Amber Stark

Anthony Klotz on the Great Resignation

People in and out of the I-O psychology profession have become increasingly familiar with the phrase The Great Resignation over the last few months. As workers have left jobs for a multitude of reasons, this phrase—“The Great Resignation”—has gained popularity.

When a term starts circulating, it can be easy to assume it just showed up one day. However, it was an intentional label created by SIOP Member Dr. Anthony Klotz, an associate professor at Texas A & M University. Klotz focuses on employee resignation and noticed a few trends emerging early in the pandemic that he believed would lead to an increase in turnover. He felt it was a good idea to give this phenomenon name, not realizing how much traction it would gain as he started using it more widely.

When asked what The Great Resignation means to him, Klotz said, “The pandemic changed the world of work, in ways that will have both short-term and long-term effects. Even though the term ‘resignation’ refers to quitting, to me, The Great Resignation represents the cumulative effects of the pandemic on workers. It represents the different ways in which workers experienced the pandemic. The term surfaced a conversation that workers wanted to have and that many companies are eager to hear. That conversation is really only beginning, and I believe a great deal of learning will happen over the coming years as employees, organizational leaders, economists, and organizational psychologists experiment with new ways of working.”

Although having an easy-to-understand phrase makes small and wide-scale conversations about this much easier to take in, another undeniable benefit is the visibility that it brings to the I-O profession.

“Macro trends in the workforce have typically been the domain of economists. This is for good reason, and they do a great job of creating and disseminating knowledge about the overall job market,” Klotz said. “I believe The Great Resignation has shown that organizational psychologists can complement the work of economists to provide an even more complete picture of how individuals experience work in a given moment in time. Over the past 6 months, many organizational psychologists have been interviewed about the Great Resignation, and collectively, their insights have shed a great deal of light on the phenomenon and how companies can respond. I hope that The Great Resignation increases the extent to which the media, the government, and organizational leaders engage with organizational psychologists to understand and improve the world of work.”

When asked what he thought the future of The Great Resignation will be, Klotz said, “I believe we are entering a period of time in which firms are rearranging many different aspects of work in response to how workers feel right now. These changes will cause more movement of employees in the short term, but they will also attract workers who are currently on the sidelines back into the workforce. Longer term, there will hopefully be a world of work in which employees are better able to find the jobs and work arrangements that best fit their needs and abilities.”

It's clear at this point that the working world has changed in many ways that are likely permanent. Professionals in the I-O psychology field continue to adapt to these new environments to continue to improve the working world for employees at all levels. Phrases, like Klotz’s The Great Resignation, make having these discussions among people representing many fields simpler, allowing us to focus on solutions to address issues.

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