Why We're Wrong About The Great Resignation (and How We Can Benefit)

There are 3 ways we can look at the Great Resignation differently that can also benefit us and our businesses.

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By Jeffrey Shaw

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many people have the wrong idea about The Great Resignation, or The Big Quit, or whatever you want to call it. When looked at through a different lens, your understanding of The Great Resignation can change, and you can find ways to benefit from it with a different perspective.

It's true that a record-high 38 million workers are reported to have quit their jobs in 2021. Let's consider, though, that The Great Resignation isn't about what people are resigning from. It's not about the job they are quitting, the stress they are giving up or the commute they no longer want to do.

Looking from a different perspective, you realize it's not about what people are walking away from at all. It's about what people are walking towards. They are walking towards the life they want to live. What people want is a job that fits into the life they want to live — not a life they have to fit into the job they have.

Related: How Embracing the Great Redefinition Will Help Your Company Thrive

As with most other wide-scale crises, there's been a huge shift in values. People are prioritizing their personal lives and how they want to live in ways that perhaps we have never seen before. As negative an impact that may have on any company or leader, can anyone really argue that it's a bad value shift for society? Sure, many employers are up in arms, not being able to get workers. But, who really needs to make the change here? Who needs to accommodate whom?

People want to work wherever works best for them. It might be home or remote, or for that matter, any state they want — which explains the mad rush of people moving to Florida from up North. Why? Because they can. Lockdown showed us we can do it, and it showed us how to do it. The cat is out of the bag. Companies and educational institutions that previously thought remote work or education was impossible, well, now, we all see otherwise. You can't really go back and pretend we didn't notice it worked for the most part.

What people are really quitting is believing they have to bend their life to fit their work and instead are seeing opportunities to lead with the lifestyle they want and make career choices accordingly.

Related: Great Resignation or Great Redirection?

Another change of perspective to understand is that with such a major shift in what people value, in this case, lifestyle over work, comes a shift in what consumers see as important. A business can be on either the winning or losing side of this. What was important to many people two years ago, may not be important to them today. That may negatively impact your business. But likewise, what may not have been important two years ago, might be in tremendous demand today. Business leaders need to ask themselves:

  • How can we get on the winning side of this?

  • Is there a way our business needs to evolve or pivot?

  • Is this an ideal opportunity to grab market share?

I venture to say, in most cases, there's more of an opportunity here than a threat. The key is to understand what your intended audience values most today, and align with that. There's a popular adage in business that says it's better to work on your business more than in it. Perhaps, a wiser thought is that it's better to work outside of your business more than on it. Often, the very best thing you can do for your business is to look at your business and your offers from the perspective of those you serve, while considering what they value today — especially after a big change. Don't look at it from where it stood two years ago, because what people see value in today is likely different than two years ago. Truly look from outside your business and imagine, based on what your customers value today, what they need to see, hear and feel from you.

Now that you, like your customers, are looking through the lifestyle-first lens, you can imagine what you might need to do to be appealing and interesting to your intended audience. Looking from the perspective of what your customers value most today is critical to being positioned on the winning side and keeping your business relevant. It's true now, and it's always true after a major societal event.

Lastly, if The Great Resignation is about quitting at all, then that's an opportunity available for all of us. It's not just an opportunity for the employed. It's also true for the self-employed, retired and stay-at-home moms and dads, because we all have things we can consider quitting. We can quit being over-committed. We can quit spending our time on things and with people that don't bring us joy. We can quit saying "yes" when we really want to say "no." Now is a great time for us all to decide what we want to quit, what we want to resign from and the lifestyle we want to walk toward.

It's not until we look at The Great Resignation as an opportunity to walk headstrong towards the life we want and walk away from whatever is compromising our lives that this truly be a great resignation.

Related: 4 Ways to Design a Work Culture That Will Beat the Great Resignation

Jeffrey Shaw

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Small business coach

Small business coach, Jeffrey Shaw is the author of The Self-Employed Life and LINGO, as well as an in-demand keynote speaker. He's the host of the top-rated podcast, The Self-Employed Life and a LinkedIn Learning instructor. Shaw's TEDxLincolnSquare talk is featured on TED.com.

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