From all the news reports, it sounds like many companies are experiencing a mass exodus of workers. People are even referring to this as The Great Resignation of 2021. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record-high 4.3 million U.S. employees quit their jobs in August. Why? Maybe the pandemic was a real wake-up call. (“Life is short. Let’s make this count!”) People today are demanding better opportunities, more flexibility, roles that bring them greater satisfaction, or a shot at starting their own businesses.
So what does that mean for you as a leader?
Will you jump on the resignation bandwagon or double down at your current position? Every person’s situation is different, but I would encourage you to think about the impact of your decision on your long-term career goals. There may actually be some good reasons to stay right where you are. Here are a few things to consider:
1. If you’ve invested time and energy to build a stellar reputation at your workplace, do you really want to start over? It’s not easy to establish yourself as a competent problem-solver or a go-to domain expert. You might discover that continuing to nurture and strengthen your reputation in your current role will provide greater benefits as you work toward reaching your goals for the future.
2. If other employees are leaving, will you be in a prime position to move up with the next reorganization? Even if you have been feeling frustrated by the lack of opportunities for advancement, the tables are definitely turning in this new environment. Before you jump ship, take a closer look at the potential roles and responsibilities that might be opening up unexpectedly.
3. If you stay despite the difficulties, could you gain experience that helps you transform? My wise friend and colleague, Ron West, reminded me that facing formidable challenges is a powerful way to accelerate our growth and evolve as leaders. As he pointed out, unprecedented situations often compel us to take risks and try something completely different. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather experiment with new strategies and “develop” in the comfort of an existing role, where my tenure gives me support while I navigate the unknown.
4. If your current team is working well, what are the advantages of leaving? I recently talked to a friend who mentioned she wanted to apply for a new job at an entirely different company. This news shocked me. Just two weeks earlier, she told me her team was finally fully staffed, humming along, and more engaged than ever. Her employees were stepping up to the plate and handling more things on their own, which left her more time to strategize and lead.
When I asked her what was prompting her job search now, this was her response: “Well, I feel like it’s a really hot market. Everyone is making a move, and I think I can probably demand a higher salary.”
Maybe you’ve had that same thought. While those things might be true, pause and consider the “cost” of leaving. It’s similar to the process of moving to a new home. You’ve got to fix up the old place so you can sell it. Negotiate with realtors and buyers. Find a new place. Pack. Transport everything. Unpack. Redecorate and it can take a year to settle in. It can be a very stressful experience that spans multiple months. Is it worth sacrifice that comes with rebuilding your reputation when you are essentially happy and established right where you are?
5. If you leave, what will be the impact on your existing team? This isn’t in any way meant to sound like a guilt trip, but it’s a factor that deserves some consideration. The past 18 months of pandemic chaos have been tough, to say the least. Have your team members demonstrated their loyalty to you and the company through all of that? Maybe they even thrived under your leadership as you built strong relationships and helped them navigate unprecedented challenges.
Ultimately, you have to make career decisions in your own best interest, especially if your existing job is preventing you from spending quality time with your family or compromising your mental and physical health. But keep in mind there’s also an energized level of teamwork that emerges after facing so many difficult times as a group. That kind of been-in-the-trenches-together collaboration can be the foundation for amazing productivity and performance.
Should you decide to stay with your current employer, you may be in a position to influence your team members as they also make the stay-or-go decision. Following are three action items that could help you make a valid case for employees to remain on board.
- Be proactive about persuading your company to consider retention incentives or thank-you bonuses for those who stuck with the organization through the pandemic. These incentives might include cash rewards, extended health or retirement benefits, an across-the-board raise that is out of cycle, or an above-average pay increase.
- Be diligent about helping your employees find roles within the company that can bring them more fulfillment and meaning. Identify the value they offer, and make it your mission to find a place where they can thrive. The company will benefit by keeping their experience and contributions in-house. And you’ll have the opportunity to find someone who brings fresh energy to your team.
- Make career coaching a priority right now. While this might seem counterintuitive, coaching gives you an opportunity to show that you care about the professional ambitions of your team members and want to support their growth.
In many cases, employees may be seeking new jobs simply because they aren’t experiencing a sense of progress with their careers—which is the top factor in motivating people, according to authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in their book, The Progress Principle. Coaching for career development demonstrates to employees that you are actively partnering with them to advance within the organization. Nothing else says “progress” quite like that!
You’re the only one who can determine whether resigning from your current job is the right choice for your leadership career. Just think about it carefully before you act. And most of all, don’t feel obligated to leave because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Until next time,