As the US economy rebounds from the hammering it received during the coronavirus pandemic, when offices emptied, stores shuttered, and the travel and hospitality industry went dormant, a surprising trend has emerged.
Millions of Americans are now quitting their jobs. In August alone, 4.3 million people voluntarily left employment, and that monthly figure has hovered around 4 million since March.
Having had time to take stock of their work lives, many people have decided that after a year and a half of fear and uncertainty, now is the time to make a change.
On top of that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were six million fewer resignations in 2020 compared to 2019, as those that might have otherwise left their jobs hung onto them to ride out the pandemic. This essentially created a backlog of resignations.
The wave of people quitting was termed “the great resignation” by Professor Anthony Klotz, associate professor of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Klotz, who studies the ways in which organisations and employees interact, specifically when it comes to resignations, outlined three things you may want to consider if you are planning on leaving your current job.
Don’t be impulsive, weigh up the options
As an employee, the organisation you work for usually has all the power and you do not, Mr Klotz notes, but as soon as you decide that you’re going to quit that power balance shifts because you don’t need the company anymore.
“When people gain power like that, they sometimes use it in irresponsible ways. And so I always counsel employees that it’s important that once you decide to quit, and you gain that leverage, you really need to reflect on why you’re quitting,” he explains.
Mr Klotz says that it is vital that you understand why you’re leaving a job. “Make sure, for example, it’s not just something that’s cropped up in the last few days,” he says. “Then consider whether it’s a problem that could be solved without quitting?”
He notes that something we often undervalue when thinking about quitting is all the positive aspects of an organisation. Can the negative aspects be addressed in any way to your benefit? Do they outweigh the positive aspects to a degree that you have no other choice?
“For example, if you’ve been with a company for five years, you’ve built up a lot of social capital. You know other people, you can get things done, that sort of stuff. When you start a new job, you start back at zero,” he explains.
“Do not undervalue things that you’re leaving behind. Increasingly companies are more open to ‘job crafting’ – where you talk to your boss and say that you like 80 per cent of the job, but not the other 20 per cent, and you work with the organisation to craft a role that suits you.”
Will leaving really solve a problem or could it create new ones?
Will leaving your current company really resolve an issue you are confronting, or do you risk creating new problems for yourself by leaving and starting a new role at a new organisation?
For example, you may have a problem with your schedule at your current company and you choose to go to a new job that offers flexible work arrangements – but have you checked out everything else about that organisation? Maybe there is something there that will be just as big a problem and you’ve replaced one issue with another, ignoring it through your focus on having a flexible schedule.
“It’s really important to realise where you’re going next, so make sure you talk to employees there, or look at sites such as Glassdoor,” says Mr Klotz. “Be honest with yourself — is that really going to solve your problem or is it going to solve one issue while creating other new ones?”
The professor suggests running an experiment on yourself. For example, if your commute makes you miserable and you are dreading the return to the office because of that, try it out again for two weeks and actually see how you feel.
“We tend to be terrible when it comes to predicting how we’re going to feel about a future situation,” he says, also suggesting trying out your new commute and see if it’s any better or not. “Be scientific about it.”
Resign in the best way possible
Whoever leaves a company will create a void, and their absence will have a potentially negative impact on the overall organisation. It can be very disruptive.
There are many reasons for resigning, and you might be keen to just walk out the door, but Mr Klotz urges thinking this through and working out a plan to leave on the best possible terms.
Long before the pandemic, the phenomenon of “boomerang employment” was a growing trend – going back to a company at which you once worked – where you are known and your skills are appreciated.
“In the last 10 years, the taboo around leaving your job has sort of decreased, which means organisations are interested in hiring people back that used to work for them,” explains Mr Klotz.
“The only way that is a possibility for you is if you leave in the best way you can. So set yourself up, even though you may think I’ll never go back and work there, there’s no harm in preparing for the possibility of boomerang employment.”
He suggests minimising the disruption of your departure. Could you help train a replacement? Could you put in a longer than the normal notice period? Could you be a super positive influence during your notice period and go above and beyond what is expected of you? All could be potentially self-serving in the long run.