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One reason so many are quitting: We want control over our lives again

daftandbarmy

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Unless you work for government, of course, because 'no control over your life' is part of the job description ;)

One reason so many are quitting: We want control over our lives again

The pandemic, and the challenges of balancing life and work during it, have stripped us of agency. Resigning is one way of regaining a sense of autonomy — at least for the moment.


Feeling that we have some power over our lives is fundamental to our overall well-being, social science research shows. Our capability to control our circumstances — to make choices and take actions that help us to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves — greatly impacts our life satisfaction, to roughly the same extent as having a sense of purpose, social connectedness, and even financial security. But exercising this personal power has become more complicated for many of us in this pandemic era. As it rattles our emotions in countless ways, the pandemic has also significantly undermined our autonomy.

One path to recovering personal power is to act decisively in ways that can change our lives — by quitting our job, for example. The desire to assert self-determination is almost certainly a significant and underappreciated driver of the Great Resignation, the term for the phenomenon in which an unprecedented number of workers have left their positions. In the United States alone, between August and October of this year, 12.9 million people quit their jobs — more than 8 percent of the workforce.

The problem is that the apparent “solution” to a sense of disempowerment — quitting — may, at least for some of us, not bring us any closer to resolving the real issues that trouble us. While walking away from a job may absolutely be the right answer for many, it’s important for people who are considering quitting to recognize that it might not be an effective elixir for what ails us most deeply. Knowing why you so badly want to leave your job may keep you from acting hastily and regretting it.

“Feeling powerless to change things any other way, we may jump to the nuclear option of leaving without even bothering to try a more measured approach first,” says social psychologist Vanessa Bohns, a professor at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and author of “You Have More Influence Than You Think.” “In the moment, leaving may feel like the only way to reassert our power over the situation, when in fact there may have been less extreme ways to do so.”

Even if you conclude that quitting is the right course of action, understanding the psychology underpinning your distress can help you perceive your situation more clearly.

Certainly, the disempowerment is real. General burnout and lack of control — often related to unmanageable schedules with personal and work responsibilities overlapping and clashing — are often cited by the people who leave their jobs (or are thinking about doing so). Women, overrepresented in low-wage jobs and saddled with more of the pandemic-induced increases in child-care duties, are in particular experiencing greater loss of control and burnout, reflected in higher resignation rates.

The impulsivity that people feel when they lose a sense of control over their lives has biological roots. When we feel powerless and under threat, our behavioral inhibition system (BIS) switches on. The BIS is a neural motivational network that orients us toward mitigating risk and escaping harm. It does so by causing us to see challenging situations as threats to avoid rather than opportunities to approach; to see other people as hostile rather than trustworthy; and to see resources as critically scarce. Some psychologists refer to the BIS as an “alarm-threat system” that increases anxiety, fear, and frustration and trains us toward surviving, not thriving — toward preventing pain rather than seeking pleasure. When the BIS is blinking red, it tells us that we are not capable of fixing the negative things in our immediate environment (e.g., our job), making us less likely to try to improve the situation and more likely to try to escape it.

While quitting can infuse us with a surge of personal power, the surge may be fleeting; we can quickly sour on such an extreme decision. It’s true that the principle of supply-and-demand favors job-seekers in the labor market right now. Nonetheless, voluntary job change is rarely a cakewalk. Pre-pandemic research shows that even when job-switchers find a new position, they often experience decreased job satisfaction, less enthusiasm and vitality, greater emotional exhaustion, and greater work-family conflict — a recipe for the very stress and burnout that can make people eager to change jobs in the first place.

In short, changing jobs to reclaim a sense of personal power may amplify rather than attenuate personal powerlessness. During this pandemic era, Anthony Klotz, the professor of psychology at Texas A & M University who coined the term “Great Resignation,” says he is already seeing a wave of “boomerang employees” — people returning to jobs they’d left.

People experiencing a sense of powerlessness should carefully consider whether resigning will enlarge or reduce their power deficit. Even when jobs are relatively plentiful, already having a job increases a new hire’s leverage when they are negotiating things like salary, benefits, and vacation time with a new employer. Research also shows us that there is an “unemployment stigma” that leads potential new employers to rate job candidates who are unemployed — whether involuntarily or voluntarily — as less competent, less warm, and less generally desirable than currently-employed candidates. What’s more, in some places — New Zealand offers one cautionary tale — there simply aren’t enough job openings to accommodate the number of people resigning from old jobs and looking for new ones.

Of course, this doesn’t mean quitting is the wrong decision for everyone. Resigning is a good call for many, including those who can afford to leave a job that is decreasing their quality of life and people whose very souls demand that they extricate themselves from work situations that are harming their mental, spiritual, or physical health. Indeed, almost all of the concerns people have cited for quitting their jobs — poor work-life balance, unhealthy cultures, lack of purposeful work conditions — are, in our estimation, more than valid.

For many people, these concerns predated the pandemic and the pandemic only exacerbated them. Nonetheless, what caused people to act on those concerns, we’re suggesting, partly has to do with the sudden and acute loss of power caused by the pandemic, and the desire to reclaim it.

The reality — in the United States and elsewhere — is that many people who are barely surviving at work don’t have the luxury of walking away, whether to reclaim a sense of power or something even more fundamental: their human dignity. To regain a sense of power, these people might concentrate on doing what they can to change their circumstances at work. First, they can recognize the power that accrues to them as experienced employees who aren’t leaving. Then, they can try to leverage their “staying power” to renegotiate or redesign the least satisfactory aspects of their job, whether that’s hours, workload, role, task assignments, child care, or remote vs. in-person work. People who stay in their jobs might even consider requesting a pay raise or loyalty bonus.

The lion’s share of the responsibility, though, lies with employers, who can begin to re-empower employees by giving them more control to decide how, when, and where they work; allowing them more time and flexibility to manage other aspects of their lives that have been altered by the pandemic; and creating workloads and goals that are reasonable.

At the societal level, the Great Resignation, which has also been called the Great Reshuffling, may be an important catalyst for advancing more humane working conditions as employers compete to attract and retain top talent. If, to stanch the departure of some of their best workers, employers must think harder about building workplaces that empower employees and enable their human flourishing, that could be one positive development to emerge from the pandemic.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outl...zSoQsP_qt3uc49QFm23ryH54GMFaYSJBqPSy2v9LoSVTi
 

daftandbarmy

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A good summary IMHO:


Labor Shortages: Where Have All the Workers Gone?​


Because no single variable is responsible for the tight labor market, the path forward remains murky.

Some parts of the current environment will likely persist: older workers won’t get younger and most people who’ve retired are likely to stay retired, for example. Other issues may resolve more quickly. The political climate may preclude immigration flows from returning to prior levels, but some rebound is likely as COVID-19 impediments fade. Similarly, if the public-health situation continues to improve, more reliable childcare should enable more workers, and more women especially, to rejoin the labor force.

That said, post-pandemic labor participation will probably remain below pre-pandemic levels, making employers work harder to hire and keep workers. Higher wages are the easiest path, so we expect upward wage pressures to remain, though perhaps below current levels as the economy normalizes. Workers may have the upper hand for now, but the next economic downturn that compels businesses to reduce staff could again alter the balance dramatically, given the low union participation.

Until then, many workers who’ve left the labor force likely aren’t coming back. Fewer workers means more wage pressures and more inflation earlier in the cycle than policymakers would prefer—or expected before the pandemic arrived. The heat will be on the Fed and other central banks around the world to raise rates earlier, even if it means slowing growth.

 

kev994

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I’m holding my breath for the CAF to spring into action. Leading change is on every PER, surely we’re ready for this?
 

daftandbarmy

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@daftandbarmy could we be seeing a natural correction to a perceived overly controlling and demanding employers side ?

Thinking perhaps the pendulum is just swinging back ?

I think the leadership styles will remain the same, but people will have more choice about where they work.

I'm seeing alot of job hopping right now, mainly to make more money but also to get away from the usual ogres ;)
 

rmc_wannabe

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We are seeing pers in our tech and transferable skills sections walking at an alarming rate. The nature of our technology and jobs have evolved from the "you don't have the skills to make it on the outside" mentality of yesteryear.

I have many IS Techs, ATIS Techs, heck even Sig Ops walking into IT-01 and 02 positions on experience alone, making a lot more than the CAF is ever willing to pay, for a heck of a lot less bullshit attached. I hear the Navy and Air Force are in similar states. You need people to perform at industry standard, yet aren't willing to compensate them or provide resources as such.

We either make the job something to want to come to, compensate accordingly, or we keep doing what we're doing and bleed the middle.
 

Remius

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We are seeing pers in our tech and transferable skills sections walking at an alarming rate. The nature of our technology and jobs have evolved from the "you don't have the skills to make it on the outside" mentality of yesteryear.

I have many IS Techs, ATIS Techs, heck even Sig Ops walking into IT-01 and 02 positions on experience alone, making a lot more than the CAF is ever willing to pay, for a heck of a lot less bullshit attached. I hear the Navy and Air Force are in similar states. You need people to perform at industry standard, yet aren't willing to compensate them or provide resources as such.

We either make the job something to want to come to, compensate accordingly, or we keep doing what we're doing and bleed the middle.
CSE has market allowances (now rolled into their own pay category) for those type of jobs. Not sure why the CAF can’t adopt that model. Since pay is loosely based on comparable PS jobs (CSE is not core PS though) so why not link specific tech jobs to the best remunerated ones in the public sector.
 

Eaglelord17

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Biggest part of the lack of labour is the boomers retiring.

Second biggest part is the failure to train people for those positions since the boomers. In the skilled trades right now, rates are skyrocketing and there is no where near enough people trained to do the work. We pushed people away from developing critical skillsets for our society, in favour of niceties instead. Those of us in the trades didn’t get to have any time off due to covid unlike most of society.

Third biggest part is due to the covid layoffs many people had time and money to learn new skillsets or find a better job than the one they were previously stuck in. Struggling to find cooks? Why would they stay when they work harder than most jobs out there, crappier not consistent hours, and the pay is slightly better than minimum wage. Many cooks rerolled into different jobs with more consistency, etc.

Call it a failure in education both on the schooling side and the employers side for the last 20+years. Unfortunately it isn’t a quick or easy fix.
 

rmc_wannabe

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People quit bosses.
People quit shitty situations. Bosses are part of that.

Improper compensation? Shitty situation
High staff turnover? Shitty situation
Short staffing becoming the status quo? Shitty situation.

People will put up with a lot if the situation is mutually beneficial. What we are seeing is that employers have not set conditions to make it as such. When you turn a profit off of mismanaging personnel (and most companies have for decades prior to COVID), you reap what you sow.
 

mariomike

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OP:
Unless you work for government, of course, because 'no control over your life' is part of the job description ;)

Depends which government, I suppose.

Schedule, station, partner never changed. Unless you made a seniority bid for a change.

Tones go off. Doors go up. Wheels rolling within 60 seconds. 90 seconds in the division I worked.

Do your job. Live your life. Simple as that.
 

Humphrey Bogart

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People quit shitty situations. Bosses are part of that.

Improper compensation? Shitty situation
High staff turnover? Shitty situation
Short staffing becoming the status quo? Shitty situation.

People will put up with a lot if the situation is mutually beneficial. What we are seeing is that employers have not set conditions to make it as such. When you turn a profit off of mismanaging personnel (and most companies have for decades prior to COVID), you reap what you sow.
I'm signing my release papers in 3 hours. I had 17 1/2 years in but I'm looking forward to the challenge tbh.

There are a lot of factors at play. I would say my compensation was never an issue that's caused me to leave. The CAF (despite what people say) has pretty good compensation, especially for a Public Sector Job.

The other two you mentioned def played a part along with all the negativity and bad press we are currently experiencing.

When I realized that I was able to walk in to another industry, make roughly what I am making now with a lot more room for rapid upward mobility + cash out my existing pension contributions (making me independently wealthy) and provide a way better life for my family, the decision became a lot easier.
 

Brad Sallows

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Biggest part of the lack of labour is the boomers retiring.

Tail-end (1964) boomers hit age+working years=90 within the past couple of years. High inflation will keep a few noses at the grindstone and some will elect to fill low-wage, low-stress, low-demand jobs if they're bored, but the obvious trend will emerge.
 

daftandbarmy

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I'm signing my release papers in 3 hours. I had 17 1/2 years in but I'm looking forward to the challenge tbh.

There are a lot of factors at play. I would say my compensation was never an issue that's caused me to leave. The CAF (despite what people say) has pretty good compensation, especially for a Public Sector Job.

The other two you mentioned def played a part along with all the negativity and bad press we are currently experiencing.

When I realized that I was able to walk in to another industry, make roughly what I am making now with a lot more room for rapid upward mobility + cash out my existing pension contributions (making me independently wealthy) and provide a way better life for my family, the decision became a lot easier.

free freedom GIF
 
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