Why don’t more people quit?
Most disgruntled employees don’t quit. Dissatisfied as they may seem to be, they keep showing up for work and don’t seem to edging for the exit to find another job.
This is a tremendous boon to companies that make a commitment to employee engagement, because the people in charge of “creating engagement” have time to get it done properly, and will therefore reap the benefits in greater productivity and retention.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Daniel Gulati brought this back to the top of our mind. At Bovo-Tighe our operating assumption, based on over 25 years of nurturing talent and unlocking hidden reservoirs of energy, is that an overwhelming majority of people are capable of performing at a high level, but are misdirected, under-motivated or mis-matched with their responsibilities. Indeed, most people — 80% according to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey, among other research — are dissatisfied with their jobs.
Why don’t more people actively seek greener pastures?
- Sometimes the money is too good – Witness the thousands of people who slave away in businesses like investment banking, working 80-100 hours a week for a nice base salary and the promise of a big bonus. Money may not buy happiness, but it does buy a comfortable lifestyle that seduces the employee to stay.
- On the other end of the pay scale, a percentage (by no means all) of public school teachers who may have lost the passion keep plugging away, marking time until they can retire, because that guarantees them a decent retirement.
- In corporate America, loss aversion plays a role: When someone else is paying your salary and providing health benefits, that provides a high level of personal financial security. Quitting threatens that.
- Even during the recent economic downturn, being unemployed marked you as less worthy, damaged goods, etc. People fear that social demotion.
- Compounding that point, the advice most of us get from our elders is “Never leave a job before you have another one lined up.”
- An aspiring entrepreneur cannot attract the capital he or she needs to launch their own venture. The traditional sources of family and friends have dried up: Home equity has evaporated, and over 11 million homeowners are underwater (owe more than the house is worth.) Stock portfolios have rebounded, but only back to levels previously achieved, and no one is feeling rich.
And, employees can put blinders on, and divert themselves with small accomplishments that make the burden of work more bearable. In his HBR article, Gulati captured it this way:
“I’ve found that a sharp focus on incremental gains (leads) to “premature optimization.” Instead of surveying the landscape and climbing the highest mountain possible, we’re too busy scaling the first peak we happen to stumble upon. Many of the individuals I interviewed displayed a sharp tendency to prematurely optimize, rather than to explore their options and start the climb to higher heights. One stated, “I’ll figure it out after I get promoted.” Another said, “one more month,” for eleven months in a row (and counting). As a whole, the group displayed a distinct preference for hitting just another small milestone, rather than starting from the bottom of a different (but potentially more lucrative) mountain altogether. This strong human bias toward accumulating small wins is what we call progress, but paradoxically, it seems to be inhibiting many individuals from reaching their true potential.”
That is, they willfully focus on the trees so that they don’t have to face the reality of the forest!
All this is why few unhappy employees muster up the courage to change careers. They opt to bear up under the strain of sticking to what doesn’t make them happy, but keeps them secure. In their view, quitting a bad situation carries high risk.
This is a tremendous opportunity for human resources to shine as engines of employee engagement and retention: You have a captive audience that is anxious to solve the problem without leaving the security of their jobs. These employees may not admit it up front, and they will be grumpy about the process (cynics, all), but they REALLY WANT YOU TO SUCCEED in your mission of achieving full engagement, because it will reconnect them to the passion they once brought to work, increase their personal self-worth, and massively improve their productivity.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get your folks moving again!