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How & Why the “Great Resignation” has Affected the Publishing Industries

Since 2020, industries everywhere have been affected by what has since been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” We can see this partly due to the fact that lots of workers recognized that they were being overworked, and/or underpaid, and decided that this was the best option to take. The pandemic, and the ways in which many people had to work around the social distancing and mask mandates, seemingly opened the nation’s eyes to companies’ capabilities of compensation and the lack thereof. But what does this have to do with publishing?

Plenty. Toward the beginning of 2020, two big publishing houses (Macmillan and Little, Brown and Company) received resignation letters from different editors on their staff. This event quickly led to concern for “junior” and mid-level employees and serious calls for action from publishing companies to assess what is being asked of employees and how they are being compensated. Note that “junior” is purposely in quotations because, as it seems, much of the frustration comes from staff members being dubbed “new” or “junior” in their respective positions despite their experience and contributions to the company.

Take Molly McGhee for example. She was one of the resigners from Tor (owned by Macmillan Publishers), who, according to an article from PublishersLunch, took her leaving public on Twitter. After spending upwards of ten years in various assistant roles, she tried for a promotion. And though she had all these years under her belt, and an acquisition debut at number three on the New York Times Best Sellers List, she was met with reluctance. The reason provided to her for this was that she “needed more training” and, therefore, could not and should not expect to advance for at least another five years.

This issue really points to the fact that lower-level employees seem to be missing recognition and visibility for their valuable inputs and outputs that their positions/higher-ups require of them. I think that most people, when they think of problems in a work environment such as this, tend to default to considering retail and food service. And while it is true that these businesses (along with hospitality, supply chain warehouses, and more according to an article on Fortune.com) have, for a long time, failed to meet the needs of their staff in many cases, we have to start recognizing how often this also happens in fields that are less talked about outside of the industry itself.

For people who are in, or about to step into, positions where they have hiring powers—we have to consider these perspectives before spouting out that, “no one wants to work these days.” Is it truly that no one wants to work, or is it that people want to receive the respect and remuneration that is warranted? Referring back to McGhee on this topic, she has stated since her departure from Tor that she loved her job, and the people she worked with, but ultimately felt that it was in her best interest to resign as the workload and pay were “untenable.” The burnout that nature of employment produces is inexcusable. For the future of the publishing industry, and the toll that the effects of The Great Resignation has had on it, changes need to be made.

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