The Great Regret & Second chances

Let’s call it the month of trends. After the crying CEO and quiet quitting, it is time to discuss The Great Regret. I first came across the term on the HR Famous podcast and a quick internet search later, discovered a whole host of statistics and articles (mostly US focused) on job switchers experiencing regret post move. During the peak of the Great Resignation, every month since June 2021, more than 4 million workers – or 3% of total U.S. employment quit their jobs. It is but natural that a percentage of quitters will miss their old job.

Per job search site Muse’s study of more than 2,500 US workers, almost three-quarters (72%) experienced either “surprise or regret” that the new position or new company they quit their job for turned out to be “very different” from what they were led to believe. Nearly half (48%) of these workers said they would try to get their old job back thanks to a phenomenon that the Muse is calling “shift shock”. “They’ll join a new company thinking it’s their dream job and then there’s a reality check,” the company’s CEO, Kathryn Minshew told FOX Business. “It’s this really damaging phenomenon where people are brand new in our role, and they suddenly realize it’s not at all as advertised.” Another survey by Harris Poll for USA Today conducted in March 2022 found about one in five workers who quit during the past two years regret it.

My experience matches the stats. Many of my peers in the industry switched jobs over the last 18 months and are back on the hunt. The number of boomerangs have spiked and talent acquisition is having a ball.

This piece is less about the great regret but more about second chances – both for organizations and employees. The aforementioned podcast asked a few questions, and while I do not essentially agree with the answers they provided, it does provide great fodder for the blog.

Here are the top three questions to ask in times of the Great Regret:

1: What is an acceptable wait period before you leave or do you need to grind it out?

A: Call me a privileged millennial but I don’t believe in grinding it out in a job you hate. The only acceptable wait period before you quit a job you hate is the time you take to find your next gig (I am not privileged enough to quit without a job in hand because I still have bills to pay). Given the day and age, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you are looking for a switch because you realized that it wasn’t a good fit or don’t agree with the culture. In fact, it portrays a great understanding of what would keep you in a job. Of course, you’d still have to find a socially acceptable answer to (1) what attracted you to the job you are currently in. The answer to this is a great opportunity to demonstrate that you made a mistake and learnt from it and (2) why are you leaving – another great opportunity to lie through your teeth on why after great introspection the role you are applying to is exactly what you are looking for. And if you’ve done your homework well, it is likely that the answer to question two is the truth and not a lie.

2. Would/should you accept a boomerang?

Yes! Second chances are exactly what the world needs right now. I’d accept an employee within the first three, six or twelve months or even years after. A returning employee is likely to have discovered that this is the job they were born for all along and would think longer before hopping across the pond. The organization and manager also have a second chance to understand why the employee left and what they can do differently this time over. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. It is foolish to think returning to an organization you’ve left will be difficult unless you burnt bridges while leaving. It is also foolish for a hiring manager to hold grudges against good talent.

3. How to avoid the Great Regret while switching jobs?

All said and done, the biggest question that remains is how do we avoid the great regret – both for organizations and ourselves. We’ve learnt that the lure of money is real and once you earn that extra 100k, taking a pay cut is not good for self-esteem and your old job won’t pay you that much when you return. It is also harder to find other organizations that offer a job worth taking at the same price.

We’ve also learnt that the so-called flexibility offered is only enjoyable when the job is worth doing and the culture worth working for. By itself, it is hardly enough. Thus, while interviewing, take time to ask all the hard questions. Is the interviewer someone you’d want to work for/ work with? Request for more conversations. A two round interview might be great because it’s quick but it is also a very slim insight into the company. Scour the internet for what the world has to say about that organization. And once you’ve done that, sit back and ask yourself – if they paid you exactly as much as your current job, would you still make the switch?

And employers – don’t sell a job that doesn’t exist. While it’s tempting to paint a picture of perfection, giving a candidate insight into the real world will help you keep them for longer and save you from all the extra cost associated with ramping up a new hire, shift shock, attrition and hiring backfills. A quick introspection is also worthy of your time. If everyone on your team is leaving, maybe the problem is less the great resignation and more how you manage work and them.

We live in interesting times. It was expected that some percentage of movers would face regret but the actual percentage is higher than expected. Now is as good a time as ever to re-evaluate your current job, explore what would make you move so that when the right opportunity comes along, you are able to better identify it.

Now onto the next trend. 

2 thoughts on “The Great Regret & Second chances

  1. I’m not sure how I feel about these big labels for new ‘trends’ that have always existed. Expectations not being met, new jobs (or employees) living up to expectations – this is just a breach of the psychological contract … and poor recruitment and selection processes/HR planning

  2. I just found your blog and find it very helpful. Thanks for the insight into HR Business Partner matters. I just got a job as an HRBP and am just getting into the flow of describing my new job to other people.

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