Workplace Culture

What Job Satisfaction Means Amid the Great Resignation

July 29, 2021

The Great Resignation means tens of millions of U.S. workers are seeking new opportunities. See what role job satisfaction plays in this phenomenon.

Photo of a conference room table with a plaque that says GOODEBYE FRIENDS with a small heart below the words.


If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had a quit-your-job fantasy at least once in your career.  It probably goes a little something like this:  After years of being the workhorse and getting zero credit for all your ingenious ideas and endless toiling, you look your boss in the eye and say, “That’s it… I quit!”  Even if you’re the boss, you have probably had that feeling a time or two.

Although many people have probably felt like resigning, typically only a small fraction of workers would actually consider doing it.  Now that I mention it, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many people have seriously considered just up and quitting their job?  Well—lucky for us—this is the year we get an unusual peek into what had been a mere daydream for so many. 

Let’s discuss why 2021 is being called the year of the Great Resignation, all the while considering what job satisfaction means as we observe this phenomenon.

Job (Dis)Satisfaction

Image of a man sitting in front of his laptop with a drink in a cup next to him looking at his cell phone in his hand.

Now, feeling overworked and underappreciated isn’t the only reason people choose to leave their jobs.  In fact, the desire to feel valued only ranks at #4 on’s list of top reasons why people quit their jobs.  Other notable reasons include wanting more of a challenge, wanting better pay, and issues with management.

Still, despite the desire to leave, many people remain in positions they would rather not be in.  Some common reasons why people stay in their roles include fear of making the wrong decision (and regretting it), fear of disappointing others, and fear of failure at their next endeavor.

All things considered, it would seem that people have historically been more likely to stay in jobs they don’t love than to roll the dice and go after something different.  That is, until 2021. 

The Real Data Behind the Great Resignation of 2021

So, what is different about 2021?  Well, a lot.  After all, they don’t put the word “great” in front of just any old event.  Since they’re calling this the Great Resignation, clearly it’s something remarkable.  While 2.7% may not sound like a big number, when it represents 40 million U.S. workers, it is a pretty big deal.  Furthermore, we haven’t seen numbers like that since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting this type of data over 20 years ago.  As far as what’s prompting this mass exodus, here is what the data shows.


Photo of the front of a shop with BUY LOCAL OR BYE-BYE LOCAL written in blue chalk pain on the door.

Now, for starters, we have been amid a global pandemic.  That’s major.  Unless you were living under a rock for the past year, you are probably well aware of the toll this took on businesses.  Some businesses went under during the pandemic at the same time others were thriving, but few businesses were left untouched in one way or another.  Suffice it to say, the pandemic was a huge driver in people both remaining in and leaving their jobs.  For those who stayed (when they had felt like quitting), it was likely because they understood the harsh reality that many people were jobless, and not by choice.  Now that the economy is stabilizing, finding a new job doesn’t seem so risky.

Related:  Identifying the Perfect Candidate

Stock Market

Speaking of the economy stabilizing, the recent state of the stock market has a lot of people licking their chops and rubbing their hands together.  Namely, those who were nearing retirement age saw the opportunity to get a head start on their golden years.  So, while a portion of the Great Resignation can be attributed to the stock market, not everyone is leaving for greener pastures within the workforce.  Some people are simply cashing in as they call it quits.


For those who aren’t close to retirement age or who are, but financially aren’t quite there yet, much introspection and retrospection have been going on.  What does this mean?  Well, many people are taking a look inside themselves and considering past experiences, and then embarking on new adventures in the working world.  (Wow, so deep.)

In all seriousness, this is truly where the job satisfaction piece comes into play.  Those who are not afraid to take a leap of faith are considering anew where they are on their career path.  Most importantly, they have their sights set on where they want to be.  If the trajectory is off, they are realigning by going after what they want, even if it means changing careers.  The pandemic has truly shaken many people to the core, and what remains is as much a you-only-live-once (YOLO!) perspective as we’ve ever seen.

Pandemic Bookend

Photo of a hand outstretched with a sticker reading I GOT MY COVID-19 VACCINATION.

Finally, the pandemic is bookending the reasons why so many people are high tailing it outta their jobs.  When so many businesses tanked, it was a huge hit to the workforce.  Fortunately, however, the demand didn’t waver in many ways.  Boredom, restlessness, and faith in vaccines (and YOLO!) have been driving many people from their caves of worry and back out into the hustle and bustle of the working world.  In fact, there are an estimated 9.3 million job vacancies in the U.S. right now.  So, while this certainly may be the Great Resignation, it could just as easily be called THE GREATEST CAREER FAIR OF ALL TIME!

Related:  Can You Be Fired for Social Media Posts?

Job Satisfaction

So, what does all this have to do with job satisfaction?  Well, it’s pretty simple, actually.  You see, at the end of the day, most people don’t leave something that makes them happy without a really good reason.  So, if employers find themselves on the receiving end of elevated resignation figures during this time, there’s a chance there’s a problem.  On the contrary, if employers have an influx of highly qualified candidates vying for positions within their company, then that speaks volumes about the type of reputation they have.  Thus, employers would be wise to keep an ear to the ground and pay attention to the comings and goings, so to speak, of their employees. Being mindful of your workplace culture can help keep you in tune with employee happiness, and potentially minimize turnover.

Call It What You Will

As I was considering how to title this post, I thought about calling it, “How to Quit Your Job Along with Everyone Else.”  I also toyed with, “How to Properly Quit Your Job (So You Can Get It Back Because You’re Going to Realize It’s Not So Bad).”  However, after some consideration, I realized that this period of reflection is deeply personal and inspiring.  It’s quite extraordinary that so many people are taking their careers by the horns and seeking out more than what is expected of them.  They are being brave and taking risks that they might not have taken, had they not stared into the face of death over the past year.  You can call it many things, but I call the Great Resignation nothing short of amazing.

Photo of a bunch of colorful signs with abstract flowers and the words GOODBYE in various languages.

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