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What’s Quitter’s Remorse And How To Deal With It

21 Jul 2022

Millions of workers who gave into the great resignation now feel quitter’s remorse. Read this blog post to find out what it is and how to handle it.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed a lot about our everyday and professional lives. One of those things which we’ve also discussed in previous blog posts is the great resignation. While headlines are usually dominated by the broader economic and political implications of this trend, few paid attention to workers themselves and how they look back on their decision.

A recent survey conducted by the Muse is filling that gap and by doing so it’s also revealing some interesting findings. As it turns out, the vast majority of those who switched jobs during the pandemic regretted that decision.

This taps into the broader question of quitter’s remorse. Pandemic or not, it has always been pretty common among employees of all stripes. In this blog post we’ll explore what to do if you have or ever get that feeling. First, however, let’s take a deeper look at the survey results.

Quitter's Remorse Or "Shift Shock"

Conducted in early 2022, the Muse survey found that out of more than 2500 respondents, 72% said they experienced “shift shock”. Experts at the Muse describe it as “that feeling when you start a new job and realize, with either surprise or regret, that the position or company is very different from what you were led to believe.” That’s pretty much the same as quitter’s remorse. 

Some of the other things respondents reported were:

  • 29% said that their quitter’s remorse encompassed the job and the company;
  • 41% would give no more than 6 months to a job in which they did not feel happy;
  • 48% would take another shot at their old job if they did not feel it for the new job;
  • 80% consider it okay to leave their job before 6 months if they feel shift shock.

The reason why the number of dissatisfied workers is so high may have to do with the age dimension. Most of those who took up the opportunity to switch jobs were Gen Z or millennials. Unlike older generations who prefer stability and don’t mind stricter hierarchies, younger people are more likely to look for fulfillment, better work-life balance, and warmer employee-employer relationship. If these are not met, disappointment or regret can ensue.

30% of the respondents outlined a significant difference between what was promised and what was delivered. As most communication moved online during the pandemic, there was plenty of room for misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Sometimes companies in need of workers may have painted a somewhat different picture of what the work actually turned out to be.

Quitter’s Remorse - Not Just A Concern For Employees

These findings should also set the alarms off for employers. With major labor shortages hitting business growth and the overall economy hard, failing to meet employees expectations and not building a solid employee-management relationship can leave every business at a competitive disadvantage.

In addition, hiring can be pretty expensive. First, the hiring and onboarding process itself costs about $4000 per hire in the U.S. If the employee leaves, that money is not just wasted, but the skills they acquired may end up benefiting a competitor.

Add to this the costs arising from a vacancy being unfilled for a period of time and the money squandered in lost work hours. After all, the time a position is empty is also the time when no economic value is being generated. Even after a new employee starts, it takes months to build up their productivity. If other colleagues are forced to pick up the slack, they may feel unappreciated and overworked.

Of course, those quitting will still feel a greater financial pinch (lost earnings, diminished savings while looking for a new job, no health care etc.), but employers by no means have it easy.

What To Do In A Situation Like This

All of this, of course, begs the question – what can be done if one finds himself feeling quitter’s remorse? There are several steps that can be taken to mitigate or eliminate this feeling, but first it’s important to understand two important principles.

First, no job is 100% perfect – there are trade-offs everywhere. When switching jobs, people tend to imagine the best possible scenario. However, finding a consistently and objectively perfect job is impossible. 

In addition, some employees can look back on their previous place of employment with rose-colored glasses – emphasizing only the good and forgetting the bad. This is in stark contrast to acutely experiencing the downsides of a new job, especially if there was great initial excitement.

Second, focus on communication! Fuming by yourself will only worsen any disappointment you have, maybe even leading to resentment. Solutions can actually be easier found than many imagine. Conversely, lack of communication as well as misinterpretations and misperceptions can cause tremendous harm even if the initial source of quitter’s remorse is miniscule.

With these principles in mind, here are things you can do to deal with shift shock.

Can the problem be solved?

Understanding the issue is the first step to solving it. Quitter’s remorse feels so all-encompassing that it’s difficult to comprehend that there usually is only one or few things at the core of it. 

Whether it is colleagues, job duties, management expectations, or other unexpected pressures, think about what part of your work day causes dislike or dread. Once you have the problems pinned down, the second step comes in – understanding whether the problem can be fixed or remedied. If it can’t, think about whether the problem is temporary or permanent. 

Once you have this figured out, the path forward becomes clearer. If the problem is systemic and permanent, it might be a good idea to consider other jobs. If it is salvageable, then consider how you see your future at the company with regards to that issue.

Weigh the benefits and the downsides

As outlined before, no job is perfect. There are only different degrees of compatibility. Stack all the benefits of this new position against the downsides to make sense whether it is worth it. 

For example, the new job may require more commuting which is tiring and emotionally draining. It is possible that you have fixated on this one thing and it becomes the root of your resentment. This, however, wouldn’t do justice to the new position as a whole since it could offer better benefits, higher salary, and more inspiring colleagues.

Human minds are rarely rational by themselves. Help your’s to see the bigger picture and think pragmatically. It may eliminate your quitter’s remorse.

Talk to your management

Both previous points help you flesh out the problem and think about it more rationally. With everything figured out, you can bring this up with your management (even if management is the problem). As outlined before, companies don’t want to lose all the time, energy, and investment they have put in you.

Even if the problem seems insurmountable from your position, you would be surprised what solutions top brass can find when they really want to keep an employee. If you can, try to bring ideas for potential solutions to the issue. That way you will show your bosses both that you care as well as that you have initiative. In some cases it may even improve everyone’s worklife.

When it comes to bringing these issues up, remember to adapt your language and arguments based on your situation. If you don’t have other job options at the moment or there is no financial pillow to cushion the departure, keep the conversation light, without delving into ultimatums. If you are on a more stable footing (savings, another job offer) you can speak your mind more openly.

Be prepared for the next career step

Regardless of whether you like your job or not, you should always have a clear plan for the next career steps. Having contingency plans if things go south at your current workplace is also a good idea.

This is a major point, but it really boils down to a couple of key actions:

  • Have your life and professional goals sorted out. If the current job does not suit you, it may be because it was incompatible with your broader goals. Have those figured out before switching jobs.
  • Find time for continued education. Employees who learn and adapt will always be highly valued. In addition, you might find a new passion, talent, or even a job just by studying.
  • Keep a financial safety pillow. If you don’t want to be shackled to a job you don’t like just because of financial constraints, keep at least three months worth of your salary as a backup.
  • Remember to keep networking. Meet people, present your knowledge and skills, and make it clear that you are open to new opportunities.
  • Keep your CV polished. Both your LinkedIn and physical CVs should be well maintained. The former is your business card to the whole wide world, the latter will come in handy if a good opportunity comes knocking.
  • Avoid the same mistakes. Look back on what and when went wrong with the current job and try to avoid the same pitfalls when searching for the new job.

Author: Lote Steina

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Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!
Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!