It’s not over yet. The unemployment numbers for January were released a few days ago. Looks like 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January. That means that over 3% of working Americans have quit their jobs each month for eight months in a row. Many of us are asking, “What’s going on?”
There are many sides to this story.
Of course we can’t forget that all of this is happening in the midst of a global pandemic. That brought “work from home” and a realization that there are other ways to work besides sitting in an office cubicle all day. Some bosses learned that giving people flexibility improved work products. Some freaked out because they couldn’t stare over their employees’ shoulder all day or count the minutes they were typing on a keyboard.
Some people took the opportunity to embrace a little work/life balance for themselves. I heard a young person trying to explain this to some older friends recently. She argued that people are realizing that they don’t have to put work first. “You have to work,” she said, “but it doesn’t have to be the most important thing in your life.” She is embracing time-for-work and time-for-life as a way to embrace balance.
Sadly, the folks she was talking to dismissed this outright. Their view is that we must all work as much as we can in order to be successful. As I mention in Relax Focus Succeed, we each get to define what success means to us. Clearly, I’m an advocate of finding a slightly slower, more sustainable view of success.
Recent articles on the Great Resignation say that most of those who quit a job and took another job were disappointed. Some of this simply amounts to the old adage that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Some of it is young people who are quitting their first horrible boss, thinking the next will be better.
Note, also, that we have a record number of jobs being created. Here are a few lessons I hope we learn from the current job market (and frenzy).
- Treating people more like people is good for business (and people). This seems obvious, but sometimes business owners forget that employees are humans who get to make choices. Giving people more money often does not help them perform better. Giving them a little freedom in their schedule can improve job performance and satisfaction considerably.
- Changing jobs may not fix the real problem. Are you looking for more money, more flexibility, or something else? Sadly, it’s also the case that some industries are simply ingrained with certain behaviors. So the problem might be the boss, but it might also be the industry you’re in. Changing industries can be a much bigger shift than changing jobs.
- If you move to a new job, be aware that most of your leverage takes place before you get hired. If you want work/life balance that includes a flexible schedule or the ability to completely ignore work on the weekend, make sure that’s clear up front.
- The second best time to have “leverage” as an employee is after you’ve proven yourself! Do a great job. Be a great employee. Commit to your career and work you way up. Then, when you want to talk about work/life balance, you supervisor will be willing to have the conversation.
- There’s a generational shift taking place. Every once in a while, there are times when a lot of people choose to retire, and the makeup of the workforce changes significantly. With the pandemic and all the once-in-a-lifetime changes in the last two years, we are in the middle of one of these generational shifts. Be aware of it. Push for the kind of employers (and employees) you want going forward. Even if you don’t think you’re changing the world, you are. Be the future you want to live!
And, finally, I would just remind everyone that very few changes are permanent. People take jobs and leave jobs. Sometimes they go back to a job. Sometimes they change careers, or move across country. Everything keeps evolving. Tune into it and think about where you want to fit. Every day, be a little bit more of what you wish to become.
Quitting one thing is the other side of a coin called starting something new. The work of becoming a new you might never end, but you’ll move a little bit in the right direction every day.