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 accordance with many economists and other observers. That’s the narrative driving the Great Resignation, by which staff are merely fed up with their present jobs and demanding one thing higher.

Survey knowledge I’ve been accumulating throughout the pandemic, together with social survey outcomes from earlier years, nevertheless, suggests this is removed from the entire story. Quite than being motivated just by dissatisfaction, it seems a lot of them are merely making the most of a powerful economic system to go searching, whereas for others, the pandemic has prompted them to think about their choices.


Are you happy?

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

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

Let’s begin with dissatisfaction. The question is: “On the entire, how happy are you with the work you do–would you say you might be very happy, reasonably happy, a bit of dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied?”

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

Because of this by and massive the overwhelming majority of People—at the very least in accordance with this survey—specific reasonable to high satisfaction with their work.


Wanting for a change

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

“Taking every thing into consideration, how probably 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 probably, considerably probably, or not in any respect probably?”

My interpretation of a “very probably” response to this query is that it indicators a right away curiosity in leaving their current job. In 2002, about 19% stated they have been very more likely to attempt to discover a new job quickly. Over time, the share who stated this rose and fell a bit of, however has remained very constant.

Sadly, the survey hasn’t posed the query since 2018, so I partnered with polling firm Angus Reid World 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 by which 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 have been very more likely to hunt for a brand new place jumped. It rose to 26% in 2020 and to 29% in November 2021.

Whereas it’s probably that my quantity is a bit elevated simply due to the prolonged time horizon—two years as an alternative 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 attention-grabbing paradox: A larger share of individuals say they’re considering quitting than specific dissatisfaction with their present job. There are a number of prospects for why a worker is likely to be pleased with their job, but eyeing a transfer to a different firm. Maybe they’re looking for extra standing or reconsidering their career, or perhaps they’re frightened about attainable 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.

Luckily, the Basic Social Survey asks that very question:

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


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

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

What’s occurring right here?

Whereas the information doesn’t present that People overwhelmingly love their jobs or something like that, they do recommend 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 have been extra dissatisfied with their jobs and more likely to specific an intent to give up than the typical respondent.

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

Quite, once you dig down into the information, one thing totally different seems: A slice of staff are at all times contemplating leaving their jobs—and because the labor market appears to be like brighter, the pent-up impulse to give up kicks in. However the shift in worker sentiment—or at the very least the best way it has been portrayed— appears exaggerated.

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