Before you storm out of the office, have a good hard think about why you should stick around
“If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double” the song by English rock band The Clash continues.
First released in 1981, the sentiment is equally apt 40 years on as the groundswell surrounding The Great Resignation reaches a crescendo. Recent studies predict around half of the global workforce could leave their jobs within the next six months.
In Singapore, a survey in December of over 1,000 workers by global jobs portal Indeed revealed that nearly a quarter intend to quit their jobs in the first half of 2022. This compares with an average monthly resignation rate that has hovered around 2% for the last 20 years.
While it is easy to dismiss this as a millennial or Gen Z trend, another study by people analytics firm Visier indicates that more experienced employees are similarly rethinking their approach to work. Between 2020 and 2021, resignation rates increased by nearly 40% amongst professionals between the ages of 40 and 50.
Before you start harbouring secret fantasies of storming out of the office proclaiming to anyone within earshot, “I quit!”, here are three reasons to stick around.
1. The going gets rough
There are situations when things just aren’t working out where handing in that resignation letter is justified. However, discomfort is part of the growth process and a customary companion on the path to mastery. Whether it’s learning a new skill, building a new habit, or settling into a new role, progress requires a commitment to being uncomfortable. To reap the rewards, you need to stay the course.
2. Financial constraints
The most obvious reason to push on is the need for a steady pay check. Having said that, if you find yourself yearning to break free from the golden handcuffs, the secret is to live well below your means. In my coaching and advisory engagements with leaders who are keen to reinvent themselves, those who have ratcheted up their lifestyle commensurate with each promotion invariably find it much more difficult to walk away and start afresh.
3. Lack of clarity
Whether you are 25 or 55, articulating what’s wrong with your current role, boss, or organisation is far easier than defining what would drive purpose and fulfilment for you.
If you are tempted to move away from your current situation, but lack clarity as to the direction you’d like to move towards, there is a reasonable chance you won’t be better off having made the leap.
Quoting from Alice in Wonderland:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where —” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
What circumstances warrant throwing in the towel? Here are three reasons to make a change.
1. Growth plateau If you are no longer learning and growing, particularly in the direction you want to head towards, that’s a pretty good sign it’s time to move on. This might involve transferring to another department or taking on special projects that complement your existing role.
You could pursue a strategic side gig, build new skills through volunteer work, or yes, find a new job altogether. If you stagnate, you fall behind.
2. Loss of confidence Sometimes the deck chairs shift. This actually happens with a high degree of frequency, especially at senior levels, though it has a way of trickling down the ranks.
One day you are a top performer. The next day there’s an organisation change - perhaps a new CEO, Board, or Shareholder. And without knowing exactly what hit you, you realise that you’ve lost the support of your colleagues, boss, or key stakeholders.
If you have strong allies, you may be able to weather the storm. If not, do you really want to remain in this environment?
3. Misalignment of values The pandemic has forced deeper reflection and broader conversations about work, priorities, and values. Some people are burned out. Others are prioritising flexibility and autonomy over more traditional markers of success such as material wealth or career progression. Whichever the scenario, my work across a broad range of organisations and executives suggests that misalignment of the corporate value proposition against individual aspirations is a major catalyst for opting out.
Think about it
Black and white decisions are easy. Conversely, thorny decisions where certainty of outcomes are not assured are tough. They invariably benefit from a variety of external perspectives. They require deep inner work and soul searching.
Stay or go? It depends. Invest in purposeful and deliberate preparation for your next chapter. Don’t simply walk out that door.
A version of this article was originally published in The Business Times on Jan 9, 2022.