Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Quitting is contagious?

Via the New York Times, this interesting tidbit on quitting: 
...Quitting rates were high in August, September and October. Then, according to Labor Department data, they climbed even further: More than 4.5 million people left their jobs voluntarily in November, a record high in two decades of tracking.

Economists explained the numbers by noting that competition for workers led to better pay and benefits, driving some to seek out new opportunities. Psychologists have an additional explanation: Quitting is contagious.

...So quitting begets more quitting, a challenge that employers can’t always solve with raises or perks. Even a single resignation notice can breed a “hot spot,” said Will Felps, who teaches management at the University of New South Wales and was an author of a study of turnover contagion.

Mr. Felps and his team studied staffing at a hospitality company and a selection of bank branches, all in the United States, and found that one worker’s decision to leave is especially likely to inspire others who don’t feel strongly embedded at the company. In a recent poll of more than 21,000 LinkedIn members, 59 percent said a colleague’s departure had led them to consider quitting as well.

The office has long been a petri dish for infectious behavior. Lying, cheating and job satisfaction all tend to spread from desk to desk. Financial advisers, for example, are 37 percent more likely to commit misconduct if they encounter teammates who have done so, what researchers refer to as “peer effects,” noting that one case of misconduct results on average in an additional 0.59 cases. Employees also mimic the nutritional patterns of people they sit with in the cafeteria. Teammates are suggestible to one another in far subtler ways than they realize.

I've often wondered if there is a "cohort" aspect to quitting, i.e. as people gather a group of friends/associates at a workplace, they get comfortable with a small team or group of people. In the situations where one of that group leaves, I suspect that when one person leaves, all the other members of that small group decide to go as well...


  1. I would agree with this sentiment of groups essentially quitting together or in close proximity. I've experienced it first hand twice.

  2. CJ, I think there's a far simpler possibility, one which has played out at a number of CROs that I've heard about/seen: quitting does not change the total workload for the group, it just gets concentrated on the remaining employees. So if the first person out the door quit because of either workload or workload/pay mismatch, the conditions get worse for the remaining employees. The person most sensitive to the issue sets up the second most sensitive person to quit; like light bulbs on a circuit, each individual pop drives the next.

    1. And we have the winner here. Although it also helps that once one coworker quits, you get a first hand account of how long their jobsearch took.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20