Join la mèche
Work-Conscious Quitting

Employees' relationship with work has evolved considerably over time, reflecting economic, social and cultural changes. From the industrial revolution to the development of information and communication technologies, from strike movements to changes in labour policies, history is rich in events that have influenced the way workers perceive their work and their place in society. 

Since the 1960s, the reasons why employees quit have changed considerably in Switzerland and in most industrialized countries.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the most common reasons were often related to working condition issues, such as working hours, low pay, and unsafe working environments. The 1960s saw the emergence of social movements, such as the May '68 movements, which highlighted workers' rights and helped create a legal framework for social protection.

During the 1980s and 1990s, economic growth led to an increased demand for labour and workers began to leave their jobs to seek better career opportunities. 

At the turn of the millennium, globalization and trade liberalization had a significant impact on working conditions. Companies began to relocate production to countries with very cheap labour, resulting in reduced employment in industrial sectors and increased unemployment. Workers began to face increased pressure to be more flexible and to work longer hours to meet the demands of international competition. Demands for flexible working hours, working from home and a better work-life balance became more pressing.

More recently, mental health issues have been identified as a growing reason for workers to quit. Work-related stress, work overload and toxic work environments have contributed to this trend. 

Resignation-Work-Conscious quitting

The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly altered the world of work as we know it and acted as a catalyst for a fundamental trend that had been emerging for several years. It started with a major loss of jobs in 2020 and then generated a form of awareness that led to what we call the Great Quit, a phenomenon born in the United States, which pushed many employees to leave their jobs, creating a labor shortage in many sectors, such as the restaurant, hotel or transportation industries. 

Last year, we saw the emergence of a phenomenon that seems to be a continuation of the Great Resignation according to the experts, the "Quiet Quitting". This is not a resignation per se but rather a motivational resignation, which consists of doing the bare minimum in one's job without leaving it.

 "People don't go above and beyond at work and just meet their job description.


While some people ended up quitting during the pandemic, other workers may have wanted to see a change in their jobs, but did not get it. Work overload, lack of consideration and poor work-life balance are some of the main causes leading employees to quiet quitting. 

And for those employees for whom "quiet quitting" does not suit or no longer suits, we are now witnessing the emergence of a trend called "conscious quitting". Employees decide to leave their company or organization because they no longer feel in tune with the company's values or because they consider that it does not have a sufficiently positive impact on the planet or on society in general. 

This phenomenon was described as a real time bomb by Paul Polman, the former head of Unilever, when he published the results of a study carried out at the beginning of the year in the United States and the United Kingdom among 4,000 workers.

"Any CEO who thinks he or she is going to win the war for talent by offering a little more money, a little more working from home and a gym membership is going to be disappointed. An era of conscious quitting is on the way."

According to him, companies that do not embark today on a real approach of "environmental and social responsibility" will not "manage to catch up".

Work-Conscious Quitting

What does this BAROMETER tell us?

The message is that the vast majority of recruitment and retention strategies miss the bigger picture. While better pay, greater flexibility and greater well-being remain at the heart of employees' demands, they fail to take into account the human dimension, among which many feel a need for meaning and fulfillment. In the very troubled times we live in with wars, pandemics, global warming, a tense social climate, many people, especially among the young, have real fears about the future of the world they will inherit. "What is the point of wasting time working in a company that does not interest me?

Some figures:

  • 2 out of 3 employees in the UK and 3 out of 4 employees in the US want to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world.
  • In the U.S. and the U.K., nearly two-thirds of employees believe that corporate efforts to address environmental and societal challenges are not going far enough. Many don't think the CEO and senior management care.
  • Nearly half of employees say they would consider quitting if the company's values did not align with their own, even in today's difficult economic environment.
  • One third of employees say they have already resigned for this reason.



Another survey published at the beginning of April by Unédic, the organization that manages the unemployment insurance scheme, reveals that eight out of ten workers in France want their work to be in line with the climate challenge.

What are the risks?

The collective Pour un Réveil écologique, which brings together students from the grandes écoles such as Sciences Po, Polytechnique, HEC, AgroParisTech..., has been calling on companies to respond to the climate emergency since 2018 and it seems very likely that these students and their successors will boycott companies that have not made a shift towards social and environmental responsibility.

The risks to companies that ignore this should be obvious: ignoring the expectations and needs of current and future employees will make your company less attractive and ultimately less successful, with less engaged and less productive employees.

On the other hand, a commitment to responsibility, in addition to satisfying employees and ensuring their motivation and loyalty, makes it possible to build a more sustainable, more responsible and more profitable company. This is what we call a "net positive" company, as Paul Polman explains, which prospers and creates long-term value by giving more than it takes.


how to do it?

 "They want to contribute their time and skills to companies that have a positive impact on our planet and our societies, and that offer hope. Many see that their employers are striving to be 'less bad,' but they also see that it's not enough. " 

The report identifies three ways to achieve this.

SETTING HIGH AMBITIONS Businesses need to be more ambitious about their values, commitments, and impact Whether it's on climate goals or promoting equity and inclusion, the private sector still isn't doing enough and fast enough. True ambition means setting the goals that the world needs, not the ones that are easy to achieve, and it also means companies engaging in collaboration with their industry, governments, and other stakeholders to drive systemic change.

COMMUNICATE Management teams need to communicate more and better about environmental and social actions. Two out of three employees say they want their company to communicate more about what it is doing (67% in the UK, 66% in the US). Communication to employees will have a strong impact on their sense of belonging, their involvement and their productivity. Outside the company, communication is a formidable weapon in the battle for talent and the employer brand, given the competitive stakes.

EMPOWERING The barometer shows that more than half of UK and US employees want to play a bigger role in helping their company do better (53% in the UK, 60% in the US). This figure is even higher for employees from generations Z and Y (64% in the UK, 66% in the US). Still, it's very good news to realize that many employees want their company to take on the sustainability challenge and that they want to contribute to it. 

In conclusion, if companies and organizations want to retain committed and motivated talent and recruit new ones, they will first need to define a roadmap with ambitious goals to have a positive environmental and social impact, implement their commitments, communicate internally and externally in a transparent manner, and finally train and involve their employees to collectively achieve their goals. 

To go further:

Net Positive Employee Barometer - Paul Polman

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.