The Great Resignation: Workers Who Regret Leaving Their Jobs

When Lucy was offered a full-time remote job at a digital publishing agency, it felt like an upgrade from her current position. This London-based creative services manager would not only be given a more flexible job, but would apparently be given more career opportunities as well as a hefty pay rise.

“In the interview, I was told that the position would be a complete step up from my job,” says Lucy, whose last name is being withheld for job security reasons. “I was promised that I would be working on bigger and better things, collaborating with more high-profile clients.”

After mentally struggling to decide if she would accept the position, Lucy finally chose to accept the new job. But already in the first week of it, her daily experiences did not match what her boss had promised her at the recruiting stage. “During the onboarding process I realized that my true role had grown fat,” he says. “In reality, it was much more management-based and there was a high turnover of staff.”

Soon, Lucy began to question her decision to change jobs. “There were a lot of upsides to my old job – it wasn’t easy to leave,” she explains. “Looking back, I see that I was tempted to change due to excessive promises made to me by my new boss, who was desperate to hire someone. In Myself second day in the new worked I was already deeply regretting the choice I had made. I felt like I had taken a step backwards in my career.”

Much of the narrative around the Great Renunciation has focused on people who have made inspired decisions to jump ship for other opportunities, redesign their careers to achieve a better work-life balance, or abandon the entire workforce. But in hindsight, not everyone is satisfied with his decisions. Increasingly, some workers find that they quit their job with great enthusiasm, but they didn’t necessarily end up better off.

According to a March survey of about 2,000 American workers who quit their jobs in the past two years, roughly one decade 5 He said he regretted doing it. Likewise, employees also expressed remorse about their new role: only 26% of those who changed jobs said they liked it enough to stay; a third reported that they had already started looking for a new position.

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Remorse is an emotion that can come after quitting a job.

Such figures imply that large swaths of the workforce now regret joining the Great Renunciation, and may have made the decision to leave their jobs in a hurry.

But is this phenomenon really bigger than ever? Or is it possible that the remorse of the resigner is simply an occupational hazard?

Why is regret rising?

For nearly a year, about four million American workers have quit their jobs every month, often for better pay or roles that align more with their values. This, in turn, has triggered a hiring crisis and great competition for talent. Other countries are also feeling the pressure. For example, in the United Kingdom, this movement of workers has created a record number of vacancies.

Many workers are tempted to switch jobs because of this intense candidate battle, says Shayla Thurlow of New York-based online employee advice platform The Muse. But while many of these prospective employers offer different types of benefits to job seekers, workers may miss some of the warning signs. Thurlow says that digitized hiring and hybrid work environments can make it difficult for employees to discern important structural issues during the interview process, such as a company’s work culture.

In a 2022 survey by The Muse of more than 2,500 US workers, the 72% said their new role or company was very different from what they had been led to believe, and nearly half said they would try to get their old job back as a result.

“In such a competitive job market, we’re seeing a lot of recruiters with flashy sales pitches trying to lure new workers with big pay raises,” Thurlow explains. “But it’s driving some job seekers into roles or working for organizations that don’t meet their needs, which means they’ll soon regret it.”

A person crosses his arms before a contract.

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People with little work experience may be more vulnerable to misleading job offers.

Thurlow says that the Employees just starting their careers are more vulnerable to being oversold a positionwhich means they are more likely to eventually regret changing jobs.

“Resignation remorse may not necessarily be a regret at leaving the previous job, but rather at discovering that a job is not really as advertised. Those who have worked the longest are the ones most likely to ask the right questions in an interview. Rather, it is the younger workers who can get caught up in the company’s flashy sales techniques.”

The little time that candidates usually have to decide whether or not to take a new job, a decision that can change their lives, adds extra pressure.

“When you think about giving up, you are actually weighing a complex set of pros and cons, comparing your current position with a potential one“, explains Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M University, USA. “But you are doing it with incomplete information: the company that hires you will only tell you the good things”.

It’s best to make the decision “very slowly and deliberately,” he says, though not all workers have the freedom to do so, which can sow the seeds of quitter’s remorse.

If everyone else leaves…

When millions of workers move en masse to new jobs, this can in turn influence other workers, who may think they should change jobs too, even if it isn’t necessary.

In the midst of an active job market, with his colleagues resigning, the worker may feel that something is missingKlotz says. And he begins to idealize.

A woman smiles as she holds a box full of office stuff.

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When people quit, it’s not because they hate their job, but because sometimes they don’t seek to solve that part that bothers them.

“They start to see all the other companies through rose-colored glasses because of all this market momentum. Y the grass is always greener in the neighbor’s garden: we tend to overvalue the positive aspects of trying something new.”

Tensions in the labor market also mean that a worker who is still somewhat happy with their current employer, but has some frustrations, may be tempted to simply change jobs and take a raise, rather than stay and work things out. .

“Currently, it can be easier to resign than to have difficult conversations with management,” says Klotz.

“When people quit, it’s often not because they hate their job: they may like 80% of it, but they don’t like the other 20%.. When they change, they are often looking to solve the 20% and assume that the good things in their current job will be there in their new role. But many people don’t realize that every job comes with different problems.”

Klotz believes that it is in these situations that workers may experience the more intense abandonment remorse. But brooding and brooding over a seemingly bad decision can take a long-term professional toll.

Two co-workers talk to each other.

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Missing the previous job or colleagues is a normal process.

“Changing jobs is a difficult transition,” says Klotz. “The longer you remain at that threshold, harboring feelings of regret, the more difficult it is to participate in your new workplace, negatively affecting job performance.”

Regret as part of the job

Cases of Guilt of those who quit may be on the rise due to the current high turnover of the labor market. Regret is often part of the process anyway, though: A new career move often involves remembering the past, co-workers, and tasks left behind.

In fact, Klotz says that occasional nostalgia for a past role is perfectly healthy, particularly when starting a new role.

“Repentance it is a normal part of the process. It’s common to experience relief and excitement shortly after quitting, but there are also many reports of people feeling a little regret afterward.”

The risk of remorse is that it can carry an emotion of deep regret that, however fleeting it may be, can cloud our judgment. If there is a difficult job transition, you can make the person quit again.

“The danger is giving up again too quickly,” says Klotz. “You will have a new culture shock (at another new company), constantly restarting the cycle.”

For employees who experience the regret of having resigned, the challenge is to analyze its root cause.

For example, Thurlow believes a worker can look elsewhere if they feel they’ve been mis-sold a position. “If the actual job is very different from what was promised in the hiring process, then it’s perfectly acceptable to find a good fit elsewhere,” he says. “There is no reason to suffer from unsatisfactory work or toxic environments when you have the ability to find jobs that meet your personal financial needs, values ​​and beliefs.”

A woman looks at the horizon sitting at her workplace.

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Those who suffer from regret can change again.

In most cases, Klotz says it’s best to first acknowledge that regret exists and then move on from it.

“Feeling out of place in a new role, and sometimes longing for a previous job, is a process that can take up to two years as an employee builds their social capital. The culture of each company is different: you have to adapt and slowly develop your relationships, efficiency and effectiveness at work”.

If regret is often part of this labor process, those who suffer from it can improve. For example, Lucy has stayed with her current employer. Although she still has frustrations with her new corporate culture, she has gradually been assigned more fulfilling tasks and she now feels greater job satisfaction.

“I’m happier and thinking about staying in the long term,” explains Lucy. “There are still issues, but I realize they are slowly being resolved the longer I spend here. I got used to a new routine, learned a little better how things work, and realized that the bad things about this job are not as bad as in my previous role.”

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