How “The Great Resignation” Became “The Great Regret”

Handing in your notice and walking away from a job that isn’t working for you can come with a rush of relief at the moment–but what about what comes after? Learn more.

How “The Great Resignation” Became “The Great Regret”

Handing in your notice and walking away from a job that isn’t working for you can come with a rush of relief in the moment–but what about what comes after?

The “after” covers the slow and unfortunate change of the “Great Resignation” into the “Great Regret” for many people who quit their jobs during the lockdowns of 2020. We’re going to look at exactly how handing in those resignations became a regret for so many.

First, however, we’re going to cover the reasons why the Great Resignation happened in the first place.

What drove the Great Resignation?

It’s much easier to understand how the Great Regret came about when you’re aware of the factors that lead people to resign in the first place. That’s why we’ll be going through this topic first.

The Great Resignation didn’t happen spontaneously. People walked out of their jobs for several key reasons, many of which became more apparent (or more pressing) because of the conditions set by lockdowns.

In many cases, employees felt they needed a better remote work-life balance. Plenty of people who resigned were struggling under the feeling of burnout, underpayment, or poor work conditions:

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As the above graphic shows, over a quarter of the people who left their jobs did not have a new position lined up when they did so. This factors into the Great Regret, as we’ll see shortly.

The key points to bear in mind here are that the Great Resignation came about as a result of dissatisfaction. Whether people felt they needed a break, better pay, more time away from work each day, or something else, most people who resigned felt something was missing or could be improved.

Now it’s time to see how those feelings of dissatisfaction followed a lot of those same people after they left their previous positions.

The transition to the Great Regret

We alluded to the relief that can come about as a result of leaving a job that isn’t working out. That rush was undoubtedly a driving factor in the Great Resignation period, but of course, a rush can’t last forever.

When the immediate relief wore off, plenty of former employees found themselves saddled with more problems than they had before they quit. The consequences of sudden resignations played a part in converting that relief into regret.

Negative impact on personal financial stability

Sure, some people went from a position that didn’t suit them to one that did–and those people likely aren’t part of the Great Regret. Others, as mentioned above, didn’t have a new job ready to go when they left their old one.

That had a major impact on their financial stability.

In particular, employees whose living situations depended wholly or largely on the income from their jobs found themselves struggling. Where they could previously count on a steady flow of cash to keep themselves afloat, that support suddenly fell away.

Not everybody who resigned found themselves completely out of a source of income, of course. All the same, those people had to make a rapid transition towards depending on side hustles, part-time jobs, or even the incomes of partners or other loved ones. That change affected their personal finances negatively.

Unforeseen challenges of leaving a job hastily

There are more consequences to quitting in a hurry than the financial ones we’ve already discussed.

One major challenge is finding a new job. Aside from limited job opportunities, which we’ll discuss in more detail shortly, there’s the issue of figuring out what you want. Maybe you knew the old job wasn’t right, but you don’t know what would be right for you, for example.

There’s also the fact that at the time, almost everyone had to stay home almost all the time. That makes it much harder to connect with people at a new job, if you successfully find one that suits your needs and preferences.

Leaving a job hastily also makes it harder to maintain connections you’d made at the old job. That means missing out on networking opportunities and, potentially, isolating yourself socially.

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Limited job opportunities

With everyone working from home, plenty of jobs simply weren’t available at the time when the Great Resignation took place. Companies also had to find substitutes for human employees, which made the issue of a lack of job opportunities even worse.

Take software testing, for example. If you previously worked as a full-time software tester, you may find that your old role is now managed using automation testing–and that other companies are in similar positions. You’d soon see your job opportunities shrinking.

Countering the Great Regret by building a great culture

So, with the consequences of the Great Regret in mind, what should companies do to protect their employees from encountering those negative experiences?

The simple answer is to stop the Great Resignation from happening in the first place.

As it turns out, that’s not just a distant aspiration–it’s a realistically-achievable goal. By building a Great Culture, if you will, you can create an environment that protects you from losing employees to any future Great Resignations. In the process, you’ll also protect those employees from suffering through a Great Regret.

Provide training and personal development opportunities

When you give employees the tools they need to grow and thrive at work, they’ll be less likely to leave. That’s not conjecture–it’s what 21% of employees said when asked what could have made them reconsider leaving their positions:

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Training helps employees learn how to achieve an optimized workflow, streamline their daily processes, and achieve better results. Each of these factors also benefits your company, providing further reason why training is so vital to offer.

Likewise, personal development opportunities let employees continue to grow and contribute meaningfully to your company. This allows them to avoid feeling stagnant within their role, and ensures they’ve got the chance to climb to better positions within your company.

Give employees resources to start side hustles

This tip might not be as intuitive to employers—after all, you’re trying to help your employees be productive for your company, right? However, there’s more to a side hustle than meets the eye.

In a recent study 61% reported that a greater work-life balance and personal wellbeing is important in the workplace. 58% of respondents said they want to use their skills and do what they do best.

By encouraging employees to follow their dreams and pursue their passion projects you’re showing them that you care about both their personal and professional development. You’re also helping them get that work-life balance so many are looking for.

It can also be used to positively impact your company and its image. If you’re looking to build a corporate social responsibility strategy and enact positive change, you could work with your employees to support a charitable cause. Give your staff time and access to accounting software for small nonprofits, project management tools, or advice on marketing their new venture to help them support a charity they care about.

Employees will feel appreciated, valued, and excited by a project they’re passionate. They’ll also be less likely to leave a company that sees them as an individual rather than just another cog in the machine.

Acknowledge employee issues and take action

Your employees aren’t robots. They’re bound to experience troubles and issues, and by paying attention to those, you can improve their work lives drastically.

Imagine, for example, your employees feel your sick leave policy leaves them unable to prioritize their health. This leads them to keep seeking out other jobs that do let them take proper care of their health–or outright quitting.

You could choose to change nothing. Or, if you’re looking to retain talent and avoid resignations, you can put in the work to overhaul your sick leave policy.

Aside from improving conditions for employees, this shows them that their voice matters. That’s the sort of culture you simply can’t buy, and that’s a major factor in helping employees avoid the regret that comes with leaving for the promise of something different.

Improve internal operations

Nobody likes dealing with clunky, time-consuming processes in their day-to-day lives at work, least of all your employees. That’s why you’ve got to streamline your internal operations.

By making sure your internal operations progress smoothly, you reduce the chance of frustration building up within employees. You also help them see the value in your company, as they’ll be able to say that your internal operations are always getting better and better.

Make sure you have the right accounting software for small business in place so you can pay your staff promptly and securely. Consider automating repetitive tasks to free up time that could be better spent elsewhere and invest in the right communications platform so information can be shared quickly and easily.

Using the right tools helps you ensure you’re maximizing productivity and streamlining every possible process. Your staff will then be able to focus on the important tasks rather than battling outdated processes.

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Final thoughts

The Great Resignation, on its own, had the potential to be many things. For some, it represented a much-needed change to a routine that was not working for them. For others, it would come to represent a hasty choice with harsh consequences.

The fact alone that the term ‘Great Regret’ has caught on goes to show that plenty of people experienced those regrets, and wished they had made different choices.

Companies should see the Great Resignation as a cautionary tale. By building an amazing company culture, they can prevent a recurrence of the Great Resignation--but more than that, they can help their employees avoid the Great Regret that followed.