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Reflections on turnover amidst turmoil: a qualitative exploration of the "Great Resignation"

Abstract

After the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, workers faced drastic changes to their work environments, home environments, and health. In turn, record numbers of individuals voluntarily quit their jobs. Journalists, economists, and organizations have labeled this the "Great Resignation," and many have attempted to understand this trend and the extent to which it was unique. However, the organizational sciences have yet to fully test existing theories of turnover as they apply to these resignations, and existing data collections (through large-scale surveys) have been limited in content and overwhelmingly quantitative (e.g., offer narrow options for why someone quit). Thus, the current study uses a qualitative, exploratory approach to examine the psychological experiences of 35 people who quit a job during the pandemic, and specifically, explores how (i.e., process) and why (i.e., values, identity, and meaning) people left jobs amidst a global crisis, as well as what they are thinking about work upon reflection. This study uses individual interviews and the phronetic iterative approach for qualitative analysis and interpretation. The results of this study indicate needs for more nuanced turnover theory, a broader understanding of why people quit jobs, and more consideration of human needs in the context of employee retention goals. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, and potential future research directions are presented.

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2023 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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