Expert looks at why staff left their jobs after earthquakes
UC expert looks at why staff left their jobs after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes
September 9, 2013
A University of Canterbury (UC) business lecturer has examined how the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes impacted on people’s decisions to quit their jobs.
Russell Wordsworth tracked down people who voluntarily left their jobs in the period between September 2010 and September 2012.
He interviewed a number of ex-employees from four large organisations. Many of the participants had shifted to other cities in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the United States. With their consent, he recorded their stories and transcribed them into more than 600 pages of data.
``Although I am still in the early stages of data analysis, one interesting finding so far is that dissatisfaction with the job or the organisation was not the main reason for leaving. Three-quarters of the people I spoke to were quite satisfied with their jobs and organisations.
``I found people could broadly be classified into four groups. The first group, which was quite small, consisted of individuals who were simply overwhelmed by the February 2011 earthquake. One person left Christchurch within 48 hours of the February event and never actually officially resigned.
``At the time, many organisations closed for an extended period and employees were forced to stay at home. It was during that downtime that the second group of people engaged in a process of critical reflection that ultimately led to their leaving.
``The third group of people left because they could no longer cope with the cumulative impacts of the event. Continuing uncertainty, coupled with increased workloads, stress, anxiety, and fatigue led these participants to reach a tipping point where they felt compelled to leave.
``The fourth group consisted of people who had felt dissatisfied and trapped in their jobs before the earthquakes but were unable to leave. The earthquakes served to create new job opportunities which enabled them to leave. They were the most positive in the study about leaving their jobs.’’
Wordsworth’s research has significant implications for organisations and managers concerned about staff turnover. Organisations need to support their employees beyond just their jobs in a post-crisis context.
Most people left for reasons outside of the organisation and felt that there was very little the organisation could have done to keep them, he says.
``It is important for organisations to keep their staff engaged during a crisis. Any downtime or forced inactivity could lead people to question the importance of their jobs. It is important to ensure staff are supported over the longer term or emotional exhaustion and burnout could lead people to quit their jobs very suddenly and with little opportunity for the organisation to respond.’’