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Survey worker satisfaction is high and not reason for Great Resignatio

Does that imply People are sad with the place they work?

The reply would appear to be sure, in response to many economists and other observers. That’s the narrative driving the Great Resignation, wherein staff are merely fed up with their present jobs and demanding one thing higher.

Survey knowledge I’ve been gathering through the pandemic, together with social survey outcomes from earlier years, nevertheless, suggests this is removed from the entire story. Moderately than being motivated just by dissatisfaction, it seems lots of them are merely profiting from a powerful financial system to go searching, whereas for others, the pandemic has prompted them to contemplate their choices.


Are you glad?

The General Social Survey, a good nationwide survey of American adults, has been asking staff questions on how they really feel concerning the quality of their working life since 2002.

There are literally three key varieties of questions it asks that assist us get at this concept: the extent of dissatisfaction with present work, turnover intention, and confidence find a brand new job.

Let’s begin with dissatisfaction. The question is: “On the entire, how glad are you with the work you do–would you say you’re very glad, reasonably glad, just a little dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied?”

In 2002, about 12% of respondents stated they had been very dissatisfied or just a little dissatisfied with their work, a determine that hardly modified in subsequent surveys by 2018. In 2021, a tad over 16% stated they weren’t glad—a rise, however not an enormous one. And on the flip facet, just a little over 83% stated they had been reasonably or very glad.


Which means by and massive the overwhelming majority of People—not less than in response to this survey—categorical average to high satisfaction with their work.

Wanting for a change

Turnover intention is one other vital indicator. The Common Social Survey asks:

“Taking all the pieces into consideration, how doubtless is it you’ll make a real effort to discover a new job with one other employer inside the subsequent 12 months—would you say very doubtless, considerably doubtless, or not in any respect doubtless?”

My interpretation of a “very doubtless” response to this query is that it indicators a direct curiosity in leaving their current job. In 2002, about 19% stated they had been very prone to attempt to discover a new job quickly. Through the years, the share who stated this rose and fell just a little, however has remained very constant.


Sadly, the survey hasn’t posed the query since 2018, so I partnered with polling firm Angus Reid International to conduct two massive nationwide surveys of American staff in November 2020 and November 2021. One of many questions I requested was the one on turnover intentions, although I prolonged the time period wherein they anticipated to look for a brand new job to 2 years.

As you may anticipate given the rising give up fee, the share saying they had been very prone to hunt for a brand new place jumped. It rose to 26% in 2020 and to 29% in November 2021.

Whereas it’s doubtless that my quantity is a bit elevated simply due to the prolonged time horizon—two years as a substitute of 1—the rise is in line with the Great Resignation narrative that staff are eager to discover a higher office.

However these two figures—job satisfaction and turnover—reveal an fascinating paradox: A larger share of individuals say they’re considering quitting than categorical dissatisfaction with their present job. There are a number of potentialities for why a worker may be pleased with their job, but eyeing a transfer to a different firm. Maybe they’re searching for extra standing or reconsidering their career, or perhaps they’re anxious about doable layoffs.

Confidence within the job search

A further theme within the Great Resignation narrative is that staff feel more confident about discovering different job prospects—and that’s one reason they’ve been quitting in droves.

Fortuitously, the Common Social Survey asks that very question:

“How straightforward would it not be for you to discover a job with one other employer with roughly the identical revenue and fringe advantages as you now have – not in any respect straightforward, considerably straightforward, or very straightforward?”

Two years earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2018, a couple of quarter of respondents stated discovering one other job could be very straightforward. I requested the identical query in my 2021 survey and discovered that quantity had really decreased to round 22%.

Which means worker confidence or optimism about discovering a palatable different job has not climbed all that a lot, making it much less prone to be a think about driving the present wave of resignations.

What’s happening right here?

Whereas the info doesn’t present that People overwhelmingly love their jobs or something like that, they do counsel most individuals like them sufficient to carry on to them.

In fact, this isn’t the top of the story. The info does present vital variations relying on the kind of job we’re speaking about. For instance, staff within the service sector had been extra dissatisfied with their jobs and more likely to precise an intent to give up than the common respondent.

However all in all, the survey knowledge doesn’t help the frequent narrative that it’s a “take this job and shove it” financial system, wherein more and more sad staff are lastly sticking it to their managers.

Moderately, once you dig down into the info, one thing completely different seems: A slice of staff are all the time contemplating leaving their jobs—and because the labor market seems brighter, the pent-up impulse to give up kicks in. However the shift in worker sentiment—or not less than the way in which it has been portrayed— appears exaggerated.

Scott Schieman is a professor of Sociology on the University of Toronto.

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