In June of this year, 4.2 million people left their jobs. A recent survey found that 36% of government workers are thinking of looking for other roles, which is up from just 16% two years ago. Alarming? Yes. Shocking? Not really.
You’ve likely experienced this, perhaps celebrating colleagues who have earned promotions, friends who have chosen to follow their passion projects, or coworkers who were simply looking for a change. But as the days moved on, even more colleagues left, and you began to wonder — am I the only one not leaving? As you consider ‘should I stay or should I go,’ be sure to get clear about your reasons for leaving — and staying — and see if you can turn your current role into one you love.
Why Are You Leaving?
A friend once told me to make sure you’re running to something and not running away from something. This will ensure you lower your chances of regret. (Some colleagues are already regretting leaving.) So, the first step is to get clear on why you might want to leave. Are you leaving because you don’t want to be left behind? Or are there things at work you aren’t happy about? Try one or more of these reflection activities to help you gain clarity and turn this vague feeling into concrete examples.
- Free write for three minutes a list of everything you love — and don’t love — about your job. What would need to be different for you to want to stay?
- Imagine that you love coming to work each day. What’s happening? Try to imagine what you’re doing, who you’re working with, the customers you’re serving, and the impact you’re having. What’s different about that vision and what’s occurring in your role right now?
- Think about what you do in the day to day — do those activities give you energy? Often in public sector we are driven by a commitment to serve and have impact on the community. The great news is that there are thousands of local and federal government jobs that meet those criteria. Your task is to find the role where most of the day-to-day work is energizing, fulfilling and plays to your strengths.
- Consider what Gallup has identified as the top 12 engagement items. Of the 12, which are most present in your role? Which are least present? How would increasing your bottom three impact your engagement and desire to stay in role?
Now that you have more specific information, divide those examples into items that are in your sphere of influence and those that aren’t. What can you do something about, and which items do you need help from others to change?
Scan the list of items you can change on your own. Which of the items would have the biggest impact on your job satisfaction if changed? Concentrate your efforts there first. Now that you know your general direction, identify an action plan for addressing it. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Consider these questions when identifying how to proceed:
- On a scale of 1 to 10 how satisfied are you with that item?
- What’s one thing you could do to move your rating up one point? Two points?
Keep working through your list to increase your satisfaction with your role.
“If Only I had Known!”
Talk to your leader. Often when employees leave, the changes the employee wanted to see were possible, but their leader didn’t know there was an issue. As a leader, it makes my stomach turn to think that there’s something I could do to help an employee, but don’t because I’m not aware of the need. If there’s something your manager could do to help, share the idea with them. Likely, they will give their all to help. And if not, or if it’s not possible, then you have your answer and can make an informed decision going forward. Remember, it’s a “no” if you don’t ask.
Be Intentional About Next Steps
Should you join your colleagues in searching for other jobs? Perhaps, but not before you know what you’re running toward. Before you race to turn in your resignation letter, be sure you know why you’re leaving, what you’re looking for, and that you’ve tried to find it in your current role and organization. Remember, the grass isn’t always greener; sometimes you just need to water yours more.
Dr. Jamie Crews is certified Senior HR professional with nearly two decades of public sector HR experience. She specializes in strategic talent management with an emphasis in leadership and organizational development. Jamie helped establish and now leads the County of Orange’s first Organizational Development function. As an experienced change practitioner, Jamie has led large scale organizational changes, talent development and initiatives, and served as a coach to senior leaders. She loves partnering with leaders to maximize their potential and that of their team. Her research focus is on women in leadership, with an emphasis on public sector leaders. Connect with her on LinkedIn!