.

It makes sense people reach out for sounding boards from trusted others.” Aimee Wells, 53, who works in public relations, had her own quitagion experience years ago. She had been working at a global marketing firm in San Francisco, where she bristled at the time constraints of corporate life. She was never able to drop off her son at kindergarten. She remembered watching the 1996 movie “One Fine Day,” in which Michelle Pfeiffer plays an architect who decides to make her family a priority over high-powered work. It left Wells grappling with how to reset the balance between her own corporate job and personal life (far as it was from the realities of Pfeiffer and George Clooney’s). One evening, on the train coming home from work at 6, she ran into a neighbour carrying shopping bags full of files, office supplies and photographs.

The neighbor told Wells that she had just quit the role that was burning her out. “I went home and started thinking about it a lot more seriously,” Wells said. One month later, she put in her own resignation notice, catalysed by the run-in with her neighbor. “She was like my hero.” The payoffs for some pandemic quitters have been significant. Nikissa Granados, 26, was weighing whether to leave her job at an Orange County, California, school in 2020 to do freelance social media marketing. She made the leap after seeing two of her teammates resign.

Granados went from making $2,100 a month, spending days on her feet setting up cots for nap time and begging children to wear their masks, to making as much as $8,000 monthly while dictating her own schedule, she said. She realised something now viscerally clear to many child care providers: In her work at the school, the mismatch between strain and pay had been stark. For employers, replacing just one quitter is a straightforward task. But replacing several or even dozens is far more challenging, and the interim period tends to leave existing staff members with a heavier load, while recruiters field awkward questions about what is fueling all the departures.

With quitting rates soaring, some executives are wondering how to lift morale. Seth Besmertnik, CEO of the marketing software company Conductor, had seen his company’s turnover rates hover in the low single digits for years. He even worried that his retention was too strong, making it hard to scout new talent. Over the last two years, though, turnover rose into the double digits. Besmertnik had to get creative in his tactics to keep workers content, including adding new holidays and bringing Broadway actors from “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to sing “Burn” and “Waving Through a Window” (respectively) for staffers during all-company video meetings.

Career coaches, meanwhile, worry that some people are being too easily influenced by the behaviours of their roaming colleagues. Kathryn Minshew, CEO of the Muse, a job search site, warns clients that a single employee’s desire to leave a company should not have too much bearing on the decisions that friends make. “When one person announces their resignation, there are usually some questions from their colleagues and workplace friends,” she said. “‘Where are you going? Why are you leaving?’”

That Pied Piper trail will not always lead people to better options, and Minshew advises workers to assess their companies with the hyperindividualised approach they might take to building relationships. “The idea that somebody would publish a list of the 50 best people to marry in New York City is silly,” she continued. “Similarly, I think the best companies to work for is a bit of a silly idea.” But logical career advice cannot always prevent the contagion from catching. “There’s a little bit of a ‘take this job and shove it’ feeling,” Wells said. “If you’re in a company where people all start leaving, you’re like, ‘Why am I the last one sitting here?’”

What’s Behind The Great Resignation, and How Employers Can Be Prepared
by Saurabh Kumar  /  Feb 15, 2022

“The last few years have been challenging for professionals around the world. Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, working norms have changed forever. This made organizations and employees across the board face unforeseen circumstances, affecting their professional choices significantly. This also led to what is being called the Great Resignation.

The Great Resignation is referring to the phenomenon of a large volume of professionals resigning across the world. As the approach towards work has changed over time, employees working in all major industries are considering quitting their jobs or switching to better opportunities. The Great Resignation is certainly not an overnight phenomenon, and the pandemic should not be blamed for being the only reason behind it.

Many employees have decided to leave their jobs due to physical and psychological burnout as a result of tension building up for several years. Professionals are also resigning in order to tap new opportunities. While the causes of the Great Resignation are incredibly complex and varied, we can point to a few key areas that are most likely key contributors. If employees are able to counter these factors in a positive way, their businesses are likely to emerge from this crisis in a better and more way healthy position.

Immense professional frustration. Over the last two years, professionals across the board have had to deal with increased work pressure. As companies started letting employees go, the remaining workers had to shoulder additional responsibilities. This, coupled with the need to adapt to the “new normal,” resulted in immense professional frustration, ultimately leading to a state of burnout. Owing to the trend of working from home, the lines between work and leisure often get blurred, making professionals work beyond their dedicated hours. This added to their mental and physical toll, driving employees towards the Great Resignation.

Lack of childcare facilities. In the case of young parents who were dependent on childcare centers to carry on with their jobs, the pandemic forced them to stay at home and cater to their kids. As most childcare centres were shut down during the height of the pandemic, many professionals ended up quitting their jobs to look after their kids at home. Although people have been getting back to work of late, plenty are still struggling to establish a balance between their personal and professional lives.

Getting used to remote working. Despite having its share of drawbacks, the trend of working remotely has been welcomed by thousands of professionals around the world. The pandemic made employees see their professional lives from a different perspective. Remote working allowed professionals to work from the comfort of their homes and still be productive.

Now that the pandemic is waning and companies are calling employees to work full-time from the offices, not all employees are comfortable going back to the old ways. Working remotely for almost two years has gotten several employees used to the new trend. Some employees will inevitably quit their existing jobs and search for new opportunities if their employers leave them with no option but to work on-premise.

How to prepare for the Great Resignation? Although the Great Resignation has resulted in companies losing valuable talent, employers can still prepare to avoid further resignations from their employees.

Setup a hybrid workplace. Organizations around the world have started adopting the new trend of setting up hybrid workplaces. A hybrid workplace allows employees to work on-premise as well as remotely. If you provide a choice to your employees to work at their convenience, they will be more likely to prefer being associated with your company for an extended period.

Train your frontline managers. It is often said that employees do not leave companies — they leave bosses. If you are wanting to survive the Great Resignation, it is always advisable to train your frontline managers to establish healthy relationships with your employees. Especially in the case of remote employees, make sure that managers pay individual attention to the needs of every employee without making them feel left out. Once your managers successfully build a rapport with your employees, you may not have to worry about valuable talent leaving your company.

Provide personalized employee support. The support provided to your employees often plays a vital role in their engagement. If your workers cannot seek quick and personalized solutions to their issues, it will reduce their genuine drive to work for your company. It is advisable to implement modern employee service desks that provide automated and personalized support to your employees as a solution. These platforms are driven by technologies like AI and machine learning to understand the context of the issues raised by your employees. This will prevent your team members from looking for support on different platforms. A centralized solution to all your employees’ issues will make them feel valued and stay engaged with your organization.

Give priority to mental well-being. Along with the physical well-being of your employees, it is advisable to cater to your employees’ mental health amid, particularly after we’ve all endured this pandemic. Management needs to provide workers with an ideal work environment. Make sure that your employees are not overburdened with work and maintain a healthy work-life balance. A mentally healthy team of employees are more likely to stick around for a long time and help you attain your business objectives. The Great Resignation is no myth, but it needn’t be your reality.”

An Asian girl in a red dress taking a selfie with her phone

‘Lying Flat,’ ‘Antiwork’ And The ‘Great Resignation’ Spreads Worldwide As Young People Protest Against System
by Jack Kelly / Dec 30, 2021

“There’s a growing worldwide movement led by young people. Weighed down with overwhelming college debt, unable to find decent paying jobs (leading to the inability to purchase homes), stuck in low paying jobs with no future and being forced into the gig economy made Gen-Zs and Millennials feel misled and betrayed by their elders. They were told if they went to school, followed all the rules, they’d live the American Dream—a nice large home in the suburbs with a white picket fence, or a cool New York City apartment, couple of kids, pets, fancy vacations and luxury automobiles.

For many, this dream never materialized. Reddit hosts an Antiwork subreddit with over 1.5 million self-described “idlers.” The group, which has members from across the world, is a home for “those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on antiwork ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles.” This movement means something different to the people on the site. If taken at face value, some members are sick and tired of working and don’t have any interest in finding a new job anytime soon. Others want to vent their frustrations. A common, unifying theme is that workers feel that they are being taken advantage of, forced to work long hours for low wages and treated rudely by their unsympathetic managers.

“In the Great Resignation trend, roughly 40% of the jobs that people quit were in the restaurant, hotel, travel, bars, warehouses, manufacturing and healthcare sectors. These folks contend with long, constantly changing hours, rude customer behaviors, low wages and high stress. These workers are pushing back against poor pay, unpleasant working conditions and a lack of respect from management. Once they’ve left, many take their time to seek out new types of opportunities that offer meaningful work and a path to advance. The younger generation may be the first group in modern history that won’t do better financially than their parents. With tens or hundreds of thousands in student-loan debt, young adults find it almost impossible to purchase a home, get married and start a family. The debt burden, along with rising home prices and inflation, doesn’t leave them with sufficient funds to afford the lifestyle that Baby Boomers took for granted.

This is happening in China too. Multibillionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, championed the work culture known as “996.” This number refers to Ma’s belief that everyone in his company should happily work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. It’s equivalent to America’s “hustle- porn,” rise-and-grind culture that resonated in the pre-pandemic time period. The younger generation of Chinese workers are not fond of Ma’s work code. As reported by the South China Morning Post, the Gen-Z workers are known to “slack off by refusing to work overtime, delivering medium-quality work, going to the toilet frequently and staying there for a long time, playing with their mobile phones or reading novels at work.”

This is their way of pushing back on the demands of long hours without pay that is commensurate with their efforts. Working at a slower pace is a form of protest. It’s their way of saying, “We don’t think that we’re being treated fairly.”  Similar to the complaints of both Millennials and Gen-Zs in America, the young Chinese people contend that their meager earnings won’t afford them a house or a financially comfortable life. As opposed to prior generations, some of the Chinese youth are not buying into the hustle culture and putting a premium on having a well-rounded lifestyle.

They’ve adopted the mantra of “lying flat.” This term means “doing the bare minimum to get by, and striving for nothing more than what is absolutely essential for one’s survival.” The mindset is that lying down is a protest against participants in a workplace and economy that they don’t believe in or feel that they are getting a fair shot. Similar to many in the U.S., the Gen-Z and Millennials are forsaking purchasing homes and starting families. President Xi Jinping is not too pleased with this trend, stating, “It is necessary to prevent the stagnation of the social class, unblock the channels for upward social mobility, create opportunities for more people to become rich, and form an environment for improvement in which everyone participates, avoiding involution and lying flat.”

He is concerned that the lying flat is in direct conflict with the “Chinese Dream” or a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Lying down and related trends sadly shows the discouragement and disconnection of young adults from the workplace and economy. This needs to be addressed. It’s not healthy for the young people and society when there is so much unhappiness. If our political leaders ignore this clear call for help and change, conditions will only worsen over time.”

How to Quit Your Job in the Great Post-Pandemic Resignation Boom
by Arianne Cohen  /  May 10, 2021

“Ready to say adios to your job? You’re not alone. “The great resignation is coming,” says Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University who’s studied the exits of hundreds of workers. “When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.”

The numbers are multiplied, he says, by the many pandemic-related epiphanies—about family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death, and what it all means—that can make people turn their back on the 9-to-5 office grind. We asked Klotz what to expect as the great resignation picks up speed.

What are we going to see this summer with employees and organizations?
A lot of uncertainty, for both sides. Companies are figuring out how to maintain their cultures and employees, so many are offering multiple options: Do you want to come back full time? Work remotely? In-office three days a week? Four days? One day? It will be unclear whether these options will be permanent, making it difficult for employees to decide whether to stay or go.

So will everyone just quit?
No. Plenty of employees don’t really want to resign. If their company would let them keep working from home or do fewer hours, they would.

Say I want to quit, like, right now. What should I do?
Give a lot of thought to the reasons. Are you just assuming your company won’t work with you and let you work part time or remotely or take a sabbatical? Make sure you fully understand your company’s plans. For example, if everyone is ordered back to the office, and the top three performers say they’re quitting, the organization may rethink.

Should I quit before or after returning to the office?
Consider going back for at least a week or two. Think of it as a test of your hypothesis. Humans tend to be really bad at predicting how they’ll actually feel.

What should I say to co-workers?
Co-workers may be having the same thoughts. You can imagine one thinking, I don’t really want to go back to the office, but at least Anthony will be there. And then I call to say I’m not coming back. Give her time for that difficult conversation.

How does one do a pandemic resignation?
It’s going to be particularly tempting to use electronic mediums, but our research has found that organizations and managers respond poorly to emailing a boss or leaving a note on her desk.

So when I talk to my boss in person or on Zoom, what should I say?
That you tried it, and it isn’t working for you. Your boss will view that in a more favorable light than simply not trying at all. Your reasons should be honest, but not all the reasons. For example, if the job doesn’t provide meaning, that doesn’t need to be said. Give specific reasons, like graduate school or the commute.

Is texting or emailing about it risky because of forwards?
Try to control the communication that you give to your organization, your co-workers, and your leader. In email you can’t control the tone, and it often comes off wrong. You want to resign in as positive a way as possible.

Why bother to be so careful?
We’re going to see lots of “boomerang” employees, who a year from now miss their jobs and decide their novel isn’t going as well as expected. Being a boomerang employee works only if you leave on a very, very positive note.”



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