1 February 2022

The Great Resignation and Motivations for Leaving

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


The Great Resignation is an idea first floated by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University that predicts a large number of people leaving their jobs after the COVID pandemic ends. 

This phenomenon seems to have some grounding, but is likely to vary by country and industry.  According to a report by Ian Cook in the Harvard Business Review from September 2021, 4 million Americans quit their job in July 2021, with a record breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The Great Resignation: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

In the UK, voluntary departures between April and December 2021 were higher than in the same period in 2019 according to a Chartered Management Institute survey of managers for Bloomberg News.  This is predicted to continue into 2022 and we are seeing signs of a hiring crunch, where there will be more roles than there are candidates.  It is definitely a good time to be looking for a new role and not a good time if you have roles to fill.

The early indications from a Salary & Benefits Survey conducted in January 2022 by Red Tiger Talent suggests that for the location planning and insight industry, approximately 1 in 6 respondents are likely or very likely to move roles in 2022.  The wider study will seek to establish the demographics of those that sit in this cohort.  The Harvard Research suggests that resignations are highest amongst mid-career employees – between the ages of 30-45 years.

This blog draws on Abraham Maslow’s psychology research in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and looks to clarify those key motivations for people leaving a role according to Maslow’s 5 needs. Lifestage (or career stage) could be one of those key determinant factors as to where your specific needs are centred on the triangle of needs.


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Employee Needs during the Great Resignation
Employee Needs

Our recruitment team speak to hundreds of candidates per month and there are a relatively small number of reasons that people tend to have in wanting to leave their current role. The Employee Needs table relates the 5 Maslow Needs to 11 specific employee needs (as defined by Dave Ferguson) and then draws on our experiences to provide examples of the reasons why employees express a desire to leave.

A deeper understanding of individuals’ needs and motivations has benefit for both the employee and the employer, especially during the Great Resignation. From an employee perspective, establishing the real motivations on why you are considering leaving will help clarify firstly, whether leaving is the best strategy for you, and if so, how can you ensure your next role meets your needs.  The Red Tiger Coaching team works with clients and creates a confidential space with which to explore these motivations and needs.

From an employers’ perspective, if you are seeing above average levels of attrition, it is worth trying to uncover whether there are any consistent patterns in exit motivations. The true reasons for leaving could be something within your control.  Exit surveys are a good mechanism to gather such information but it is worth implementing measures across the whole workforce in advance of people leaving.

In one of my previous roles I introduced a survey called “World’s Greatest Manager” which in its simplest form attempted to keep a regular finger on the pulse of how individuals were feeling.  It asked employees to rate 12 simple statements on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), which research had shown (Buckingham and Coffman) if rated positively, would have a positive impact on productivity, profitability, retention and customer service. Questions include “Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work?”, “Does my manager seem to care about me as a person?” and “Is there someone who encourages my development?”.  These do link back to some of the sentiments outlined earlier.

This survey was anonymous but it allowed leaders to track individual departments and intervene when scores were particularly low in one area.  Red Tiger Coaching can support leaders of organisations in ensuring that employees are engaged and motivated.


The various lockdown measures over the last 2 years have certainly provided the thinking space for employees to re-evaluate their needs and motivations around work.  There seems to have been a perfect storm in relation to work situations:

  • Workloads have generally increased (largely due to pandemic response requirements as well as business as usual)
  • Some employees have spent time on furlough (reducing the levels of a productive workforce)
  • Recruitment has been on freeze (more pressure on workforce that remain)
  • Businesses have been tightly controlling costs (which impacts promotions, salary, bonus etc)
  • Some businesses have restructured (and redundancies are quite disruptive to those that remain)
  • People haven’t been going into the office as much (and are likely to feel less engaged with their business)

We are now through the worst of this and in some ways the Great Resignation phenomenon described by Professor Klotz is now starting to happen. Some people are emerging with a need to change their roles, a clear time for a fresh challenge.  Some have a very clear plan, others are at a ‘career crossroads’ where they require a change but are not quite sure of ‘what next?’.

If you are feeling any of the sentiments outlined above why not contact Red Tiger Coaching and arrange a free, confidential clarity meeting to discuss.  Coaching is an ideal approach to support you if you are at that ‘career crossroads’ and it will give you the clarity and confidence to take that next step.

If you are a hiring manager, leader or HR professional and feel like some of the issues raised in this blog are relevant, why not contact Red Tiger Coaching to discuss how we can support you in addressing the issues and improving staff retention.

Cook, I. (2021) Who Is Driving the Great Resignation? Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2021/09/who-is-driving-the-great-resignation

Ashton, E. (2021) U.K. Firms Brace for a Great British Resignation in 2022. Bloomberg https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-20/u-k-firms-fear-great-british-resignation-after-staff-departures

Ferguson, D. (2017) 11 Essential Needs of Employees. Dave Ferguson The Leaders’ Coach https://livingtolead.com/11-essential-needs-of-employees/

Cover Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels


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Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.

1 Comment

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    Great insights Steve. I look forward to seeing the salary survey, and how the SLA membership will change. It’s a small niche industry so tends to entail the same people popping up in another member company so it will be interesting to watch it all play out. I guess the forward thinking companies whill have ensured staff remained engaged whilst at home and kept up morale. We all work in different ways, but I can’t imagene working in an office again now after so long working freelance from home.


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