Maybe, The Thing Is Not The Thing
The Great Resignation. A workers’ revolution! Or is it?
Just in case you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you may be wondering why it’s a “thing”. Enlighten yourself: Workers across the globe are quitting their jobs in larger numbers than “ever before”. But why sensei? Economists, industry experts and journalists have been reporting the unprecedented number of exits and basing their analysis of this “disturbing trend” on a plethora of different factors. Popular opinion is that the pandemic is the leading culprit closely followed by the usual suspects of toxic work environment and new opportunities.
But wait. Can we really pin this one on COVID or toxic culture? Or are they just convenient and obvious reasons that fit the narrative of vested interests?
Quitting your job is a choice. Whether it’s chosen to follow your passion, for higher pay or to start your own business, it’s still a choice. Yes, employees are bidding adieu to their current salt mine. But it’s not a new phenomenon. People have been quitting their jobs for decades. The reasons, as revealed in various surveys conducted over the past years, haven’t changed that much. The real question should be: why so many at the same time?
What’s different sensei?
The context of this decision has changed. Significantly. Pre-pandemic if you were considering quitting your job — you would weigh the pros and cons, costs and benefits and make a choice. You would not, at this precise time, be bombarded by profile updates on your social media or news stories about how many other people are making a shift or posts by life-style gurus telling you how they can help you follow your passion and become filthy rich. During the last few months, everyone has had a take on what’s driving this “exodus”. The wonders of social media and smart phones ensure that these opinions get your attention. They are terribly difficult to ignore. Especially, if you are having doubts at the moment.
You are aware that you are not satisfied with the current situation, maybe it’s making you miserable. But you have responsibilities. Do you stick with the status quo or take a courageous leap into the unknown? If you are on the fence about quitting your job, the onslaught of resignation stories and explanations behind them, will most likely push you to leap. This is a gradual process. Not as impulsive as some would have you believe. You will find that you have started telling yourself things like: If they can do it successfully, so can I; Oh those reasons resonate with my experience, I need to do this; look at how happy they are — I deserve to be happy too, etc. You get the idea. The nudge has begun. The next step is to venture exploring life on the other side of the abyss, if only in your imagination.
So, what does the other side look like in our heads? How do we paint this picture? When we are faced with a choice in which the outcome is not guaranteed, like life after quitting; we seek out information that supports our vision of a favourable future (Seriously. Only favourable. No one envisions an unfavourable one). Because we need some kind of confirmation that we are making the right decision. We are googling success stories and netflixing biopics of billionaires. We really don’t have much of choice here, that’s just the way we are wired. Post this in-depth “research”, not only is our image of the future clearer, the chances of there being rainbows and unicorns in it have skyrocketed.
Now, it’s not so hard to make the decision, is it? Who doesn’t want the bed of roses? Geronimo! Before you know it, you’ve typed out your resignation letter and you are happily soaring over the chasm of doubt, smiling and waving at all the fence sitters below.
OMG! Have we exonerated the guilty parties? Not at all. Toxic work cultures definitely need to be addressed. But maybe we can have an appreciation of how the broader context of a decision matters and how much power it wields.
And maybe, the thing is not really the thing.