Are CEOs joining the ‘Great Resignation?’

Since August 2021, nearly 4.3 million people have quit their jobs in the United States, and data for the first half of 2021 showed 103 CEOs changing positions, compared to only 49 in the second half of 2020. Are people saying ‘I quit’ to the top job?

Workers are not the only ones leaving in the ‘Great Resignation’

Since August 2021, nearly 4.3 million people have quit their jobs in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the highest number on record dating back to December 2000. This phenomenon is being dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’ and it is not just in the United States that this can be seen. Data from the OECD which groups most of the advanced industrial democracies shows nearly 14 million have left the labor market, with 3 million more young people not in employment, education or training since 2019. As the pandemic, and its slow road to recovery continue to take a toll it appears even those at the top of their companies are joining the wave of departures.

A study by Heidrick & Struggles in the first half of 2021 showed that 103 CEOs were appointed in 24 regions, including the United States, China, and European countries. Six months prior to this, during the second half of 2020 only 49 companies changed CEOs.

Are CEOs as burnt-out as their employees?

There are many conflicting opinions as to why CEO turnover has picked up in 2021, ranging from the pandemic, to mental health, to the pursuit of better opportunities.

Andrew Chalener, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. has stated that, “Most employers are citing burnout as the main motivator for workers leaving their positions. CEOs too have had to make difficult decisions over the last nearly two years, while dealing with potential supply chain and worker supply issues. There’s no wonder some are looking for something new.”

Jane Stevenson, vice chair of organizational consultancy Korn Ferry said most are leaving of their own accord, and that, “People are more mindful of the things they want to do, and if it’s a successful founder, there may be other priorities that they want to address sooner than later. I’ve seen CEOs and board members who have said, ‘You know what, life is really short, and this is too much. I’m out.’” Notable founders who have left include Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Girls who Code CEO Reshma Saujani, jewelry tycoon Kendra Scott, and Pinduodo’s CEO Colin Huang.

Kathryn Hymes wrote in Wired that, “the real takeaway is why people are leaving their jobs in the first place—rampant stress, the shift to remote work, a forced reckoning with what matters in light of the pandemic—and what resigning is leading them to do next.” Simon Freakley, CEO of management consulting firm AlixPartners echoes a similar line – “Leaders who were relieved to survive 2020 with their business intact discovered in 2021 that, instead of pressures ebbing, they were mired in a continuing pandemic even as shareholders demanded growth.”

But not everyone is in agreement of what is happening. Rose Gailey, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, a leading provider of global advisory and on-demand talent solutions, suggests this wave of resignations is not about quitting, but moving up. She says, “Certainly, we’ve seen many Boards of Directors at this time responding to the disruption with a change in leadership. In many cases, CEOs are motivated and energized by the shifting dynamics in the industry, and they are expanding their horizons. Many CEOs see this moment of disruption as an opportunity for them to expand their impact and influence to innovate and find new ways to grow for the future.” 

The Great Resignation, or just returning to old habits?

While employee resignations are undoubtedly at a high point, company leadership departures are far from following the same pattern as those of employees. The real ‘Great Resignation’ for CEOs was January 2020, when the most CEOs left their positions in a single month on record – 219 departures. This beat a record high of CEO resignations in the period for 2019, which itself was higher than in 2018. January is typically a busy month for CEO turnover as it is the beginning of the fiscal year for many companies, and a good time to make decisions about direction.

Under that light, the drop in CEO turnover during 2020 can be seen as simply a reaction to the sudden upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic where people chose to remain where they were, and that rather than 2021 being a year of high CEO resignations due to burnout and mental health, the sudden uptick in turnover is simply just the return to the pre-pandemic numbers of CEO turnover.

Photos : –

There are no comments

Add yours