Throughout the "Great Resignation," millions of Americans have quit their jobs—a trend that has also applied to C-suite level executives who have left their positions after experiencing burnout from rising challenges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why C-suite executives are leaving their positions
Over the past two years, workers at every level have experienced a variety of challenges, leading to widespread burnout and resignations across multiple industries—and C-suite executives were no exception. After trying to maintain work-life balance while juggling pandemic-related challenges, executives around the country have left their positions at increasingly high rates, NBC News reports.
According to Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, several factors are driving people to quit these high-level jobs. "It's many factors — the burnout, the pandemic, the school closures, the need to take stock of life," she said. "It's a whole wide range of shocks."
A monthly tracker from executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that 106 CEOs left their positions in December 2021. In addition, the firm noted that October's 142 CEO departures marked the second-highest month for CEO departures on record. Overall, the number of departing CEOs during the fourth quarter of 2021 was up 16% on a year-over-year basis.
Human resources experts say these figures did not come as a surprise. In fact, data suggested that high-level corporate executives have been struggling with many of the same challenges as their employees, including the added strain of the pandemic.
"The job of a C-level executive is you're burning the midnight oil. You add Covid into that and it feels like you're doing twice the work for half the payout. You can't get in front of the fires that pop up," said Miles Crawford, former CEO for a staffing company, who left his position in June 2021 when the company was being sold.
"We didn't realize that CEOs are employees, as well," said Johnny Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. "We talk about employees having experienced 'Covid clarity.' That happened with us, as well, over the last two years. You're under intense pressure and you just say, 'Do I need this?' There is no more work-life balance, especially for CEOs."
Throughout the pandemic, C-suite executives have faced enormous pressure to pilot operations during an unprecedented global public health crisis, while projecting confidence and stability to their often anxious, overwhelmed employees.
"There was no playbook for how to handle this situation, so the challenge was we couldn't look to the past to find any precedent to follow," said Olin Hyde, who stepped down as CEO last year from the company he founded in 2013.
Health care CEO departures are on the rise
The number of departing hospital CEOs has risen amid the "Great Resignation."
For instance, a Challenger, Gray & Christmas report found that 12 hospital CEOs left their roles in January 2022—double the number of CEO departures from the same month a year earlier. Since mid-February, at least eight additional hospital CEOs have stepped down from their positions.
According to Becker's Hospital Review, 43 hospital CEOs resigned during 2021.
While some hospital and health system CEOs have left their positions to retire, many have transitioned into C-suite roles with other organizations.
On March 8, Jason Barrett resigned as president and CEO of Flagler Health+ after serving in the role since May 2018. According to Flagler, Barrett "made the decision to resign from the organization to pursue other opportunities."
In addition, Scott Wester stepped down as president and CEO of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center for a new executive position with Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. Likewise, Singing River Health System CEO Lee Bond left his role to pursue other opportunities.
However, others have not provided specific reasons for their departures. (Jensik, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/20/2021; Ellison, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/30; Ellison, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/17; White, NBC News, 1/19)