From the Great Resignation to the Great Regret

by Erin Sevitz on February 6, 2023

The Great Resignation is quickly turning into the Great Regret. Many workers who quit during the movement now regret their decision. But why? They realized the grass wasn’t always greener on the other side. 

42% of workers who quit their job say their new job hasn’t met their expectations.

42% of workers who quit their job say their new job hasn’t met their expectations. Even so, employees who were satisfied with their new position found themselves on shaky ground. With recent massive layoffs, many were thrown back on the job market.

The new era of the Great Regret

Just as the Great Resignation came as a surprise, the Great Regret was another curveball for the workplace. Many employees experiencing it aren’t even aware of its newly coined phrase.  

Let’s look into resigners’ remorse, what it is, why it happened, and what employers can do to prevent it moving forward.   

Regretting the Great Resignation

The pandemic brought attention to employee burnout in the workplace. As a result, workers retaliated by quitting their jobs outright. While some had another job lined up, others didn’t. Many employees who resigned during the Great Resignation lacked preparation for what would come after.  

Prior to 2020, leaving a workplace with toxic conditions was frowned upon. Today, it is not. But is the applause well deserved, or does it set workers up for disappointment? Society’s new expectations for the workplace may be a little too high. After all, change takes time, and nothing transforms overnight.  

Reasons for resigner’s remorse

There’s no doubt that employers have a lot to learn from the unprecedented job turnover rate. But some employees found their workplace concerns weren’t just with the employer. New problems are replacing their old ones.

For example, where their last company may have had poor management but excellent team building, their new employer may have fantastic management but lack a collaborative environment.  

Alison Sullivan, a Glassdoor career trends expert, expresses, “No one wants to find themselves with resigner’s remorse. That can happen when a new job or company isn’t what you expected.” 

A recent study at Joblist listed the top reasons employees regret quitting their jobs during the Great Resignation: 

  • 40% found it harder than expected to find a new job 
  • 22% miss the people at their old job 
  • 17% thought their old job was better than their new job 
  • 9% discovered their new job had a bad culture or poor management 
  • 3% thought the higher pay at their new job wasn’t worth it 

For employees who quit their positions without having another lined up, the competition is intense – even in a labor market where there are two jobs per unemployed worker70% of people hunting for a new job reported that it’s more difficult than expected. 

Further, quitting a job without a cushion can fuel resigner’s regret. Not all workers have a savings account to lean on during their job search. One in six U.K. adults and one in five U.S. adults have no savings. While leaving a toxic workplace sounds helpful to mental health, the financial stress that might follow can quickly undo that progress. 

New hires fear unemployment

Millions of Great Resignation quitters traded up into higher-paying jobs. But today, they are experiencing a dose of layoff anxiety. 56% of people who started a new, better-paying role worry about job security. 

Why? We’ve all seen it on LinkedIn. A former coworker who quit during the Great Resignation only to find themselves laid off from their new company. The influx of layoffs is fueling anxiety for new hires. In fact, fears of facing unemployment are twice as high for new hires as for those that stayed put at their company.  

Rebecca Croucher, Senior Vice President for ManpowerGroup, believes, “Some of the wrong reasons to leave a company are leaving for better compensation or leaving because one person works against you. It is hard to establish things like relationships and respect in a new company when you don’t have an ally or know anyone there.” 

This prompts the question, is higher pay worth giving up job security? Only time will tell.

Boomerang employees are gaining traction

The disappointment many workers feel in their new job has led them to reach back out to their former employer. As a result, boomerang employees are knocking on the door again at their old company, trying to turn back the clock. They either want to return to the role they left behind or one similar.  

15% of employees have boomeranged back to a former employee, and 40% of employees are considering attempting the same. Almost half of these employees are millennials.   

However, getting hired back isn’t as simple as it sounds. Times have changed, and the workplace takes a different shape once an employee moves on. So while employers may want their former workers back, retaining and optimizing the talent they already have makes more economic sense.  

Even so, there are some pros to rehiring a boomerang employee. They include: 

  • A much less time-consuming onboarding process 
  • A high likelihood of fitting into the company culture 
  • Ready familiarity with job, job duties, and job expectations 
  • New skills, experiences, connections, viewpoints, and customers brought back to them 
  • An established employer-employee relationship that adds to company loyalty and increases intention 

Some companies feel that the strategy behind rehiring boomerang employees outweighs the financial benefits. A rehire will likely contribute to their company much quicker and more efficiently than a new hire.  

“Companies are learning to exit employees with an open door to come back, by creating a smooth exit and then continuing to engage with former employees after they leave can provide a more professional and welcoming approach if that person wants to come back,” says Crouch. 

How employers can avoid the Great Regret

While the Great Regret focuses primarily on employees, employers also play a role. Some companies find themselves regretting their new hires when they fail to meet their expectations or leave for another opportunity. Fortunately, an organization’s Great Regret is not inevitable. Hiring the right candidates for the right role can significantly reduce that risk.  

Here are four steps to keep in mind during the hiring process: 

1. Start with recruitment 

Leadership should fully understand any open roles, including ideal candidates’ traits. Additionally, they should appreciate the value of boomerang employees as those candidates have already proven they are a cultural fit.   

2. Create the right balance between humans and technology 

The ideal recruitment process should include digital solutions and human interactions. Both can strengthen and expedite the hiring process. Human connection improves the candidate experience, while automation reduces response times with candidates.  

3. Examine social media with caution 

Social media searches can be crucial for screening a job candidate. 70% of employers see the benefits of screening candidates’ social media profiles. Many employers have changed their minds about candidates after finding inappropriate language or photos on their social accounts.  

However, relying too heavily on social media for pre-employment screening could put companies at risk for discrimination claims. To avoid these risks, create a social media screening policy and disclose to candidates that you use social media in background checks.  

4. Consider the pros and cons of reference checks 

It is essential to check a candidate’s previous employers, schools, or character references to verify the information provided on their resume. While this can add time and costs to the hiring process, it is helpful in the long run. With that said, financially, it is best to begin reference checks once you have your final candidates. 

Hiring a new employee is a significant investment, but it doesn’t have to be a gamble. With the above steps, your company can avoid its own Great Regret and build an engaged and loyal team.

Turn the Great Regret into the Great Reform 

Employees who regret their resignations from the Great Resignation must shift their mindset, as well as employers who regret some of their Great Resignation new hires. We cannot change the past. Obsessing over choices that didn’t pan out won’t help us. Instead, we must turn any regret into reform.

By understanding and putting our past decisions into perspective, we – employees and employers alike – can make the necessary changes for brighter futures. 


Erin Sevitz

Erin Sevitz is the Senior Director of Marketing at iOFFICE + SpaceIQ.

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