Thinking of quitting? Here’s how to avoid the great regret

Written by Katrina Goldband  • HR  • 28 September 2022

Following the great resignation, many people management experts have noted another trend they call “the great regret”.

According to recent studies, one in five workers who have left their jobs for new opportunities with attractive benefits have found themselves feeling unsatisfied and potentially regretful of their decision. What factors led to this new workplace phenomenon and what can candidates do to avoid it? 

Historically, high resignation rates coincided with a stable economy and low unemployment. Researchers found that this was not the case starting in 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, workers were continuing to resign in high numbers despite the uncertainty of the economy and high unemployment rates. What were workers looking for? The search for better work-life balance, schedule flexibility, remote working, and higher salaries were all contributing factors that led many to decide it was time to make a change. 

Yet while changing jobs is beneficial for some workers, it’s not always the case for others. Many are finding that the grass is not always greener and end up still feeling discontent and even regretful for making the change.   

Broken promises

“With the labour market as competitive as it is, we’re seeing many recruiters with flashy sales pitches trying to attract workers with a big pay rise on top,” explains Stacy Thurlow of online employee advice platform The Muse, based in New York City. 

Yet workers are finding that companies, desperate to fill open roles, are making promises and offering benefits that are not always fulfilled. In a 2022 survey by The Muse of more than 2,500 US workers, 72% said their new role or company was very different from what they had been led to believe.  

Money talks  

Tempted by the higher salary, some workers are finding themselves dissatisfied in their new job and realise that they were not as unhappy as they believed they were at the previous organisation. Personal relationships, benefits, and company culture are all things that can easily be cast aside when the prospect of more pay comes in to play.  

“Currently, it can be easier to quit than have tough conversations with management,” says Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, US. “When people resign, it’s often not because people hate their jobs: they may like 80% of it but dislike the other 20%. When they switch, they’re often looking to solve the 20% – and assume the good things in their current job will be there in their new role. But many people don’t realise that every job comes with different issues.” 

“You’re on mute” 

The availability and flexibility of remote working is one of the biggest developments resulting from the pandemic. Companies were forced to create a work environment that was easier to participate in from home, despite many being reluctant to prior to the events of 2020. Even interviews are conducted online now, making it more convenient for applicants and interviewers. But this convenience comes at a price. Candidates can find it hard to get a grasp of company culture or challenging to get a good feel of your would-be manager and team through a screen.   

According to a 2019 survey from staffing company Yoh, 62% of the 2,000 US adults polled would prefer a traditional interview over an online one. Cited by nearly 59% of respondents, the biggest reason is that face-to-face interviews are the only way to “truly judge a new job opportunity”. The second reason, selected by 37% of respondents, is that online interviews would limit the connection with the interviewer.  

But as they say, not all change is bad, and quitter’s remorse is certainly not a guarantee. Here are three steps that candidates should keep in mind when exploring other job opportunities to avoid any regret: 

   1. Check employee reviews/perspectives 

Employers who are desperate to fill positions may be less likely to reveal the nuances and challenges of working at the organisation. Digitised recruitment and hybrid-working environments make it easier to obscure the reality of the company’s day-to-day culture. Therefore, it’s essential that candidates do thorough research, starting with sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and theJobCrowd.  

   2. Improve your current circumstances 

Sometimes, an employee can love most aspects of their job but feel compelled to leave due to one or two issues. While these issues can be significant, it’s advisable to explore all options for improving your current situation before quitting a job you genuinely enjoy. Discussing your issues with HR or management is often a good place to start.  

   3. Don’t indulge in nostalgia 

The mind is a funny thing. You could be perfectly satisfied by your new role, but if you have just come from a work environment you genuinely enjoyed, with close friendships and bonds, then making the decision to switch jobs was likely a difficult process, guided by pragmatism. In such cases, it is natural to feel nostalgic about your previous job for a prolonged period. It’s worth recalling the conversations you had with yourself in the lead-up to your decision to remember why you chose to make the switch.    

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