Employees have walked away from jobs in waves during 2021. By understanding what is causing the Great Resignation, and what makes employees leave, you can make a plan to resolve employment conflicts and avoid employee turnover.

Employers Struggle to Keep Workers During the Great Resignation

2021 has brought a wave of resignations across every industry and demographic. A survey by Visier found that 1 in 4 American workers left their job in 2021, compared to 18% in 2020 and 22% in 2019. These aren’t just unskilled laborers either. The resignation rates increased for tenured employees with 5 to 15 years’ experience, workers between age 40 and 45, and women. Knowing why they are leaving and what you can do to keep them can prevent your business from entering the fight to replace skilled employees in a highly competitive market.

Why Employees Leave Good Jobs

As of August 2021, there were 3 million more open jobs than there were unemployed workers to fill them. This created an environment that increased job seekrs’ confidence and allowed them to leave their current jobs in search of better employment. But before any given worker starts looking for a new opportunity, they must be dissatisfied with where they are now.

COVID-19 Concerns

For some employees, the drive to leave came from the pandemic itself. They may have found themselves unable to balance caregiving and full-time employment or may have become sick themselves. Others, though are choosing to leave employers who they feel are not taking the ongoing threat of COVID-19 seriously. This could mean:

  • Returning to the office too soon
  • Prioritizing business over safety
  • Not enforcing CDC protocol or local masking or social distancing mandates
  • Lack of flexibility as parents deal with school shutdowns due to teacher shortages and outbreaks

These workers may have talked to their managers or supervisors about their concerns, but they don’t feel that their concerns are being respected. That can lead them to add their name to the Great Resignation.

Burnout and Overwork

Many employers reduced their workforces early in the pandemic. But when the economy began to reopen, those same businesses were slow to hire new staff to meet the demand. In other industries, the essential nature of the work led to employees working long hours with no vacations and reduced time off to respond to the demands of the market. When coworkers called off because of sickness or family emergencies, pushed employees over the edge to try to find something better.

Mismanagement and Workplace Conflict

In other companies, the shift to remote work emphasized internal problems with mismanagement and workplace conflict. One HR professional told the Washington Post that he quit a job he had started during the pandemic because he had been “micromanaged and disrespected like I’ve never experienced even up to my last day.” Managing remote teams is undoubtedly difficult, but many managers facing their own pandemic stress failed to make the adjustment.

With more coworker communications happening through Zoom, Slack, or other online channels, there is also a higher risk for workplace conflict to go undetected and unresolved by managers. Unless companies have a workplace culture encouraging employees to come forward when conflict arises, these workers may have felt isolated and struggled to deal with hostile coworkers alone. Any of these interpersonal issues could drive workers to join the Great Resignation and find a new opportunity.

How to Use Conflict Resolution to Avoid Employee Turnover

The decentralized way of doing business means that managers and business owners are less connected to their workers. That means that employers must work harder to invite employees to voice their concerns, and then use conflict resolution strategies to address those concerns in a way that makes workers feel heard and respected. This could include hiring a business consultant to field employee complaints or facilitate dispute resolution conferences.

Your business will always have some employee turnover, but that doesn’t mean you have to surrender your workers to the Great Resignation. By working with a consultant to identify why your employees are leaving, you can develop a strategy to respond to their complaints and make your workplace a play they want to be.

David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 30 years’ experience helping companies respond to employee concerns and resolve workplace disputes. Contact us to meet with David to create a plan to respond to the Great Resignation today.