Great resignation and people’s search for well-being

Several days ago Ernst and Young in Austria revealed a study in which 83 percent of the companies are currently struggling to find a skilled labor force. These days we are eagerly waiting to hear the number of Americans who…

Ida Protuger



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Everyone faces life challenges, and dealing with them, and seeking support from a professional, either for personal development or psychological assistance, is self-care. To step out of an uncomfortable situation, to understand that it’s okay not to feel okay. There are solutions and support out there.

Several days ago Ernst and Young in Austria revealed a study in which 83 percent of the companies are currently struggling to find a skilled labor force. These days we are eagerly waiting to hear the number of Americans who left their job as part of the Great resignation trend. The USA and Europe have many differences in the labor market but maybe the great resignation trend will show some similarities as well.

No one fully understands the reasons behind “the great resignation” trend but, one thing is for sure – people don’t quit to suffer but to improve their well-being. People quit in order to gain personal benefit, which often is not a financial one. The big question that triggers the attention of psychologists is WHAT is the benefit?

The decision-making process is driven either by rational thinking (what the head “says”), by emotions (thinking from the heart), or intuition (the gut feeling). Whatever of the three prevails in making a decision to quit, one thing is unquestionable. People strive for happiness and well-being even when their actions towards this state are sometimes controversial, confusional and not clearly understandable. In making any decision, there is a need that stays behind. And people’s needs are designed to offer comfort when fulfilled.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs physiological and safety ones are among the basic. Above are the needs for belonging, esteem, and on the top is the self-actualization. Take physiological needs as an example. When we are hungry, we are tensed, but after fulfilling the need for food, we experience comfort. However, fulfilling the needs is not always simple like above mention example. We can’t predict the precise pattern of realization for most of the needs.

Going back to the Great resignation trend, we ask ourselves WHY are people quitting? I’ll focus here not on the personal reasons for quitting but rather, on analyzing the factors that maybe shape the relationship between the employers and employees.

21 century brings enormous changes in the digital and tech revolution. These changes are stress factors for many people. The pressure of time, of tasks and responsibilities. On top of it, we got hit by the corona pandemic, which maximizes the pressure and puts all of us out of our comfort zone. That results in growing stress, fears and anxiety. But also enrich us with new lessons, resources and opportunities.

The Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, another – change point. People have faced imminent danger and fear at the start of the corona pandemic and realized that if “the money stops everything stops” might be just a myth. Many of us realized that we could manage even in difficult times. What’s more, many new businesses arise. People start to be aware of many resources. Humans are designed to survive, not just physically but mentally as well. Like Daniel Gilbert in his book “Stumbling on happiness” wrote: – most people do pretty well when things go pretty bad.

One of the resources that people start to be more aware of is time. One passes an hour and a half commuting in one direction and realizes that spending three hours daily in a car or public transport could be a waste of his/her time. The time that person could use on some other meaningful activities for. People want to be happy at work and feel that they use their resources to improve their well-being. A positive social environment, working hours efficiently spent, good health, the feeling of appreciation are some of the many conditions the employees value more than before.

More important than the form is the substance. It doesn’t matter if the leaders choose Lean, Agile, Holocracy, or another management style. What is essential is the intention. To be oriented to the people’s needs and interests in order to get the best of their potential. So maybe the “new normal” and the awareness that it has brought could lead to building a new mindset in the companies and organizations.

Companies are interested in financial profit. Employees are not always driven by money as a factor. So, is it possible that both the company (management, owners) and the team members get some benefit? I believe yes, but only by changing the management mindset. From performing-oriented to co-creating oriented. To create a supportive environment that could maximize human potential, which I believe would be a competitive advantage in the 21 century.

How does the employment process work? HR specialists are focused on the core specialization technical and human skills needed, for desired workers. They hire desirable assets or expertise and give a salary as compensation. Is this enough for the growth of the organizations? Pre-corona time mindset could be roughly described as: Having a job was essential, financial stability was crucial and management and companies were in charge to define rules and control the time and behavior of their employees. But, maybe not anymore.

Maybe it’s time when this “power game” needs to be revised. Since salary is not sufficient anymore.