US Labor Report: Why More Employees Are Quitting Than Are Being Reported – Episode 129

LFL 129 | US Labor Report


The April 2021 US Labor Report showed more people quit their jobs than at any point since 2001. There are a lot of factors, such as the pandemic, as to why the report is like that. However, this is still very scary for most companies because an employee that is unhappy is not 100% optimal for your business. Join your host, Patrick Veroneau, as he explores the leadership behaviors that will encourage employees to quit or stay.

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US Labor Report: Why More Employees Are Quitting Than Are Being Reported

I want to talk about the data that came out of the US Labor Department and it was looking at the April jobs numbers. In April of 2021, more people quit their jobs than at any point since 2000 or 2001. I’m not surprised at that number. I look at it from a few different perspectives that I wanted to talk about and how they relate. One is around poor leadership or management behaviors. The other is employee engagement or disengagement and lastly, smoking. Yes, smoking. How does that compare? I’ll give you an analogy that is relevant to what we’re dealing with now.

When we talk about the number of people that have quit their jobs in April’s jobs number report and why that’s so significant. Since 2020, so many people had more time on their hands on some levels to contemplate, “What do I want?” Maybe in cultures or organizations where they weren’t happy. They didn’t realize how unhappy they were until they were separated from that and were working remotely. We hear other things out there like it’s because of not being able to secure childcare. That’s one of the reasons and I’m not saying that’s not, but I think this is deeper than that.

I do believe that people, since 2020, maybe have looked at a lot of other challenges that have gone on. They’ve looked at their own fragility in some ways in terms of how this virus can impact some and healthy people and unhealthy people. You just never know. On such a large scale, that has created an environment where a lot of people have said, “What do I want? What’s this all about?” I look at work that was done by Dan Pink a number of years ago, where he looked at what motivated people. In his book Drive, the three things he talks about are purpose, autonomy and development.

I do believe that there are a lot of people out there struggling right now with purpose that have said, “I’m not doing this anymore,” especially as some organizations or many organizations start to put together policies as it relates to back to work. There are a lot of people out there that have been working from home that have said, “I don’t want to go back to that environment. I’ve been productive at home. I’ve gotten the things done that I needed to get home and if this organization forces me to come back into work into an office setting, I’m going to quit.”

In April of 2021, more people quit their jobs than at any point since 2001. Click To Tweet

To me, the bigger concern should be for organizations. We’ve seen the number of people that physically have quit their jobs increase. I would say from the conversations that I’ve had with hundreds of individuals, and not necessarily about themselves, but about other things that they’re hearing, is that that number is exponential in terms of people that want to quit their jobs but won’t pull the trigger on it. I’ll call those people that quit and stay. That means that they’ve resigned emotionally, probably intellectually, but physically they’re going to show up for their job. Those are the individuals that are going to hurt organizations even more because they’re not invested and engaged. They’re probably resenting the fact that they have to be there. Maybe they know other people that have quit and gone somewhere else and that weighs on them even more.

Poor Leadership Management Behaviour

That’s not all doom and gloom on this. First, we need to recognize that that’s the case and we’ll talk about that as it relates to the piece on smoking that I want to talk about. There are two other things that are important here to think about that. When we create an environment where people want to stay with the organization that we’re with, it’s around behaviors. Specifically, if we look at some of the work that’s been done by Gallup, they would suggest that almost 70% of disengagement between an employee and the organization is the result of who they report to directly. If that’s the case, then we’re talking about behaviors.

In my work, I have found that there are a number of behaviors that leaders and managers will create an environment where people either want to stay or want to go. The things that are going to trip many leaders or managers up in this environment are around six behaviors. The first of those is what I’m going to call incongruence. That’s when you’re not walking the talk. If you’re the leader or the manager and you’re not doing what you’re expecting everybody else to do, then you’re going to have an environment where people lose trust in you and the organization. They’re like, “You’re asking me to do this or maybe you tell me that you want us to challenge what’s going on here, and to look at things critically.” When I do that or when I see other people do it, they get retaliated against or maybe they get ignored or ridiculed and told, “Don’t go down that road.” That teaches people what they say and what they do are not the same things. That creates an environment where people start to say, “Is this where I want to be? I don’t think so.”

LFL 129 | US Labor Report

US Labor Report: So many people have more time on their hands so they can really contemplate what they want to do? Working remotely made them realize how unhappy they really are.


Employee Engagement And Disengagement

The next is around appreciation. I would look at this in two ways. It’s about recognizing people for who they are. That’s from the standpoint of diversity. It’s also recognizing people for what they do. Since 2020, people have struggled in so many different areas that this isn’t just about work. If you think about working remotely, maybe you have kids or maybe you have adult parents and you’re worried about them through this whole pandemic. Maybe as a parent of young kids, you’re now a substitute teacher or were a substitute teacher and you add that on top of the other things that you have to do. Maybe you were concerned about the environment of your organization, wondering how long can we survive working remotely, especially if maybe you’re in a role that was involved with sales. You’re not able to get in to see your customers. On the pharmaceutical side, which is where I came from a number of years ago, I’ve done workshops in that space since then. I know that’s a big concern for any rep that’s in that space.

Next is we can think about errors in behaviors around appreciating people for who they are. Diversity and that can be in terms of experiences, viewpoints, generational, however, you want to look at it. We need to be able to appreciate the differences that we bring. When individuals don’t feel as though their backgrounds or experiences are appreciated, then we run into problems where people say, “I’m not valued here. I don’t want to stay here. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and I’m going to leave.”

The next is around inclusion. When leaders don’t create an environment where everybody on a team feels as though they’re part of that team, and there’s a lot of research on all of these, when we create an environment where there’s an in-group versus an out-group, then that person that’s on the outside is going to think, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t feel a connection with anybody. I don’t feel part of this team. I don’t feel like I’m able to contribute the way I’d like to. I’m going to leave.” To me, a leader has a responsibility and the ability to create an environment where people feel as though they are part of the team.

Purpose, autonomy, and development are what drives people forward. Click To Tweet

Next is when an individual doesn’t feel as though the manager or those leading are truly listening to what’s going on. Maybe it’s to the environment and challenges that people are under. Maybe it’s the suggestions that have been offered. People feel as though nobody’s appreciating or listening to what’s going on here. We’ve been asked our opinion in a survey but nothing seems to change. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve been part of where they do an employee engagement survey and the numbers are terrible. Those that are disseminating the information are discounting or dismissing some of the data in there, “It’s not that important” or “People are overreacting.” I would argue the opposite.

Whatever your engagement survey numbers were, you can expect that they’re worse than that. The reason for that is if we think about it, it’s very logical. If I’m happy in an organization, I’m not going to fill out an assessment saying I’m unhappy. If I’m unhappy, it’s very likely that I could be afraid to say what I want to say here. I’m not going to say that this place is great. I’m going to take the middle of the road and say that it’s okay, but I am not happy here. I’m not going to say that because I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll be retaliated against.

The next one is when employees don’t feel as though other people can appreciate their own predicaments and where they’re coming from. You feel as though the leaders in this organization want these things from us, “My manager wants this but they have no appreciation for the struggle for what I’m having to deal with right now.” It could be an organization where the CEO is leaving every three weeks to go to a vacation home, to take some time for themselves, yet nobody else in the organization has the ability to do that. They have to deal with their own stress day in and day out. They look at that individual as somebody that doesn’t appreciate or get what they’re going through at their level. When we don’t have that sense of empathy, where the leader and the manager can’t sit there and say, “I wonder what it would be like to be in your house right now and all the different things, the pressures that you must have going on. Maybe your spouse did lose their job. Now you’re the sole breadwinner at this point. I need to be able to recognize and understand those outside challenges and how they affect your time being here.”

The next challenge you might run into is when individuals feel as though there are no clear expectations here, or there are clear expectations but nobody’s held accountable to what we say we stand for as an organization. It’s like the Wild West. People get to do whatever they want or maybe only certain people get to do what they want. It sets an environment where people have had time to contemplate on that and say, “I feel like I don’t get treated as fairly as other people do. I feel like some people get a pass on things. I don’t have that luxury and that same relationship with my manager or with the leaders. There’s no clear expectation or when the expectations are clear, I get held to them but other people don’t have to follow through on what they said they were going to do.”

Those are six areas or six behaviors that create an environment. When you have them on a positive level, when I’m congruent, demonstrating appreciation, creating an environment of belongingness, listening, being empathetic, and setting clear expectations, you’re going to have a positive environment. You’re going to have one where fewer people are going to be questioning, “Is this the organization that I want to be with?” When we don’t behave in those ways or we behave counter to those, we are creating an opportunity for people to question, “Do I want to be here?”

LFL 129 | US Labor Report

US Labor Report: Quit and stay employees are employees who resigned emotionally and intellectually. However, they’ll still show up for their job, physically.


The positive behaviors almost immunize us or our organization to people either coming in and poaching our best people, or even creating an environment where people feel like they want to leave. They don’t. If those things are going on in an organization, I feel like this organization walks the talk. They listen to me and appreciate what I do. I feel like I belong here. They try and see things from where I am and be empathetic to the challenges that I face. I clearly understand what my role is here and what other people do as well. We’re held accountable to that and other people are accountable for what they’re supposed to be doing. That creates the best environment. When we have those, we have a team or an organization that supports, celebrates and able to challenge each other. Those are the three things. When you have those in an organization, then the sky’s the limit in terms of where you can go.

No Smoking

I mentioned smoking in here. This is where this is important. This is what is going to happen as it relates to this data that comes out. There are many and they are going to look at the labor data. They’re going to dismiss it and say, “Even though I know we’ve got behaviors and managers here that don’t treat others as good as they should, we’ve got certain engagement problems that we know of, but we’re in an environment where we’re not going to lose many people. We don’t have the resources, time or finances to deal with this,” which I always find interesting. When we say that leadership is so important and we attribute a lot of the problems within organizations to poor leadership, why wouldn’t you find the time to want to develop in that area? It doesn’t make sense.

Support each other, celebrate each other, and challenge each other. If your organization has those things, the sky's the limit. Click To Tweet

When we think about this as it relates to smoking, we know there’s a correlation between smoking and things like lung cancer and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, strokes and other negative issues that can be attributed to smoking. There are correlations there, but it’s not causal. Meaning that just because I smoke doesn’t mean I’m going to get cancer or have a heart attack, stroke or any of those other things. That’s not necessarily going to happen. What I do believe we can all agree on is that smoking increases our risk that something is going to happen. We’re not going to be as healthy as we could be as if we didn’t smoke and we promoted a healthier lifestyle.

It’s the same thing with poor behaviors and organizations. There are strong correlations between poor behaviors and everything from theft to absenteeism, turnover, quality defects, patient safety, mortality and morbidity. However you want to look at it, we can find that there’s a correlation between poor behaviors, disengagement and the downstream and negative effects of disengagement within an organization or an institution. That doesn’t mean that every poor behavior is going to be causal and it’s going to create one of these things. Just like smoking, it’s going to make us less healthy. We’re not going to be as good and as fit as we could be if we didn’t smoke it at all or even if we reduce that.

It’s the same thing with our behaviors. We need to be healthier. I would say that we’re going to continue to see this trend. More and more people are going to start to act on their thoughts of leaving an organization because of behaviors. I would say it’s going to be very difficult to wind things back to what it was before this. Can I guarantee that? No, but I would say it’s going to be very unlikely. People are looking at their lives differently now than they did in 2020. It’s not to say some won’t slip back into it, but I would say we’re moving in a different direction.

LFL 129 | US Labor Report

US Labor Report: If your happy in an organization, your not going to fill out an assessment saying that you’re unhappy. But if your unhappy, it’s likely that you are afraid to say what you really want to say.


I’ll end this with a quote that I use quite often. It’s by Eric Hoffer who said, “In times of change, the learners inherit the Earth while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited to inherit a world that no longer exists.” Unless you’ve been under a rock since 2020, the world has changed considerably and will continue to. It’s the learners or those people that will continue to look at, how do I develop better behaviors and skills as a leader so that I can prevent in my own organization those individuals that will be missed from this organization if they decide to quit?

I hope you found this valuable and helpful. This is based on a model that I use called CABLES as part of a leadership development program that I do. Each one of those letters in CABLES represents a behavior similar to the ones that I talked about. If you think of it this way, each of those behaviors is a cable that builds a stronger relationship bridge. The more that we model and demonstrate that behavior, the stronger our bridges become. We’re the architect, engineer and builder of our bridges. Those relationships that we have with our employees, coworkers, family members, friends and people outside in different organizations, it’s our behaviors that will create the difference. We all have the ability to develop these skills. I hope you’ll take some time to look at your own relationships and ask yourself which ones you’re adding and which ones you’re taking cables away from. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.

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