Unless you’re walking into a glossy, new, upgraded role, leaving a job to head in a different direction can be hard, upsetting and even leave people feeling like a failure. Faced with the prospect of quitting, Denver, Colorado-based organisational psychologist Melissa Doman, MA, says, “typically speaking, people still self-criticise. For many people, their job is heavily tied to their identity and their self-efficacy”.
When I blink back after almost 50 years of work, I’ve quit my job several times. Yes, quitting – particularly without a job to go to – can be emotionally challenging and carry stigma – as writer Joanna York got it to the point. Most of my colleagues thought that I was rushing into a bad decision. I was already anxious about having quit and their remarks put more doubt in my head.
Still, despite these factors, indications are that many people want to leave their jobs. In fact, 41% of all workers are thinking about handing in their notice, according to a recent global survey by Microsoft. In the US, a record number of workers quit their jobs in April 2021, and similar waves are anticipated in nations including the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. There’s even a name for it: the Great Resignation.
Joanna York describes it like this: There are multiple reasons for this trend, from people re-evaluating what they want from their careers during the pandemic, to the stress of juggling home and work life, or even discontent with employers. Whatever the motivator, many who choose to leave their current roles will find the process emotionally challenging. ‘Quitting’ often comes with negative connotations, both from the people around us and from ourselves, even if we have good cause.
But the upheaval caused by the pandemic – and the sheer number of potential quitters – could help us remove the stigma around resignation, and reframe it as a more positive choice. The negative feelings the brain can cycle through after quitting can be significant, with shame, guilt, fear and a sense of failure all common reactions.
Also important is asking for advice from the right people at the right time. When I moved to the Philippines for good in 1999, I got the right people at the right time at my side. I tried to temper the fear and the uncertainty. The fact that I made the decision that’s right for my life and my career was a privilege. And an opportunity. Or even many opportunities… .