A growing number of managers and other leaders are choosing to quit their jobs, joining millions of others in the "Great Resignation," Rani Molla writes for Vox.
Ensure seamless leadership transitions
Over the last year, a substantial number of people have quit their jobs as part of the "Great Resignation," with the majority being lower-paid workers. However, now managers and others in leadership positions are also leaving their jobs at much higher rates than before.
According to data from Visier, resignation rates among managers have increased from 3.8% in the first half of 2021 to 5% in the first half of 2022. Similarly, LinkedIn found that the rate of people leaving director positions has grown much faster than those leaving entry level jobs this year.
"Resignation rates are creeping up and into ranks where it isn't a foregone conclusion," said Joseph Fuller, a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. "These are higher-paid workers who presumably have invested a lot in educational credentials, training or building their career at a company. They're managers, and they're leaving pretty good circumstances—that should be worrisome to companies."
As more managers leave, their departures will have a significant impact on both the people who work for them and the companies they work for. In the meantime, "their companies' CEOs will, at least for a while, have to make do without them," Molla writes.
"It's like the military leaning on the non-commissioned junior officers," Fuller said. "If all of a sudden the sergeants and generals quit, it doesn't matter what the general's big vision is for winning the war, someone has to be down there taking the beaches."
Like everyone else, managers and other leaders are subject to many of the same problems that are causing people to quit their jobs, including burnout and reconsidering how work fits into their lives. However, there are also reasons "unique to management" that are driving more people to leave these upper-level roles, Molla writes.
For example, Humu, a leadership software maker, surveyed managers last year and found that their two biggest challenges were hiring and retaining workers, which has gotten more difficult in the tight labor market. Many managers are also facing new challenges as they work to lead hybrid workforces across locations and other unprecedented changes, which they may not be prepared or equipped for.
"A lot of managers get put into management, not because they're great people managers but because they're great technical contributors," said Jessie Wisdom, Humu's cofounder. "That doesn't necessarily mean you have the skills to manage emotions through difficult times and unprecedented levels of burnout and helping your team balance things that they've never had to balance."
"People are going through hard times and, as a manager, you have to help them through that," she added. "Part of your job is almost becoming being a therapist."
Aside from the challenges of their current positions, many managers and other leaders are seeking both professional and personal opportunities elsewhere. According to a survey from Gusto, a third of managers who quit in May did so for a chance to advance their careers, and all types of workers said the most important factor in accepting or declining a job offer was flexibility about when and where they can work.
"The pressure and the demands on the C-suite continue to be pretty substantial," said Steve Hatfield, Global Future of Work Leader at Deloitte. "And the financial position that they're in is one that would give them the opportunity to think about doing something different."
According to Molla, the growing number of quits among management is not "just a flash in the pan" and will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
In a recent Deloitte survey, almost 70% of C-suite members said they are seriously considering quitting their job to find a new one that will better support their wellbeing. In addition, data from Humu found that the attrition risk for managers is twice as high as for non-managers—a reversal from the trend in previous years.
Over time, the situation could become one "that feeds into itself," Molla writes. When one manager quits, another will have to step in to pick up the slack, which could frustrate them and potentially push them to quit. In turn, workers, who may be left without adequate management, may also quit, again making the job more difficult for the managers who remain. Companies may also promote or hire workers into leadership positions they're not qualified for, further exacerbating the problem.
"There's this difficulty we're seeing in matching potential employees to roles that fit, and the managers are the ones who are primarily responsible for creating those matches," said Luke Pardue, an economist at Gusto. "So when they leave and the knowledge they have of the business and these roles disappears with them, we'll likely see this struggle to find good matches continue and the number of vacancies increase."
Overall, the high number of quits among management could end up making Great Resignation worse and stretch out the phenomenon even longer. "At this point, the Great Resignation has built up so much momentum, it's become a force unto itself," Molla writes. "What's not clear is how long it will take to meaningfully slow down." (Molla, Vox, 7/7)
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