February 12, 2022 / VOLUME NO. 196


The Great Resignation Myth

“We are issuing stimulus checks twice a month,” reads the sign outside my local SONIC Drive-In, in a bid to hire employees to staff the fast-food franchise. “See inside.” 

I frequently hear how younger generations just don’t want to work. Kids these days, it seems, don’t want to sling burgers for sub-par pay. 

But older folks have been complaining about younger generations for thousands of years. At least.

“[Young people] have exalted notions, because they have not yet been humbled by life or learnt its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things,” wrote Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. “They are fond of fun and therefore witty, wit being well-bred insolence.”

Leaping ahead to 2017, Australian millionaire Tim Gurner pointed to millennials’ predilection for “smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each” as the reason they couldn’t afford to buy homes. Nevermind climbing housing prices and student debt.

Stereotypes about younger generations may be causing those of us with a little more gray in our hair to grossly misunderstand today’s so-called Great Resignation, with its high level of job departures in 2021. We can expect more of this in 2022, according to a Bankrate survey published last August: More than half of Americans planned to find a new job over the next year, with younger workers more likely to join this hunt.

“Gen Z and millennials are the most mobile participants in the workforce,” Bankrate Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick told CNBC last September. “They aren’t making as much money as their older, more senior counterparts, so they’re more eager to find higher paid jobs, and they tend to be more technologically savvy, so they’re in a better position to take advantage of remote work opportunities.” 

LinkedIn CEO Ryan Rolinsky, in a Time interview late last year, said that the “Great Reshuffle” would be a more appropriate description for these trends, given the 54% year-over-year increase in job transitions recorded by the platform’s users. 

Workers, to put it simply, want to work. But they want their employers to invest in them, too.

“Right now, all companies, all CEOs, are rethinking the way their company works. They’re rethinking their culture. They’re rethinking their values and about what it means to work at their company,” Rolinsky said. “And on the other hand, you have employees globally who are rethinking not just how they work, but why they work and what they most want to do with their careers and lives.”

The companies that win out in this transition won’t look down on their younger employees. Instead, they’ll seek common ground and adapt.

• Emily McCormick, vice president of research for Bank Director


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