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Leon Kaye headshot

Actually, We Should Be Calling the Great Resignation the ‘Great Upgrade’

It's been an imperfect labor shift, but the data suggest that many people driving the Great Resignation found new jobs that paid higher - and are treated better.
By Leon Kaye
Great Resignation

The latest job reports show that even more U.S. workers have quit their jobs, giving further fuel to the flames that many of us have been calling the Great Resignation.

We know the narrative: Whether they work in low-paying food service jobs or at marquee tech companies — or within organizations that have a pay scale somewhere in between — employees have been making their feelings heard loud and clear. To quote the classic line from the 1976 film, Network, millions have pretty much said, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

It’s been a labor transition that hasn’t been kind toward too many Americans. The pandemic made it very difficult for women to balance life and work. Evidence also suggests that many people of color have felt as if they had to stay in jobs they hate for a bevy of reasons, financial and cultural.

At a macro level, however, it turns out that many people who quit their jobs actually found other positions that paid higher and where they were also treated better. As Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, recently observed on Twitter: Maybe we shouldn't be calling it the Great Resignation, but rather the Great Upgrade. 

“Companies are paying higher wages, offering signing bonuses and adjusting schedules to attract and retain talent. A growing number of companies now pay student debt benefits, hoping to keep good workers from hopping to other employers,” reporter Christine Romans recently wrote for CNN Business. “The opportunity for American workers has never been greater, and they're getting rewarded for quitting.”

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That reality hasn’t been lost on such financial giants as Goldman Sachs, which has advised companies that the ongoing competition for labor will still be fierce, and companies will have to respond in kind — as in, with compelling pay and benefits packages.

“The Great Resignation may have been a big story of 2021, but the numbers show that for those willing to commit, many companies have been sweetening the deal more than they have in the past,” staff writer Raisa Bruner wrote for Time last month.

To be clear, this rising tide isn’t lifting all boats. Bruner noted that employees working in professional services and information technology overall cite impressive pay raises, for example, while the opposite is true across the leisure and hospitality sectors.

More companies are responding with more perks and higher pay, but that won’t solve all of the challenges they face in the workplace, where employees (ahem) aren’t going to take it anymore. For example, the hard work on the inclusiveness and diversity fronts still isn’t done. One 31-year-old Black man summed it all up during a recent interview with the Atlanta Black Star, suggesting organizations need to go beyond pledges and take action: “I’m like, why not just talk to your employees, talk to us like we’re people.”

Image credit: Israel Andrade via Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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