The Great Resignation or the Great Catch-up?

A quick reflection on the famous “Great Resignation“, now that we are starting to have a bit of distance, and what makes me say that we must put this into perspective

Resignations for various reasons


The pandemic was not over when many “experts” announced that as soon as things started to return to normal, businesses would face a wave of massive resignations. The reason? Employees are fed up and want to move on, to see something else, to move on to something else.

Well, this is a bit of a leap and the argument is too peremptory to illustrate the diversity of situations.

In my opinion, the reasons behind this wave are a little more subtle than that.

  • Employees have lived through a difficult period between the pandemic, the confinements, the compulsory remote work not carried out in good conditions and they associate this period with their business. If they had been in another business, everything would have been exactly the same, but this period is linked to the one they were in, and to change business is a bit like turning the page on this painful sequence.
  • Remote work, which was not always well prepared, pushed organizations to their limits and the employees suffered from it. They saw the dark side of their business, the shortcomings of their managers, the limits of the tools and processes in place and it made them want to run away. Again, I don’t think it would have been better elsewhere, but that’s the experience they had.
  • Those who were not yet convinced that they had to leave were convinced when their business suddenly imposed a massive return to the office, even though they appreciated the comfort of remote work.
  • There are those for whom this period was an opportunity to reflect on their career, what they wanted to do with their life and the bottom line was that their future was elsewhere. So they resigned, some knowing exactly why, others without much of a plan but with the certainty that their future was no longer where they were.
  • For some, two or even three years of salary rigor had a significant impact on their purchasing power and everyone knows that it is easier to negotiate a higher salary by changing business than to get a raise of the same amount by staying in the same business.
  • And then there are all those who already had a desire to go elsewhere before the pandemic, for whatever reason, and waited until the end of the crisis before putting their plan into action.

Great resignation or great catching up?


All this leads me to put this so-called wave of resignations into perspective.

As is often the case, it is a concept that we have imported from the United States and, as is often the case, it comes with a cultural prism that cannot be ignored. It’s a bit like when we used to talk about Generation Y or Millenials: an American Millennial or Y is American before being X or millennial with all that this implies in terms of relationship to business, entrepreneurship, flexibility of the job market and professional risk-taking.

Unsurprisingly, the movement has been less pronounced in Europe, and in any case in France, due to a slightly more cautious culture.

Then, if I don’t deny the figures, I think that we are totally overestimating the extent of the phenomenon.

In theory, in 2022 we should have had :

  • The “normal” resignations of 2022.
  • The “normal” resignations of 2019, 2020 and 2021.
  • The impact of the Great Resignation.

This means that with the catching up of the “non resignations” of the previous years, we should have a turnover equivalent to 4 times that of a normal year, to which should be added the Great Resignation phenomenon.

In my opinion, this is far from the case and we are witnessing more of a catch-up on a job market that has been at a standstill for almost 3 years.

We will only be able to talk about a Great Resignation if we continue to have an abnormally high turnover in 2023…and I don’t believe in it.

Why this reflection? Because in a future post we’ll talk about some lessons learned from these career changes or resignations made on a whim or for the wrong reasons.

Photo : resignation by Ivan Marc via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRIN
Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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