'Naked resignations' reveal workplace frustrations

Updated: 2012-05-11 11:43

By Sophie Li (China Daily)

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One of the hot phrases during the rounds recently in China is "naked resignation" - which means quitting a job without lining up another.

It is well known that Chinese people are the model of hard work and diligence, and "naked resignation" would have been beyond imagination 10 years ago when I first came to China.

According to a recent survey covering 8,064 respondents by Global Times and Sohu.com, more than 43 percent had done, or were considering, "naked resignation". Among them, more than half explained that the main reason was the lack of satisfaction and happiness at work. Nowadays, an increasing number of Chinese youth are pursuing a balance between work and life and personal happiness. My company, RMG Selection, is a China-focused specialist HR and recruitment consultancy. Our consultants contact thousands of job-hunters or outstanding candidates and one of them told me a very interesting story about a candidate, Ma.

Ma was a typical rising star: a graduate from a prestigious university, he worked at a famous audit firm for more than three years and had just been promoted as supervisor. This was the optimum opportunity to look for a new job. However, right after the Chinese New Year, which is regarded as the best time for job-hopping, Ma decided to resign, and told our consultant not to offer him new positions for the moment.

Why did Ma do so? Because he feels that he had lost himself: in the past three years, Ma had to regularly work overtime and go on business trips frequently, and he found that he had no time to take care of his family, be in a relationship and to continue his hobbies. Therefore, when the boss asked him to go on a business trip after the Spring Festival, Ma just spent three minutes to write a resignation letter and leave the company.

It's really hard to imagine such a situation happening to my friends in London, who find it quite difficult to make ends meet given the high cost of living. This is quite different from Chinese people according to my personal experiences. Chinese people prefer saving, a legacy of the economic hardships during the earlier stages of New China. Although China's economy is booming and many first-tier cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, offer expensive temptations similar to be found in New York, the habit of saving has been retained, especially among those who have children. Most of them have acquired assets to deal with various crises. Therefore, even though they have no income for a period of time, they don't have to worry too much.

In addition, family plays an important part in Chinese culture. Even if their children have already graduated from universities and got a job, parents still offer them a lot of support, such as sharing a house or financial assistance for a downpayment. Of course, children support their parents when they are in a good financial situation. This phenomenon is very common in China, just as children have to be economically independent after graduation in the West. This solid family backing is another reason why Chinese youth dare to resign abruptly.

Apart from material changes, another important factor leading to "naked resignation" lies in the mentality of Chinese youth, especially the post-80s generation. They focus more on career happiness and achievement and pursue a balance between work and life, which is quite different from the older generation. At the end of last year, Qianjiang Evening News conducted a survey aimed at investigating the reasons of "naked resignation". In this survey, 48 percent of the respondents preferred to stay at home due to the heavy workload and poor salary, while 27 percent considered their current jobs valueless and meaningless, so they would like to resign and study more.

Personally speaking, I do think this is a good phenomenon, for a mature and advanced job market should attach great importance to workers' happiness. Nevertheless, there are always other solutions, such as communication, and usually it can solve as much as 90 percent of the problems. We cannot always stay at home without working. Most importantly, we must never be impetuous.

Some young people hope to get a perfect job after "naked resignation". But I have to say there is no "perfect job" in the world. If you can really find such a job, please do let me know!

The author is marketing team leader, RMG Selection. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.