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What “Great Resignation” means for new workers

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AUGUST 13, 2022

The first time we heard the term the “Great Resignation” was in fall 2021 — though the concept itself is not new — when a big wave of workers started quitting their jobs without a specific alternative plan. Many analysts tried to interpret this movement by blaming COVID-19 for the behavior of a big percentage of the active working force. In my opinion, they are partially correct.

It is true, indeed, that the COVID-19 pandemic brought a feeling of futility to a lot of people. This includes students who lost two or more years of social university life, causing many of them to question their previous life and career choices. 

Is this the job I dreamed about? Is the working environment as friendly as I thought? Is there any space for professional advancement? Can I be successful and have a healthy and happy personal life? 

These are a few questions that the carpe diem attitude provoked in me, and I am sure many other workers considered them as well. Each person tried to give the best answers they could, and for some, it meant quitting their current jobs, searching for a new job or taking time off.

The Great Resignation continues to interest every party involved in the country’s economy, and it has not been shown to slow down. This is especially obvious in professions in the tourism industry, which include seasonal workers in hotels, restaurants and cruise ships. In this industry, there are not enough workers to fill these positions. What makes these workers so hesitant to offer their labor? I have the notion that there is not a single answer to this question.

For the most part, the reasons that keep workers from taking these job positions are the same as the ones that drove them out of previous jobs — low wages, no advancement, a toxic working environment, long hours and no recognition.

In addition to all of these reasons, Deloitte’s “Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook” report adds a new perspective as far as female workers are concerned, bringing up the factor of “burnout” in work. Forty percent of women actively searching for new jobs cite burnout as the reason.

Another factor that the report brings up is stress, with 53% of female workers stating that their stress levels are higher than they were the year before. 

Moreover, one of the most interesting facts this report divulges is female workers’ perspectives toward a hybrid working environment. Almost 60% of women think that this new model of work excludes them from important business meetings and almost half believe this renders them unable to be in touch with the executives, which are both crucial to their professional advancement.

As a student myself, the future simultaneously makes me nervous and fascinates me. Some employers are trying to make working conditions better for their employees, but still, years into the pandemic, the Great Resignation marches on

Maybe it is time that the government intervenes in order to strengthen the institutions that secure proper working standards for all workers, no matter the industry. Maybe it is time for a “world basic income” to be legislated in order for people to maintain a standard of living no matter what is offered by their means of employment. 

These changes will give everyone the freedom to reject employment that does not fit them or makes them miserable, hopefully avoiding phenomena such as the Great Resignation.

These phenomena are a great opportunity for us — students that will be entering the global labor market in the near future — to observe, analyze and interpret the changes that rapidly occur in the world. More importantly, they allow us to be as prepared as we can be in order to raise our voice against the injustice that makes people around us unhappily employed.

As far as the Great Resignation is concerned, the Berkeley tradition of standing up for what’s right bestows on us the duty to reconsider our behavior as professionals and colleagues. 

How friendly are we truly to our new colleague? Do we help them adjust or wait to see them fail, looking out for personal advancement?

The answers to these questions could reveal a toxic working environment, partly justifying the wave of resigning workers and therefore the Great Resignation.

Apart from self-criticism, we must also promote the regulation of working standards that offer a safety net for workers, mitigating the state of continuous anxiety and frustration that lead to the Great Resignation. For example, in April, a great step was made in this direction when Amazon workers voted to join a union. 

Even further, we must listen to what people who create wealth — the working class — have to say, and support their cause passionately. After all, we are soon to be facing the same challenges. 

Our generation must learn to adjust to phenomena like the Great Resignation and fight for a viable future work-life.

Berkeley’s culture of standing up for what’s right gives me hope that we — the current students of UC Berkeley — will continue striving to keep this tradition alive and promote it even more. 

Alexis-Aimilios Mitropoulos is a UC Berkeley law student from Greece.

AUGUST 13, 2022

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