The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Not New to Black Workers — Here’s Why

The Great Resignation took corporate America by storm as workers in droves chose to give up their gigs for a myriad of reasons, from choosing to become full-time parents, betting on themselves to try their own hand at entrepreneurship, and outright burnout.

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Black Workers and the Great Resignation 

For Black workers, deciding to bid farewell to seek new opportunities has been linked to stagnant wages, lack of upward mobility, and a sense of belonging due to unaddressed racial issues, studies have shown. Approximately 45 percent of Black workers in the U.S. are employed in the private sector and work mostly in three industries that are considered to be primary frontline service jobs, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor released data showing that food service and health care, which were deemed essential industries, had the highest employee turnover. 

While the great resignation has picked up steam over the past two years, it is something that is not unique to the Black community, said Monica McCoy, a business strategist and founder of supply chain consultancy firm, Monica Motivates, LLC.

With Black workers facing an ample degree of difficulty for job placement in high-earning careers in the private sector, ongoing “constraints within the corporate paradigm has made it difficult for African-Americans to navigate to the C-suite,” she told Finurah. 

Forty-three percent of Black workers in the essential private sector are grossly overrepresented where they earn less than $30,000 a year. As wage inequities continue to be exacerbated, compounded by a volatile economy with decades higher inflation and on the brink of a recession, according to economists, workers are demanding more for their labor across the board.

“You have to understand that if your value is not respected then it is time for you to exit,” McCoy said.

Time to Exit

With a strong labor market and a generally low level of unemployment, many workers thought it would be an optimal opportunity to broaden their horizons, re-thinking the skill set they were trained in and embracing uncharted territory. 

According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report, 46.6 million Americans have left their job voluntarily in 2022 as part of The Great Resignation. Some experts believe the heightened activity in the labor market, such as the drop in workforce participation rate, worker strikes, and the increasing unionization efforts are all intertwined.

“I believe these are all reactions to the same problem: Workers are dissatisfied in their current jobs and feel they can’t speak up, whether about organizational problems, unethical behavior or even just to contribute their knowledge and creative ideas,” James Detert, a leadership and organizational behavior professor at the University of Virginia, wrote in The Conversation. “So in response, they generally either leave or decrease their effort while suffering in silence.

Stalled Diversity

Stalled momentum of change in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives has also been as a causal factor in Black employees’ reasoning for resigning.

There were a number of pledges from Fortune 500 companies to back initiatives geared toward recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent. As some corporations and leaders have made strides in implementing change, “many of these DEI leaders that were hired as a result of the George Floyd tragedy are going in and exiting within a year, McCoy explained, citing lack of funding and limited buy-in from senior leadership. 

“What [DEI leaders] are seeing is that it’s a one-person show,” she said.

McCoy believes companies are going to re-evaluate themselves as millennials and Gen Z become more outspoken in holding leadership accountable for restructuring its workplace culture that fosters inclusiveness and rewards hard work without having to sacrifice mental health.

“What’s going to be a challenge along the way is the patience to see statistically significant change.”

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