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Workers Are Largely Satisfied With Their Jobs; Why Are They Quitting?

  • Worker dissatisfaction is often cited as a driving factor in the “Great Resignation”
  • The General Social Survey contests this notion, suggesting that the vast majority of workers remain satisfied with their work
  • The findings suggest that employers need to keep aware of their employees’ motivations and what may cause them to seek opportunities elsewhere

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

A narrative that has emerged to explain the “Great Resignation” is one of widespread worker discontentment. This suggests that workers who are fed up with low pay, unsavory working conditions, rude customers, and other frustrations are simply walking out and seeking better options elsewhere.

However, a national survey offering insights on the quality of Americans’ working lives finds that the vast majority of people are still satisfied with their jobs. In its latest iteration, the General Social Survey found that 83 percent of respondents were moderately or very satisfied with their work. The share of dissatisfied workers has held fairly steady since the survey began in 2002, with the latest figure at 16 percent – slightly elevated but not enough to account for the increase in employee resignations.

The data suggests that the increased number of quits aren’t primarily being driven by dissatisfaction, but rather by people seeking other opportunities due to steady economic growth in the wake of the disruptions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.

  • The share of respondents indicating they will likely begin looking for a new job had stayed at about one in five, but the question was omitted after 2018
  • A poll commissioned by Fast Company found that the share of people saying they were job hunting increased from 26 percent in November 2020 to 29 percent in November 2021
  • People looking for a new job can be motivated by factors such as seeking a better work environment, making a career change, or fears about potential layoffs at their company
  • Having “stay conversations” can help improve your employee communications, address concerns, and improve retention
  • Employers should also be aware of what factors can drive employee satisfaction

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