The Great Resignation could last for years, says the expert who coined the term

It’s been almost a year since Anthony Klotz, a psychologist and professor of business administration at Texas A&M University, coined a famous phrase when he said “the great resignation is coming” in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek

Data proved his prediction true just weeks later, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed that over 4 million workers quit in April 2021—a 20-year high. And for many months after that, Klotz’s prediction kept holding true. Last week, the most recent JOLTS release showed that February 2022 was the ninth consecutive month to have job quits exceed 4 million.  

“It sounds so weird to say I coined it,” Klotz told the Financial Times in an interview published on Sunday.

And the (slightly embarrassed) prognosticator of the Great Resignation said he expects it to continue for at least a few years, adding that resignations will continue at a higher rate for many more months as Americans continue to evaluate what it means to have a healthy work/life balance two years into the ongoing pandemic. Not only have more workers been quitting, but in general, people are still “sorting out their lives,” said Klotz.

Klotz initially proposed the idea of the Great Resignation when he hypothesized that the first year of the pandemic would lead to “pent-up resignations,” he told the FT. When faced with uncertainty, people were more likely to choose stability and stay with their jobs early on during a global health crisis, delaying quitting.

He said that now, workers are also contending with burnout after two years of higher-stress work and reframing their values and what they find meaningful amid so much illness, anxiety, and death. As more companies roll out return-to-office plans, it’s possible as well that workers don’t want to give up the autonomy of working from home and are deciding to quit as a result.

Klotz admitted, though, that such predictions about the labor market and whether or not workers will continue to leave their jobs are a bit outside his wheelhouse.

“I’m an organizational psychologist, not an economist, so I have no business making labor market predictions,” Klotz told the FT. “And if I was an economist, I’d be annoyed at me for doing so.”

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