The Impact of Workers not Returning to the job Market




Labor Shortage, Sense of Worth, Salary, Paradigm Shift, Return to Work


The objective of this study is to understand the paradigm shift that unfolded during the “Great Resignation\Reshuffling” (2020-2022) within the minds of workers with respect to not re-engaging in the job market after the pandemic. In early 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 11 million job openings and 6 million unemployed individuals. The convergence of these two data points indicates five million jobs with vacant seats. Therefore, we aim to answer this research question: What obstacles have workers encountered that have prohibited them from re-engaging in the job market after the pandemic within the framework of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs Theory? To investigate this question and the associated unprecedented phenomenon, an inductive qualitative research analysis was conducted to review and code archival data from three sources: Reddit posts, the U.S. government (BLS, White House, Federal Reserve) documents, and press articles. The content from more than 1,000 pages (31 posts and 45 articles) was systematically analysed through first and second cycle coding to extract themes that identify the factors being considered by individuals who have chosen to remain on the job market side lines. This article attempts to magnify the American worker’s voice in an environment where it could feel like “nobody is listening” (Shaw, 2000) The findings indicate that salary, stumbling blocks, steward of care, sense of worth and stress are the leading factors that may prohibit individuals from returning to work. To triangulate these findings, additional press articles, government documents and Reddit posts will be coded to increase the data set (second study). The research limitations include a review of only three document sources, a focus on one country alone (the United States) and only one social media platform. Therefore, it cannot be stated that this list is exhaustive. More research is needed to include other platforms and sources. Nonetheless, the findings could help organizations understand this paradigm shift and formulate recruitment and retention programs that address the factors and needs of employees in a post -pandemic work environment that remains full of uncertainty and disruptions.