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A new look at the great resignation that will change your mindset

I have been observing lately the trend of an increasingly high number of employees voluntarily resigning or changing jobs in the western labor market. The phenomenon is called the Great Resignation, a term coined in 2021 by Anthony Klotz, an Associate Professor of Management, Organizations and Innovation Group, UCL School of Management.

HR professionals highlighted the common reasons why people were leaving their jobs: wage stagnation, looking for greener pastures or a toxic work environment leading to burnout, etc.

My thoughts on this new trend gave me a unique perspective I want to share with you in this article.

The underlying hidden reason

When I looked closely at the reasons for this critical movement of people towards other jobs and career alternatives, I realized that they all lead to a common denominator: an imbalance between what people invested in their jobs and what they get out of it. The input is far more significant than the return. The returns we are considering here are not only the financial compensation but things like fulfillment which varies for different individuals. Stated differently, people are leaving their current jobs and investing their energy in jobs that provide them satisfaction and not necessarily financial gain. I would say they have an “individual fulfillment bankruptcy.”

I don’t think people would leave jobs that are the source of fulfillment or meaningful jobs that bring them happiness. The surge in the number of people discovering the misalignment between their well-being and professional development is just an outbreak of a long-existing situation. 

Three types of jobs

Continuing in that line of thought, I concluded that jobs could be classified into three types:

  • The assignments that energize you provide you pleasure and fulfillment: Green Jobs
  • The jobs that suck your energy, drain you out, and frustrate you: Red Jobs
  • The jobs that neutral. They lie in the middle where they neither suck your energy nor energize you: Yellow Jobs.

You should avoid Red Jobs every time it is possible.

External unplanned events can turn a Green Job into a Yellow or even Red Job.

The danger connected with the Yellow Jobs

A vast majority of the workforce is satisfied with a Yellow Job. One could say there is nothing wrong with having a neutral job that doesn’t give any fulfillment and doesn’t take a lot of your resources. This mindset is very dangerous in the long run, as they slowly decline towards the Red Job. There is a boiling frog syndrome associated with Yellow Jobs.

 According to the boiling frog legend, if you put a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out because it notices the sudden temperature change. When the frog is in lukewarm water, it will not jump out but adapt to the surrounding temperature as it does not detect the danger yet. If the water is continuously heated slightly, the frog does not jump and keeps adapting to the water’s temperature without perceiving any threat to itself until the temperature becomes unbearable.

Similarly, a person occupying a neutral or Yellow Job does not notice when sliding progressively into Red Job. When he realizes the change, it is too late: he is already with a Red Job, and his only issue is to quit.

With the recent events in the workplace (Covid and economic crisis), many people have found themselves with a Red Job. The Red Jobs are why we see a high number of burnouts, which has led to the Great resignation, also referred to as the Big Quit.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison

Behind the three types of jobs, there is an important concept: only the job holder knows what elements make a job green, yellow, or red for him. What one person would consider unacceptable and a Job Red for him can be a dream job for someone else. Some people hate having a repetitive job, while others may find fulfillment in doing the same thing over and over.

It is the responsibility, duty, and moral obligation of each person taking a job to ensure it is as close to his Green Job as possible.

The common mistake is to let external factors other than our fulfillment dictate our decision to take a job.

An employer can do a lot to create favorable working conditions, but it is up to each employee to make sure they have the Green Job they deserve.

Individual takeaway

  1. Identify the activities that energize you when you are doing them: your Green Activities.
  2. Fill your days with such activities.
  3. Avoid as much as possible the Yellow and Red Jobs. Delegate them. These jobs are certainly Green Jobs for other people.

Takeaway for managers

  1. Build a more humane work environment for your team.
  2. Avoid onboarding people who are willing to accept Yellow or Red Jobs.
  3. Help your team to Identify the activities that energize them.
  4. Ensure you assign your people jobs that are their Green Jobs as much as possible.
  5. Work closely with your people to introduce the needed changes in your organization to maintain team alignment and keep everyone fulfilled with their activities.

Stay in the driver’s seat of your life!