Americans are quitting because most employees are overworked and underpaid

Luay Rahil
Photo credit: Canva

By now, everyone knows that The Great Resignation is not only real; it appears to be speeding up.

Americans quit their jobs at a record pace in September, in many cases for more money elsewhere, some quit to stay home, and others resigned to gain more freedom over their schedules.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.4 million workers left employment in September, with job openings decreasing slightly to 10.4 million.

This trend is not slowing down. A new poll from Bankrate finds that 55% of American employees expect to search for a new job over the next 12 months.

Americans aren't returning to work.

Millions of people have yet to return to work creating economic crises and leaving 1000s of executives with no idea how to manage this transition.

Most business people believed that once enhanced unemployment benefits ended, employees would return asking for their jobs, but that didn't happen. This phenomenon created another dilemma for economists who can't understand how people live without a monthly income.

Economists are studying why people are not coming back. For example, are people worried about their health, families responsibilities, freedom, flexibility, or a combination of the above?

Economists and politicians don't get it.

Diane Swonk, the chief economist at Grant Thornton, admits that she cannot understand the market conditions. "If you had ever told me we'd have millions of workers still on the sidelines and have wages going up because people couldn't find workers, you could knock me over with a feather."

Employees want more than money, but businesses don't understand that yet. According to Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst, “Pandemic-inspired changes, including the ability to work remotely or from home, have transformed mindsets and expectations for many workers.”

For a long time, corporations mistreated employees and refused to give employees significant raises. As a result, most companies' raises were less than the inflation rate, and employees had enough. But, in the last 18 months, the power dynamic shifted from employers to employees, and executives can't stand it.

These factors make people reconsider coming back to work, quitting their jobs, or asking for more benefits. But, again, these trends are important in the retail, education, health care, and service industry because that’s where we see these trends to be very impactful on the level of service that companies can offer their customers.

According to Jason Hidalgo, “The restaurant industry was already seeing a sky-high 78.9% turnover rate nationwide in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, by 2020, the restaurant turnover rate ballooned to 130.7% due to store closures and increased stress on the job.”

COVID is a factor and not the root cause.

Americans are worried about their health, freedom, flexibility, and wages.

Some experts want to boil the employment crisis to one dimension, wages. However, it is easy to debunk their theory by examining the employment trends. The labor shortage is not limited to low-paying jobs, and employers are offering more money to recruit new employees and more money to retain their workforce, but nothing is working.

Employees are looking for benefits that some employers can't afford to offer. They want freedom, flexibility, and a good fit. They want to have autonomy over their schedules, flexibility with working remotely, and work for an organization with a healthy culture that stands for good causes. Unfortunately, working remotely in the health care and restaurant business is not possible, so these industries will struggle the longest.

Pre-Covid, most people were driven by Extrinsic motivation, and corporate leaders provided employees with enough rewards to motivate them to work another day but not enough to improve their living standards.

Business leaders rewarded their best employees with hardly adequate money to buy another car, get a bigger house, and a vague promise to move up the corporate ladder. However, they asked their employees to sacrifice their happiness for another 3% raise, and employees don't find that appealing anymore.

You can't afford my freedom.

During the pandemic, employees were exposed to freedom to work remotely, flexibility to show up to the office or not, and the ability to spend more time with their families, and employees loved it.

Some families learned how to live on one income and adjusted their spending habits accordingly, and they have no plan to sacrifice their freedom for another day at the office.

People came to appreciate their freedom, happiness, balance, inner power, and peace. These things money can't buy, and no corporate can afford that.

Companies need to design a healthy work environment for people to come to the office. But, unfortunately, I suspect they won't be successful until the balance shifts back to their favor, and it will eventually.

What do employees want?

Employees want to feel that their core values and organizational values are compatible. When these values are not aligned, people quit or refuse to work for certain organizations.

This is why Frances Haugen left her lucrative job and became the highest-profile tech whistleblower of all time. She didn't agree with Facebook's approach to placing profit before people.

Employees also want to feel trusted, connected, respected, valued, and appreciated by their supervisors and coworkers. As a result, pre-Covid companies created an artificial environment and forced employees to interact with each other. Unfortunately, this approach backfired because no one wants to feel compelled to like someone else.

Instead of creating a fake sense of belonging and telling employees that we are a family that cares about our community, they should have created a community that cares about our families. So, employees feel valued and respected.

The vaccine mandate

The vaccine mandate tells me that politicians and businesses leaders don't understand the magnitude of the employee shortage issues.

Companies should not force employees to get vaccinated. Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets point guard, has been sidelined from the NBA after refusing to get the vaccine. Kyrie Irving had been set to earn a base salary of $34,916,200 for this season, according to Spotrac, and he is willing to lose all of that.

Kyrie makes it clear that his decision is about freedom, "It's just about the freedom of what I want to do." This confirms the above point that employees want to be treated like humans.

Kyris is not alone. Last month 593 United Airlines employees refused to comply with their company's vaccination policy. This trend will get a lot worse after President Joe Biden announced that employers have until Jan 4. to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or tested regularly.

Americans value their freedom as much they value their lives. For example, 9,000 New York city employees chose to be on unpaid leave than vaccinated last week. This is a trend that no one can afford to see.

More and more people will quit their jobs if their employers enforce the vaccine mandate, which President Biden left employers no option but to implement.

Final thoughts

Americans are no longer happy being overworked and underpaid. For the first time in history, employees demand freedom, flexibility, and fair wages. They won't accept a raise that doesn't keep up with the cost of living.

Americans don't want to sacrifice their families to make their organizations more money and sacrifice their dreams to build their bosses' dreams. They are not quitting for no reason, they are re-evaluating their priorities, and they are ready to place their families first.

While politicians and economists refuse to see the real problem and insist on throwing money on the situation, employees are speaking up. Finally, they are saying enough. We don't want to overcommit and overwork for organizations that don't care about us. We want a work-life balance. We want to be respected and valued.

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Writing on leadership, business, and culture.

Fort Worth, TX

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