Having Your BestDay

February 10, 2022

Thinking about joining the Great Resignation?

Please, Consider This First

Seems like everywhere you turn these days, someone is talking about the Great Resignation. Lots of analysis has been done trying to unpack the reasons for the record number of resignations. Our thoughts on this are more personal as we have talked individually to a lot of good people who wonder if it is time to quit, why they feel that way, and, most important, what to do next. If you are having these thoughts, we offer this up for consideration.

Working as an HR director a pattern has emerged. A colleague will email, phone, or text and ask if we can sit down and chat. They come in, shut the door, and we make the obligatory small talk - “how are your kids,” “what did you think of the game,” “I like your hair – did you do something new?” Okay, they never said that last thing ever, but hey, this is my article so humor me. After our exchanges, they get serious and share in various ways that they are suffering at work and want some sort of change. It is shared in a variety of ways. Here are some common ones:

  • My supervisor never listens; I think they don’t like me; I don’t know how to please them; they never share anything with me; I don’t really know what they want from me.
  • Our team is toxic; there is so much gossip, I just want to do my job and be left alone; everyone just does what they want; I am working harder than everyone else.
  • I need more money; when are raises coming; I can’t live on what we pay here.
  • I am embarrassed by the actions of our leadership; how come we can’t make noble decisions; I don’t like our actions in this community.

Regardless of the myriad different examples, it was all code for “HELP!” Some of these good people were suffering mild discomfort, and others needed the box of tissues as it was a deep pain they had been carrying for a while.

The pattern continued – they then asked for help with moving to a different team, firing their supervisor, asking me to speak to leadership, looking at their resume, or validation that what they were feeling was real.

After these interactions over the past decade, I started having a realization – when people are thinking of quitting it all boils down to one root problem - that person’s core values are not in alignment with the lived values of the organization. Wouldn’t it be great if organizations actually printed their lived values, not the noble values hanging on the wall or that are put in recruitment material? Can you imagine going into a conference room and seeing these values on the wall:

  • We promote and support office gossip.
  • We believe in keeping employees in the dark.
  • We are committed to pursuing profit over people.
  • We never fire troublemakers because it is too hard.
  • If there is a problem here, you can expect to be blamed.

It sure would make it easier when evaluating organizations in your job search. By the way, I have worked for and with many organizations where their lived and stated values are in alignment. If that is where you work, most likely you have stopped reading.

[Okay, cautionary break here as we talk to organizations who are losing people to the Great Resignation. Over the past several months we have interacted with several organizations that lost superstar employees. In a handful of these organizations the response was incredulous as they blamed the departing employee! For example, “Julie’s performance really wasn’t that great.” “Angela was restless so she really needed to go.” Or, “Ben is selfishly leaving us in the lurch.” I suppose putting the blame on the departing employee is an easier route than addressing any leadership or cultural gaps in the organization, or honestly assessing whether the organization’s stated and lived values align. Ultimately, these organizations are taking it on the chin as they lose institutional knowledge and talented colleagues. But, as my Father told me 40 years ago, “Taking the course of least resistance makes both people and rivers crooked.”]

Anyway, back to our closed-door discussion. After listening to the complaints and sensing the pain, I tried to help people figure out the root cause of what they were feeling with a simple exercise.

  • Me - Think about your best job ever – could have been when you mowed grass or scooped ice cream as a teenager, or could be a conglomeration of experiences at several jobs. Okay, got that job locked in mind?

  • Them – “Yes” - they would nod.

  • Me - Now, describe what a good day at work looked like.

  • Them - Well, I had autonomy to make decisions. People listened to my opinion. My supervisor didn’t treat me like a subordinate – I felt like an equal. We got big things done that made a difference. I loved getting regular raises. I could bring my whole self to work – worries about kids, unique perspective, my sense of humor. At this point of the conversation a smile began to form on their lips as they remembered what those feelings of a good day at work felt like.

  • Me – let’s boil down those thoughts a little further, because what you are starting to identify are your core values you want to live at work. If you had to put those statements into a phrase or single word – what would they be? We would then talk, go back and forth, make suggestions, edit, and come up with a list. Something like this:

  • Them – autonomy, respected, diverse team, entrepreneurial, real opportunities for growth, respectable compensation

  • Me – Okay, now let’s overlay these values on your current job, team, supervisor. After more discussion, we often got to the point where they identified that their values were not in alignment with their current experience. Sometimes they realized that their values were more in alignment than they thought. The biggest benefit of the discussion for me, was they had the answers when they came into the room – they just needed a way to verbalize it. That was important, because often they walked into the room wanting someone to wave a magic wand and make the pain end, but they walked out realizing they had agency, they could make decisions, and they could put language to the internal conflict they felt. Sometimes that one discussion was enough as they started having epiphanies of what they would do next. This could be a discussion with the supervisor, realizing that there were way more things about their job that they enjoyed as opposed to what they disliked. For others, it was affirmation that their core values were not aligned, and wouldn’t be aligned, with their current experience. In those situations, we put time on the books for another meeting to discuss the psychological science behind picking a meaningful career trajectory, and making a personal plan.

So, it’s your turn. If you are thinking of jumping in the Great Resignation pool, please try this first:

  1. Think about your best job and what made it so good for you. Got it in mind?

  2. Make a list of up to five things that made it so good. If you can, boil down your thoughts into up to five short sentences or words that capture what a great day looked like.

  3. Now compare those thoughts with your current job. How far off are they from each other?

  4. If there is a gap – can you close it by having a conversation with someone, changing your perspective, identifying what IS really good about your current situation? If yes, cool – you’ve got a plan and don’t need us anymore.

  5. If there is too big of a gap and you don’t think it can be closed – please reach out to us at info@bestdayhr.com. We have been where you are at and would love to figure this out together. WE PROMISE YOU, THERE ARE BESTDAYS WAITING FOR YOU!

And, by the way, yes, I did get a haircut – thanks for noticing!

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