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Stat of the Week: A Nation of Quitters

Toby Graham /

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” I don’t know about you, but I had that was drilled into my head by multiple parents, teachers, and coaches. When I grew up, quitting was seen as cowardly and unsportsmanlike. It was always better to persevere at something, even if you were undeniably terrible at it, than to give up and throw in the towel. I even remember thinking MC Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” was cool at one point.

Clearly, times have changed. It’s now officially Legit 2 Quit.

In 2018, the quit rate in the United States hit a 17-year high, with an average of approximately 3.5 million people voluntarily leaving their jobs every month. For perspective, that would be like the entire population of Los Angeles decided to give their two-week notice at the same time—every month.

What’s behind this hot new trend? Job growth. As we’ve written before, it’s an employee’s market—job seekers have more opportunities now than at any point in the past two decades or so. If you don’t like your current job or salary, there are multiple companies who would be happy to hire you.

Bloomberg reports:

“Job postings exceeded the number of unemployed people by 659,000 in July, the most in data back to 2000. Along with the number of quitters, the gap helps explain why wages rose in August at the fastest pace since 2009, as employers struggle to find qualified workers and Americans become more confident in leaving their jobs for better pay elsewhere amid Republican-backed tax cuts that have boosted the economy.

The rise in the quits rate was driven by private-sector employees, whose share of people voluntarily leaving their jobs rose to 2.7 percent, also the highest since 2001 and up from 2.4 percent in February. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has highlighted the quits rate as suggesting that the economy is near full employment.”

At the risk of repeating ourselves (maybe we just don’t know when to quit), this phenomenon is at the heart of everything we’ve written about here on the blog over the past year. Workplace harassmentdiscipline and terminationmanager development—all either influence or are influenced by employees’ decisions to quit.

If your organization doesn’t have it together—if you can’t ensure compliance, if workers face harmful or disparate treatment, if your managers struggle to do their jobs—people are going to leave. They have better options. And your problems are only going to get worse. Simple as that.

If, on the other hand, you can get ahead of the curve and make your organization an easy, productive, fair, and fun place to work, you’ll retain your best employees—and attract a few more too. As a result, your compliance outcomes and bottom line will improve. Now that’s legit.

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