Employees leave their jobs for many reasons. In 2019, NBC News correspondent David Novak reported that 79% of employees quit their jobs because of a lack of appreciation. Note that 60% of Americans claim to be more motivated by recognition than money.
Some resignations are about taking a significant, better career opportunity. Other reasons include unfavorable working conditions, inflexible schedules, the need to relocate with a spouse, and lack of challenge. But some employees quit their job over principles.
I believe that all of us will face at least two “quitting decisions” in our life. First, when an employer or a supervisor takes a clearly wrong position, unethical or contrary to our personal values, the situation must be corrected, or we can no longer work there.
Everyone faces working conditions that are bothersome. But in those cases where the infraction is severe, there is an obligation to let those in authority know of the circumstances. Hopefully, the authorities would not condone such behavior, they will assure the situation is rectified, and you can stay. In fact, you will want to stay with an employer that insists on correcting inappropriate situations.
Be prepared, however, for negative repercussions or a lack of support when you raise such issues. Stories of retaliation against whistleblowers are common. Often these situations will be fixed, and you will not have to resign. But if the problem continues or is not rectified, you cannot continue to work at that organization. You probably don’t want to work there.
Talking about resigning over principles is a lot easier than doing it. Quitting is difficult. Walking away from a paycheck when you have substantial financial obligations is extremely difficult. Walking away from a significant position and its responsibility and prestige is difficult. Being seen as abandoning your team at work is not comfortable. Given that difficulty, I have a special admiration for those individuals who stick to their values and principles, especially when doing so causes them to leave their job.
Last week, for instance, two top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials, Marion Gruber and Philip Krause resigned over the Biden Administration’s vaccine booster shot plan. The administration insisted on launching a booster shot policy, but the FDA had not approved a booster shot plan. Marion Gruber was the director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research, and Philip Krause was her Deputy. They had the responsibility at the FDA to approve vaccines, including boosters.
Senior FDA leaders said that Gruber and Krause quit because they felt that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were making vaccine decisions that belonged to the FDA. The Biden administration announced a booster shot plan before the responsible persons in the FDA had officially signed off on it. Since Gruber and Krause were not allowed to do what their job responsibility required them to do, and they were, in effect, taken out of the established process, they resigned. I admire their conviction.
It should be noted that Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus czar, said the decision on starting booster shots “was made by and announced by the nation’s leading public health officials,” including the acting commissioner of the FDA, the CDC director, the surgeon general the director of the National Institutes of Health and others. So, like all situations, there are probably three or four sides to this story, and we are sure to hear more.
Dealing with these situations is a challenge. If faced with an apparent “quitting decision,” the following may be helpful:
- Gather all the facts. Make sure you completely understand the situation. Keep an open mind while gathering information.
- Raise the issue to the authorities with tact. You need to be viewed as an intelligent, practicable employee who desires to make the company and its leaders “better,” i.e., your motives are pure.
- Have an established reputation for unquestioned integrity. This will take time to build and maintain, but it will serve you well.
- If and when a bad situation is rectified, be generous and gracious to those who acted.
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson