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University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies releases white paper examining the evolution and implications of workplace attitudes

By Sharla Hooper

Author Dr. Danielle Kearns Sixsmith leverages findings of consecutive year Career Optimism Index® studies to identify implications for employers and workers 

University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies released a new white paper, “Remain or Resign? Workplace Attitudes 2020-2023,” by Danielle Kearns-Sixsmith, Ed.D., a Research Fellow with the Center for Educational and Instructional Technology (CEITR). Reviewing findings of the University of Phoenix Career Institute® Career Optimism Index® study over the past three years, this white paper captures indicators what retention actions are working and what are not, with broad-reaching implications for employers and workers.

While workplace attitudes and behaviors have been attributed to the pandemic, globalization, technology, markets, and inflation, personal perspectives including self-efficacy, work-life balance, job satisfaction, empowerment, working conditions, and career trajectory also contribute. The 2023 Career Optimism Index® identified a free agent mentality among workers, with over half of the employee respondents indicating that they would be resigning or looking for another job or career within the next six months.

The white paper reviews the areas potentially contributing to the free agent mentality, of reported dissatisfaction by workers, and explores gaps in perceptions of mentorship, enhancing skills, and career trajectory programs between employers and workers. 

“With an increasing free agent market mentality for workers, employers should support current employees by focusing on authentic mentorship, high-quality upskilling programs and applications, and on-going support of career development and trajectory,” states Kearns-Sixsmith. “Year-over-year, we have seen small decreases in despair, but future results will show whether these attitudes are truly trending downward and whether efforts are making a difference.”

Kearns-Sixsmith is an alumna of the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies where she earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership. She is an Assistant Professor in the Education Department at DeSales University and a consultant for STEM education and evaluation. She previously served as Learning Services Manager for Health & Sciences at The Princeton Review/ Kearns-Sixsmith has a Master of Science in Secondary Science Education from Queens College in New York, a Master of Science in School Administration & Supervision from Long Island University, and a bachelor’s from Rutgers University.

The full whitepaper is available at College of Doctoral Studies research hub and as a direct link here.

About the College of Doctoral Studies

University of Phoenix’s College of Doctoral Studies focuses on today’s challenging business and organizational needs, from addressing critical social issues to developing solutions to accelerate community building and industry growth. The College’s research program is built around the Scholar, Practitioner, Leader Model which puts students in the center of the Doctoral Education Ecosystem® with experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community. Through this program, students and researchers work with organizations to conduct research that can be applied in the workplace in real time.

About the Career Optimism Index®

The Career Optimism Index® study is one of the most comprehensive studies of Americans' personal career perceptions to date. The University of Phoenix Career Institute® conducts this research annually to provide insights on current workforce trends and to help identify solutions to support and advance American careers and create equity in the workplace. For the third annual study, fielded between December 9, 2022 – January 13, 2023, more than 5,000 U.S. adults were surveyed on how they feel about their careers at this moment in time, including their concerns, their challenges, and the degree to which they are optimistic about core aspects of their careers. The study was conducted among a diverse, nationally representative, sample of U.S. adults among a robust sample to allow for gender, generational, racial, and socioeconomic differences and includes additional analysis of the workforce in the top twenty DMA markets across the country to uncover geographic nuances. The study also explores insights from 500 U.S. employers who are influential or play a critical role in hiring and workplace decisions within a range of departments, company sizes and industries to provide comparison between the workforce and those who hire, train, and retain them.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit