The Great Resignation vs. The Great Retain


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By: Corry Robertson, PCC

The great resignation

Are you part of the great resignation? If you’re not, chances are you know someone who is. The great resignation is real and affects companies everywhere; many companies have been greatly impacted by employees leaving in unprecedented numbers. 

What is The Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle, is a term used to describe the rise in the massive resignations by employees across the country. In 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, quit rates were at an all-time high, with 2.4% of the total workforce quitting every month. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021.

Just a year earlier, the quit rate had fallen to a seven-year low (1.6%). But once the pandemic happened, many layoffs and resignations took effect. The lockdown period allowed workers across the country to examine their current work situations (pay, level of job satisfaction, safety amid the pandemic, and career choices). With most people now working remotely, many decided they needed more flexibility in their lives on a permanent basis or just needed a career change.

The Great Resignation has been devastating for many organizations. If your business is trying to figure out how to recover from it, I have a solution for you. 

But before I get into that, I need to share Jillian’s story.

Jillian Didn’t Sign Up For This

Jillian had been working for a start-up that went through hyper-growth and was gearing up for IPO when she decided to walk away.

Over several months as she came to coaching, and session by session, I could see her energy erode and her once lively spirit slowly become dim. 

She stayed for as long as she did because she believed strongly in the company’s purpose, vision and mission, but Jillian lost trust in senior leadership.

Their expectations and the work environment that they were creating were counter to the company’s espoused values that she believed in.

“This is not what I signed up for,” she would tell me. 

The company’s culture was draining her ability to engage and be resilient. 

She came to believe that in the company’s quest for growth at scale and desire to please investors, the leaders were shepherding the workplace culture through a change for the worse.

The behavior of those senior leaders demonstrated that they had lost touch with the values that attracted most of the workforce (and clients). Although the powers that be continued to give lip service to the values, they showed no intention to turn things around.

The trust and respect that Jillian once placed in these leaders finally completely eroded, she took her power back; she mindfully and intentionally joined the great resignation.

Fast forward six weeks to our call this week.

Jillian has transplanted herself into a new role in a new company, and she is considering what she learned about herself and how she can transform this learning into wisdom in her own career as a leader.

Jillian Was Burning Out

Jillian is the kind of person who works really, really hard.

As a former world-class dancer, she brought the work ethic of an elite athlete into her work style: she is disciplined, focused, and dedicated, and she can push through discomfort to achieve high-level goals.

For example, one time in coaching, Jillian was exploring how although her work ethic has gotten her a great deal of positive feedback, promotions, and rewards from her bosses, it is not always good for her. She shared that her career as a dancer ended when she competed on a broken ankle to finish her performance. To her, the pain was no excuse to stop. The consequences of causing a permanent injury were just not on her mind.

I got chills when she first told me that story, and I‘m getting chills as I write about it now. As a young dancer, the pain she was pushing through was a broken ankle. As a young leader, the pain she was pushing through is burnout. 

“It’s kinda like this,” she said. “I love luxury hotels, and I’m happy to pay for the experience that comes with 5 stars. It’s worth the money. I know what to expect and expect to get what I paid for.


If I only wanted to pay for a 3-star hotel, I wouldn’t go to the front desk and start demanding the amenities offered by a 5-star hotel. That would be ridiculous.


My last job was like that. The company wanted a 5-star contribution from us but only paid for 3-star. I gave them 5-star work because they demanded it, but basically, I was giving WAY more than I was getting, and it burned me out. 


It has to go both ways. I’m happy to give 5 stars…I like hard work, but now I expect fair compensation in return for that as well as a working environment that makes it possible.


I have to get clear on my boundaries so that it doesn’t happen again. No, let me rephrase that: I have to learn how to read the signals that my boundaries are going to be crossed so I can deal with it before I let it happen to me again. I have to be able to see when 5 stars are being demanded in exchange for 3-star compensation…but it’s more than the money; it includes what it’s like to work there.” 

I loved this metaphor so much that I asked Jillian if I could share it with you, and she graciously agreed.

The Great Resignation Was Avoidable

The Great Resignation is an indicator of the ultimate boundary enforcement. People were pushed and pushed and pushed until they finally said enough is enough.

And unfortunately, it was avoidable. I and other leadership coaches like me have been calling out from the rooftops and mountain tops for years. We have been sharing our solutions for building thriving workplaces, but too few leaders have listened. 

I think Jillian’s realization is very powerful, not just for her own well-being and career but also as an indicator of the zeitgeist of the workforce.

Those at the helm of culture strategy know that the great resignation is happening because people have hit rock bottom with what they are willing to endure in exchange for a paycheck.

Most people need a paycheck, but people work for more than the money. We work because we love the experience of work. We love contributing to something greater than ourselves, we love being productive and the feeling of a job well done, we love the sense of belonging and being connected to fellow humans who are our work family, and we love learning new things, taking on new challenges and feeling like we are growing and getting better.

As those like Jillian return to work, they are going back with a fresh perspective around what they are willing to give and clarity around the experience they expect in return.

Following the great resignation will be the great return, then hopefully, it will be the Great Retain: the organizations that can figure out how to deliver an experience beyond the paycheck will be the organizations that will rebuild their workforce and claim their market share. 

Building a coaching culture t the office

How to Overcome The Great Resignation

So how do you achieve the Great Retain? Build a coaching culture.

An organization that incorporates a coaching culture is a company that values employee training, allowing all of its employees access to coaching, regardless of their level or title. They invest wholeheartedly in ensuring that all employees have an equal opportunity to receive coaching from a professional coach and that senior executives and leaders incorporate effective leadership practices into their daily activities. 

This puts everyone in the organization in the same successful mindset. They learn together, train together, and all have the opportunity to advance, and employees value this.

Decision-makers interested in ROI understand that coaching is by far the best way to develop employees and improve engagement. Because of the results that coaching delivers, organizations who offer coaching to their managers throughout the ranks gain many direct benefits to the bottom line, not the least of which is employee retention.

When your organization establishes a coaching culture, you get a solution that works regardless of your job title or the industry you work in. A well-established coaching culture meets your employees where they are and provides them with the tools they need to make a difference.

In a coaching culture environment, leaders can increase employee engagement, create leadership development programs, and create high-performing teams.

The coaching culture approach provides a solution that works across all levels of management, and that is adaptable to all industries. Developing a coaching culture within your organization meets you where you are, and gives you the tools to make a real difference, to achieve The Great Retain instead of The Great Resignation.


There are many people like Jillian looking for a place to bring their contributions to the table, but not at the risk of doing more to receive less.  When considering how you can retain the right people for your company, investing in a coaching culture is a proven method to increase engagement and retention.

The most cited obstacles to a strong coaching culture are budget and executive support. The difficulty lies in clearly demonstrating the relationship between coaching activities and the pursuit of mission, vision, and strategic goals. 

But if The Great Resignation has taught us anything, it is that work has been changed forever. Winning the war on talent is more than just strategy and recruitment tactics. Employees expect tools in place to help them thrive. Developing a coaching culture within your organization is one of the best investments you can make toward reducing your employee retention challenges and creating a workplace that is effective, productive, positive, and desirable.   

Need help in achieving The Great Retain at your organization? Book a call with us here to explore developing a coaching culture within your organization.


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Corry Robertson

Sought-after coaching culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders uplevel employee retention and performance for over 20 years.

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