July 7, 2020 – Leaving a job is stressful under any circumstances. It is hard enough to do when times are normal. And 2020 is hardly normal. Everything is in flux, and even more challenging, those changes are largely happening remotely, this according to a new report authored by Richard Stein, chief growth officer at Options Group.
“It’s good to remember, therefore, that nothing about the decision-factors in leaving a job and taking a new one has changed,” said Mr. Stein. “What is changed, perhaps permanently, are the human contexts in which we work through our decisions.”
Think, for example, about our human attachment to routines, he said. “They turn out to be a surprisingly central component in how we think about a job. Most office environments promote comfortable routines. That is precisely what offices are designed to do. Working from home, many of us have seen those comfortable routines abruptly shattered. The longer the work-from-home period, the more disruption there is to an individual’s routines. And the more uncertainty creeps into everyone’s perspective on the future.”
So why change jobs, especially now? With so much uncertainty in the world the thought of making such a change for some people may just be too much—why add more stress?
“Answering the why will require a familiar self-assessment,” Mr. Stein said. “We still need to ask ourselves whether we’re ready — ready for the role, ready for the opportunity, ready for the title. Only when we have answered those honestly can we think clearly about the team, the mentor and the money. Nothing about working remotely changes any of that. And yet it is all different. In the world we live in now, thinking through the why move factors entail a different dynamic than what we knew pre-COVID.”
Most of us never realized that every week we had hundreds of physical interactions with colleagues. “In the past months, all of us have seen our work relationships altered — even impaired — owing to the lack of physical proximity,” said Mr. Stein. “As humans we crave relationships with other humans. We are missing that, and it will be a long time before we get it back.”
Most of us, he said, work through big life decisions by talking them through with someone. “In the old days (the old days were six months ago) when we thought about changing jobs we typically went through a face-to-face process with other people, giving us a chance to ‘socialize’ our thoughts with a prospective colleague or with a few friends over drinks,” he said.
Richard Stein is partner, chief growth officer and head of OGiQ at Options Group. He has had a distinguished career supporting the C-suite of many of the world’s top financial services organizations in all aspects of talent acquisition, development and retention. Among the first in his industry to use competitive intelligence as a disruptive technology, he has helped the C-suite of major international companies create strategic, market and competitive advantage. Mr. Stein focuses on how competitors’ changing strategies impact the competitive landscape and helps formulate rapid responses to these initiatives and opportunities with an emphasis on talent.
“Talking through the pros and cons of changing jobs via a phone call or Zoom meeting is not ideal,” Mr. Stein said. “Neither is it likely to produce the richness of feedback as sitting with an old friend and chewing the fat for an hour or two. Remote technologies are great tools, but research seems to show that our brains actively miss the subtle cues we’ve evolved to notice and which provide essential information. No wonder we all complain about how the technology exhausts us.”
Ordinarily, individuals who decide to leave one job and take another feel unhappy in their current position for whatever reason. “Right now it is easy to drift away from our focus on what really motivates us,” Mr. Stein said. “It can be hard to put a finger on why, but when we are remote our motivations can feel radically different from our motivations in our familiar office environments.”
Mr. Stein also said that, without meaning to make a joke, one factor that might cloud our judgment is that many of us are seeing more of our families than we have in years. “That puts us under a multitude of new strains,” he said. “Everyone’s at home. The kids are home too, and that’s great, but they need to focus on their new job of taking online classes. Spouses may play an even bigger role than usual in the job-change decision precisely because they are home too, and present through every step of the discussion.”
Outside of our families we may have very few social interactions. “You have a long list of household chores to do that maybe we once ignored,” Mr. Stein said. “Meanwhile, a lot of us are putting in more hours working at home than we ever did working in an office. Too many of us start working the moment we hop out of bed and don’t really shut down until we go to sleep at night. Changing jobs might seem like the answer to several prayers.”
In making the decision to change jobs it is essential to ask some basic questions: Would the new role be internal or external facing, and which fits better? Is it origination or execution-oriented? Mr. Stein said that external origination people will be the hardest to “virtually” hire, while internal execution people are the easiest to virtually hire. These are key determinants of whether a candidate is likely to have substantial “optionality”, the invaluable quality of versatility that is a marker of potential professional growth.
As an example, Mr. Stein said that “programmers are comfortable—even prefer—being independent and autonomous. Salespeople are more attuned to fit, personal chemistry and the human touch. Evaluating these comparatively subjective qualities in a new position is made more difficult in our current environment—a reminder to all of us that taking a job—like hiring for a job—is as much a personal decision as a professional transaction.”
Tenure is inevitably a factor. “Closely related to tenure, and maybe even more important, is the depth of our personal and professional relationships inside our organizations,” Mr. Stein said. “If those relationships are fulfilling the discomfort of leaving can be acute. If they’re not fulfilling the impulse to jump ship could still be driven by the wrong reasons. Timing is everything. Yet here is the conundrum: The timing will never be perfect, whether working remotely or not.”
What’s Easier, What’s Not
Some aspects of a job change might feel easier when they are done remotely. A “virtual resignation”, for example, means an employee does not have to face their (soon to be former) boss or their colleagues. There is no office drama, no ritual cleaning out of our desk. Mr. Stein said that depending on the organization there may be no communication at all. (And if that’s the case you have made the right decision to leave.)
“Being virtual also introduces a new complication to the kabuki of the counteroffer,” Mr. Stein said. “When everyone is remote making a counteroffer is more challenging. Management can’t sequester a departing employee in a conference room, meeting a string of imploring managers until they break and agree to stay. An effect of our distance from one another turns out to be that it reveals how much the counteroffer dance depended on the impact of another’s physical presence.”
According to Robinson Resource Group, employees want to know that leadership supports them in these times of crisis. Workers want to know that beyond managing the company their leaders care about them and understand what they are experiencing. For bosses, this is a time lean on the opinions and decisions of others.
Mr. Stein also said that “personality fit—the indefinables of character like drive—remains a central factor in choosing a role or, on the employer’s side, in hiring. A virtual assessment of fit will be especially difficult for organizations in roles that can’t be filled with clear processes and testing. How much more straightforward when they can be.”
Right now, adoption of virtual hiring is occurring on a continuum. “Before the global health emergency of 2020 most managers would never have considered it,” said Mr. Stein. “When the world shutdown that resistance had to break. The great thing was that our technologies worked. With little advance planning, a whole society went from offices to working remotely, seemingly in a matter of days.”
“By the time our health emergency begins to lift, hiring virtually will be feeling familiar,” Mr. Stein said. “Another year on, especially if we still have travel restrictions and work-from-home policies, and a virtual hire will be almost commonplace. From an employer’s perspective, selling a candidate on a new opportunity amid this world’s uncertainty is typically far harder when the sales pitch is virtual. The same as it ever was, the opportunity to move up the competitive firm rankings, or to work for a proven leader, will remain two powerful draws.”
“Leaving an established organization to do something entrepreneurial will be the toughest sell of all—especially now,” Mr. Stein said. “Most candidates perceive so much economic uncertainty. They cannot comprehend taking on more risk. The multiple emergencies of 2020 have caused all of us to do fresh thinking about our personal and professional priorities. Whether it is family, location, employer or the satisfaction we derive from what we do all day our perspective on our priorities may have changed.”
“Depending on when—and if—we all get back to our offices our perspectives may change again,” Mr. Stein said. “We will have to learn new habits in the way we think about job change. Never forget, though, that old habits are broken all time, and new habits acquired. It’s the way we’re made. That’s the good news.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media