The Great Resignation is real. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022. That’s a record, representing a monumental increase of more than 150,000 parting employees from February 2022. In addition, job openings at the end of March were the highest ever, with 11.55 million vacant positions across the country. American workers are throwing up peace signs at their former employers and heading for the door at a turbocharged rate.
Much accounts for the mass resignations, which started during the COVID pandemic. Low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work were the top three reasons according to a Pew Survey of workers who left their jobs in 2021. Also factoring into the decision to quit were a reshuffling of life priorities, a dissatisfaction with employers for ending work-from-home policies, and a lack of realistic options for child care and other such necessities that forced parents to resign. A strong job market also meant finding better pay (and treatment) was a more likely option.
We spoke to seven men, all of whom quit during the pandemic, about their reason for putting in the notice. Whether they’d finally had enough of dealing with awful bosses, feeling unappreciated, or being too wrapped up in thankless work, these dads realized that a mass employment exodus was something they could get behind. Here’s what they told us.
1. The Stress Wasn’t Worth It
“I worked in finance before and during the pandemic, and it was ruining me. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, I was just beyond exhausted all the time. And because of the state of the world, I wasn’t even balancing it out by doing all that well financially. It was a stable job in terms of salary, benefits, and all that, but what I was putting into it wasn’t worth what I was getting out.
Even when I was working from home, I wasn’t really present for my family. I was always on edge. I was constantly on call. And I was forced to deal with a lot of angry, rude people who only cared about money. I talked with my wife, and we came up with a plan. I was able to find another job in the same field, albeit for less money. Luckily, we had some savings to tide us over during the transition, and I haven’t looked back since. The world has changed, and my previous job just didn’t adapt to suit it. It was rough pre-pandemic, and the stress of COVID was the exclamation point I was looking for that told me it was time to bail.” - Kevin, 45, New York
2. I Just Didn’t Feel Safe
“I had to quit because our company was incredibly stubborn when it came to working from home. Simply put, it wasn’t allowed. So we were all crammed in an office while it seemed that the rest of the world was safe at home. At first, I was able to deal with it. But then every time I heard someone cough or sniffle, I would get super paranoid. I have two young kids, and I just kept imagining myself getting sick and bringing something home to them. I pleaded with my boss to compromise, but she wouldn’t. So, for the safety of my family, I had to walk.
It wasn’t easy, and we struggled for a bit, but the second I walked out of that office and took a breath it felt like fresh air — literally, and figuratively. It was just an asinine situation, and I’m kind of ashamed it took me so long to stand up for myself. But I’m glad I did.” - Eric, 38, Pennsylvania
3. I Found Something Better Leverage
“My boss has always been a dick. I’m a teacher and, honestly, the pandemic was the ultimate resume booster for me. I was able to add digital experience, remote teaching, and all sorts of other technology skills after a year of micromanaged, underappreciated service during that whole ridiculous time. And I was able to find places — and other administrators — that didn’t treat me like garbage. He was very smug near the end of the year. I think he assumed we were all just happy to be employed. So when I told him I wasn’t coming back, it was very gratifying. I learned later that I wasn’t the only one, either. Teachers have gotten the shaft for a long, long time. COVID was the breaking point for a lot of us.” - Joshua, 36, New Jersey
4. I Liked Being At Home
“Being able to work from home was like a dream come true. My commute previously was 70 miles, one way! It was draining and legitimately took about three hours from every day. My company offered a remote, work-from-home option about three months into COVID, and I was giddy. I set up an office, clocked in, did my thing, then clocked out. My energy levels increased dramatically. My wife and kids noticed, too, and the time I’d previously spent commuting could now be spent with them.
When the company announced a return to the office — which I assumed was coming — I politely declined and sought out a job that offered a 100% remote option. I didn’t find one, but I found the next best thing - a hybrid job that’s closer to my home. So, even when I do have to go in, it’s not the demoralizing trek it used to be. I’m grateful for the job I had, but it wasn’t sustainable. I’m much happier now.” - K.J., 41, Toronto, Canada
5. I Found Something Better
“I think a lot of people used the chaos of the pandemic to job hunt. I know I did. Most of the working from home I did during that time was just doing my best not to fall asleep during Zoom meetings. I had a ton of free time, and my wheels started turning. It was almost out of boredom that I stumbled upon new opportunities and eventually landed a new gig. I think what I learned, though, was that my previous job wasn’t something I cared about at all. Why else would I start looking around? It almost felt like I was having an affair, sneaking around on Linkedin. In that sense, it worked out for the best that I left, even though it was kind of a messy separation. Definitely for the best, though. Probably for both of us.” - Brian, 43, New Zealand
6. My View of Life Changed
“Seeing how the world changed during the pandemic was really jarring for me, as a father, a husband, and a human being. The constant news reports about people being so selfish made me sad. The political aspects of everything made me angry. And the sheer loss of life across the world just made me depressed. I remember asking my dad if he’d ever seen anything like it, and he said, ‘Not even close.’ I think the fragility of life really hit home for me during the peaks of COVID, and I didn’t want to waste mine. I also didn’t want to be absent from my wife and daughters’.
I quit my job as a personal reset and, honestly, I’m not convinced it was entirely the right move. We’re getting by, but I haven’t found steady work just yet. Mentally, though, I guess I feel like I’m closer to the right path. Or, at least a path that is helping me deal with all this in a more productive way. That’s about as certain as I can be right now.” - Sean, 37, Michigan
7. I Switched Gears
“I guess the jury’s still out on whether or not this was a good move. The downtime during the pandemic was a great opportunity for me to do some soul-searching. And during that process, I realized my job wasn’t fulfilling anymore. Not only my job but my career, really. I worked in and around advertising for almost 15 years and was just burnt out. I remember the specific moment it hit me, too. I was working on a social media ad for a digital sewer snake camera. I just sat there thinking, ‘What am I doing? What is the point of this?’ Like, that stupid sewer camera was the impetus for my career change.
I stayed with my company for six months while I re-enrolled in school to get my master’s degree in education, then told them I was leaving. My goal is to become a college professor in communications. Our family is pretty set financially, so I realize that this decision was a privilege and a luxury that many, many people don’t have or can’t afford. I’m definitely going to make the most of this second chance, and try to rekindle the passion I had when I started my first career.” - Michael, 42, Illinois