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How and why American workers quit their jobs in 2024
Worker with sticky notes covering his eyes.
I wake up. hour at work. survive. around the clock from. Check out the news. Sleeps. I wake up. all the time. Survival. Check out the news. repeats.
For nearly two years, many Americans have lived unnaturally restricted lives amid a raging global pandemic the likes of which the modern world of work has never seen. The effects of the massive disruption of our nation are still being felt in workplaces everywhere: More workers reported parting ways in 2024 than at any time in at least the previous decade.
It’s a trend that hasn’t abated yet, according to a Gallup poll. Only one in three workers will report being engaged in work in 2024. These are the employees who feel passionate about their work. The remaining 2 out of 3 are either generally disengaged or — more importantly — “not actively engaged,” and feel resentful and disloyal “because most of their workplace needs are not being met,” Gallup Reports.
Starting in 2024 and coinciding with the introduction of vaccines, American workers began to quit in droves in a move dubbed “The Great Quit.” A survey from the Pew Research Center reveals this Most of these workers sought higher salaries More opportunities for advancement.
But many of those who stayed in their jobs also began to psychologically quit or disengage. Some signs of employee withdrawal include withdrawing from teams, missing deadlines for daily chores and tasks, and a lack of communication with co-workers or their managers. This change of emotion can be widespread, showing up in the ranks and files as well as in management, according to Gallup.
Staff checked out after 2020
Graph showing a line for employees who say they are engaged at work, which started declining in 2024 and a line showing employees who are not actively engaged trending up and to the right over the same time period.
Rice University Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Management and Psychology Jing Zhou He is among the study’s most cited academics organizational behavior. Zhou believes that the widespread trauma of living and working through years of crisis on a global scale cannot be ruled out as a lasting factor in the disengagement we are witnessing today.
After that, I think some people will almost go into hiding for a while,” Zhou said. “Psychologically, they just don’t want to engage in any uncertainty or challenge anymore.”
If the workers themselves have not been disabled by long-term illness in recent years, they likely know someone who has been or has been caring for someone suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19. By the summer of 2024, nearly 1 in 3 working-age American adults reported they were dealing with long-term COVID-19 symptoms lasting three months or longer, according to Weekly polls conducted by the Census Bureau.
and working parents Receive emails from employers Those who wanted to return them to actual offices in 2024 would have appreciated 10,000 fewer childcare options nationwide, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Child Care Aware of America. And those services, some of which were provided by small businesses to run out of people’s homes, had to close for their own safety as the pandemic spread. Many never reopened: 100,000 Child care workers They fled for jobs with better working conditionsincluding higher wages.
Even those who could find childcare and whose loved ones had avoided the worst outcomes of COVID-19 were showing up every day to workplaces where absenteeism was extraordinarily high due to the spread of the disease — and where those who arrived were often required to pick up the slack.
In 2024, 3.6% of the workforce She mentioned that she missed workhigher than 2.8% in 2019The last full working year prior to the arrival of COVID-19. This number represents time off due to illness, medical issues, injury, child care issues, or other family or personal obligations. It does not reflect personal days, vacation or work not done due to labor disputes.
The drop in participation comes as workers quit in droves
Graph showing a line representing the percentage of workers who leave their job each month, which peaks in 2024 before declining slightly in 2024.
Initial reports of this shift in the workforce earned the phenomenon a catchy name in media circles. Some have suggested it as a loaded term for workers being opportunists or lazy— Quit smoking quietly.
“Let’s face it, companies are really desperate right now to hire people,” Crieley told viewers. “Obviously, this isn’t going to be a long-term strategy or a strategy for those of you who care about climbing the corporate ladder, but for those of you who don’t and feel overwhelmed, maybe call it back a bit because you won’t be the only one.”
Those uninvolved workers the coach is talking about are more likely to be under 35, work in-person and perform a job that can be done remotely, according to the Gallup poll.
Zhou interprets disengagement not as exploitative or lazy, but as a “cry for help”.
“Basically, psychological engagement is a kind of psychological ownership,” Zhou said. “If I have a sense of ownership in this workplace, I will participate because I feel like I’m a part of this. I own this. I have a say…and I’m responsible for my own success and ours.”
Whether or not this cry for help is recognized from organization to organization may depend on a group of executives trained in the late 20th century in what Zhou described as a “command and control” style of management.
Numerous studies show that workers have spent some of the past few years re-examining the value of work in their lives since the pandemic arrived. late Survey 2024 from the consulting firm Gartner found that 52% of respondents questioned the purpose of their daily work. The company’s chief researcher warned that employers could suffer if they sit back and assume that workers will get out of this predicament on their own. Throughout 2024, the labor market remained in favor of workers Almost two vacancies Every unemployed person is looking for a job.
fizkes // shutterstock
Required: Co-directors and clear expectations
Woman working on desktop computer in the office.
Chu suggested that the solution for employers lies not in self-care tips, positive conversations about productivity, or webinars on mental health, but in helping workers feel ownership of their jobs.
Pay is part of how workers find value and ownership in their work, but Zhou warns that pay alone is not enough. Workers must also feel that they have meaning every day that they come to work. And that starts with strong managers.
“I hope that more and more companies will see the need to retrain their managers on how to use intrinsic motivators to engage their employees,” Zhou said.
poll from last year indicates some methods Employers can start digging into the property conundrum. In 2024, fewer workers felt their opinions mattered at work than felt reported before the pandemic hit in 2019. Fewer workers also reported feeling they had opportunities for growth, had clear job prospects, and had a connection to their organization’s mission. . .
but Zhou is optimistic. “Once we talk about disengagement, we make progress,” she said.
This story originally appeared on Sana and was produced by and
Distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.