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Why People Quit During the Pandemic

We recently hosted a webinar titled “Voice of the Employee Trends During the Pandemic.”  The below quotes are based on Work Institute interviews with employees who quit their jobs based on how their organization managed the coronavirus pandemic. Employees continuously demonstrate three primary categories of reasons why people intend to quit or quit during this pandemic.

Reason 1: Putting personal and familial health first

People quit or intend to quit as a proactive measure to protect themselves or a family member from exposure due to pre-existing medical conditions or age.

  • “I left because I just had my daughter; she is in NICU; my husband thought that it was in our best interest to stay home with my daughter because of the virus, and she is already compromised.”
  • “I left the company because I am at high risk of a serious complication for COVID-19. I requested a leave of absence which was not granted so I quit.”
  • “Coronavirus and my health condition had me worried.”
  • “I have an autoimmune disease and it does not allow me to work while the Covid19 is here.”

Reason 2: Leadership’s management of the crisis

Leader behavior by both direct supervisors and upper management drove and will drive employees to quit. Dissatisfaction with how leaders treated/treat employees and how information is communicated are critical themes.

  • “<Names Removed> are not supportive of staff being safe. They are sarcastic about us all as being in masks during the pandemic. This began in March 2020.”
  • “I left the company because I felt like communication was really lacking, particularly when under pandemic. I would get new information from the Corporate Office late – some things 4-5 days later. This lack of communication also included a lack of direction on how to approach new patient care guidelines.”
  • “I left because my manager, <Name Removed>, did not care about my health. I contracted Coronavirus and I was out sick. I called my manager and told her what was going on and all she said was oh. Then 10 days later she emailed me to let her know what schedule I wanted. She never once asked about my health and I just cannot work for someone who does not care about their employee’s health.”
  • I left because of the supervisor. Her name was <Name Removed>. Her and I had a lot of issues. She is just not a good supervisor. She was not respectful to me. On my last day of work she came to the nurse station and said: ‘You guys need to stop being so anxious about the coronavirus; it is no big deal; it is just the flu.’ She was yelling at me and raising her voice and I was crying. She kept following me around.

Reason 3: Concrete concerns about personal safety and lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

An alarming number of employees (many within the healthcare industry) were told by leaders that they could not wear PPE, including masks. Additionally, organizations lack proper oversight practices that have become normal during this pandemic.

  • “I left the company because, after I read the regulations that the state set up for the COVID 19 pandemic, I felt it was unsafe to continue to work there. They were not even checking temperatures of the staff.  I was told that they had no plans to do that any time soon. I abandoned my position because of this.”
  • “There was a COVID-19 pandemic and there were no accommodations put in place to practice social distancing (such has moving desk six feet apart or working in shifts) and  there were minimal  disinfectant agents available to  keep shared work areas clean.”
  • “I felt the risk of my exposure to Covid-19 was too high as a pharmacy tech. We were not allowed to use gloves or masks, but still had to go into the ER, and I did not feel comfortable.”
  • “I no longer felt safe & was asked to resign when I refused to take off my mask to protect myself from COVID. It wasn’t long after I left that the facility adopted the policy to make sure that everyone was wearing a mask. Being asked to resign over a practice that the organization would themselves adopt a week later shows poor foresight & echoes how the organization is continually behind in what is deemed ‘best practice.’”
  • I was afraid of the spread of the Coronavirus so I asked the manager to allow me to wear a mask, but it was rejected. So I quit my job.

Both Leadership’s management and employee safety reasons for leaving are preventable by the organization. If organizations knew these concerns straight from the mouths of their employees, they would have been able to step in to make the changes needed to retain those employees. Organizations need to be flexible in their approach to managing workforces during the pandemic. Collect feedback from employees on their impressions. Listen to their concerns, relax control issues, be open and honest with employees, and regularly communicate back to employees.