December 7, 2023
You may recall that a couple of years ago, The Great Resignation was one of a handful of things with which certain people had become obsessed. Over a period of about six months at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022, we were told repeatedly that huge numbers of people were about to quit their jobs to move to something better, pursue their dream of self-employment or whatever. But, the proportion of people saying this was more or less the same as it had always been. Ask people at the end of any year about their plans for the next twelve months, and around 30-40 percent of them will tell you they want a new job or to pursue an old dream.
It was an obvious thing for firms to seize upon and many of the surveys that proliferated at the time were commissioned by those who had a very specific interest in identifying what was apparently driving so many people away from their places of work.
For a while, we were told people would be quitting over the demand to commute into an office at the same time as lots of other people (understandable), or a lack of good free coffee (possibly), or the wrong sort of reception furniture (not so much). Nothing was so trivial that it wouldn’t lead to half of a firm’s workforce flouncing out in a huff, bills be damned.
Nothing was so trivial that it wouldn’t lead to half of a firm’s workforce flouncing out in a huff
And then we stopped talking about it. One of a succession of workplace trends that flare up on social media, then are gone as quickly as they arrived, like tears in rain. Just as true for The Great Resignation as it was for quiet quitting.
There are a couple of lessons we can take from this episode. One is that when we talk about work, we should do our best not to fall into the cognitive traps that therapists and stoics teach us to avoid – catastrophisation, black and white thinking, fortune telling, worst case thinking, overgeneralisation, personalisation and so on.
The other is that we should check what we are told in the trends lists that flourish at this time of the year. Or at least take them with a pinch of salt. Maybe ignore them completely. This is doubly true for trends that include adjectives and those that proclaim themselves with Capital Letters.
Things are changing more quickly than at any time in history, but we shouldn’t discard our critical thinking skills and the old lessons we have learned about how to view change.
Mark is the publisher of Workplace Insight, IN magazine, Works magazine and is the European Director of Work&Place journal. He has worked in the office design and management sector for over thirty years as a journalist, marketing professional, editor and consultant.