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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