The ‘Great Resignation’ is now the ‘Great Regret’: 80% of job hoppers wish they hadn’t quit their old roles, with Gen Z the most regretful

It seemed like such a good idea at the time. And yet for those who handed in their notice during the so-called 'Great Resignation' of 2021, many have seen little benefit for the upheaval.

Now dubbed the 'Great Regret', analysis carried out by payroll and HR experts Paychex found that 80% of people who quit their roles in search of greener pastures regretted the move.

Both job openings and the number of individuals quitting reached record highs during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, counting 4.5 million quitters in November 2021, and job openings reaching more than 11 million a month later.

Of course, not all those who left their roles did so as part of the 'Great Resignation', as many were buffeted by pandemic factors which left them without choice.


Yet for those who did jump ship for better pay and work-life balance, the vast majority admitted they still want their old roles back.

JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Comparing generations, Gen Z are the most likely to regret moving roles.

Those who switched industries are also 25% more likely to hanker for their previous sectors than those who stayed within their trades.

Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of Idaho-based recruitment agency Red Balloon, said: “In the Great Resignation employers were throwing huge sign-up bonuses and other wads of cash at job switchers. ‘The Great Regret’ is a lesson for jobseekers to do better advance scouting before they jump ship.

"We’re seeing more and more job seekers prioritizing work-life balance and positive workplace culture above higher compensation. People want to be happy in their work, and that old adage that ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ is reflected in this survey.”

It comes after a Harris Poll—which surveyed more than 2,000 jobseekers—discovered that candidates are also finding it more difficult to secure a new job.

Paychex's sample suggests a job search took an average of three to six months—Harris Poll found 60% of seekers say the search has dragged on for over six months, and many say they’ve applied to more than 50 roles.

More than 70% of them also said it has been harder than they’d hoped to lock down a good role.

Job-hoppers miss their old friends

The most common reason job-hoppers gave for wanting a return to their former employers was that they missed their old colleagues, with almost a third of respondents saying they missed their former teams.

This was followed by a range of monetary motivations: 27% said they missed their old salary, 23% valued their old bonus scheme, a further 23% said they missed their health insurance.

Other reasons include free lunches, work-life balance, employee discounts and flexible and remote-work options.

Chris Poole, UK managing director for global recruitment firm Robert Walters, said the best way to leave the door open with former employers is to put in the work until the very last day.

He explains: "As the saying goes in boxing: 'You’re only as good as your last fight.' I believe this to be true in work: 'You’re only as good as your last few months.' Don’t undo years of hard work and rapport building by taking your foot off the pedal just because you are leaving."

How to avoid job-hop regret

For employees and employers alike the advice is simple: bear motivation in mind.

Red Balloon boss Crapuchettes said the data outlines that jobseekers who are just "chasing a bigger paycheck" often come away unfulfilled.

Recruiters are also wising up to which candidates will be off again once a bigger salary is on the table.

He added: "If the candidate's got an early obsession with pay then that's a red flag. Asking about a salary range so they know if they can pay the bills is appropriate but if they're more concerned with the pay than the good work they can do that should be a concern.

"A pretty easy tell is when you ask them: 'What's the biggest mistake you made in your last role?' If they say they never made any then that's a good sign that they're not going to be right."

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