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Why the 'Great Resignation' is a Great Time to Stay at Your Job

The Great Resignation could provide career opportunities, but not how you think.

Key points

  • Choosing to stay at your current job might provide real career opportunities not available before.
  • Even in understaffed organizations, overcommitment is neither necessary nor advantageous.
  • Don't be afraid to leverage your added value for more recognition and rewards at work.

If you’ve been considering surfing the Great Resignation Wave, there might be a better option. Recalibrating the approach you take to your current job could provide the benefits and rewards you’re seeking elsewhere, without the extra logistics.

It’s likely your organization is experiencing the effects of high turnover and low employment right now. Maybe you’re seeing this on your own team, or seeing it reflected in your day-to-day responsibilities. In the midst of uncertainty and ever-changing priorities, it makes sense to look at a new job with better pay and incentives, imagining the grass is truly greener on the other side. But the reality is that everyone, everywhere, is experiencing the disruption. If an organization is hiring, it’s almost certainly because they need more people to fill the gaps.

Pexels/Julia M. Cameron
Leaving your job in the midst of high turnover may take you from one understaffed org. to the next.
Source: Pexels/Julia M. Cameron

This is a unique opportunity for you to stand out and set yourself apart at work simply by staying. Organizational loyalty has become a thing of the past in the last decade or so, but this is a moment where it could make a real difference in your career. It’s all about how you approach the challenges, and even use them to your advantage.

Strategically expand your role

With so much of your own work to do, it might seem like the best option is to lie low and avoid unnecessary stress. But being proactive about which new assignments to take on can be a way to provide yourself with longer-term stability and predictability at work.

When turnover is high, it’s inevitable that the extra work will fall on someone. So, why not take on the work you actually want to do? Consider the long game here: Which new roles and responsibilities will add to your repertoire, boost your resume, and pave the way for your future career? Think outside the box. Don’t overlook the benefits of building your soft skills and forging new working relationships.

Overcommitment is not the answer

The idea of taking on more work—whether it’s something you want to do or not—may seem impossibly overwhelming. There aren’t enough hours in the day as it is, right? But overcommitment is neither necessary nor the answer. It’s possible to be an indispensable team member who consistently delivers on their commitments without sacrificing your sanity.

Think of it this way. Anyone can be successfully overcommitted, but only in short bursts with concrete end dates. The chronic stress of long-term overcommitment, with no end in sight, will inevitably result in avoidable mistakes and unnecessary problems. Those problems will exacerbate the issue, forcing you into firefighting mode. By that time, it’s a cycle of burnout.

The solution is to be honest, with yourself and your boss. Set clear boundaries and expectations: If you need me to do X, I will have to delay Y. If B is the priority, A will be put on the backburner.

Attempting to take on everything yourself will result in frustration and disappointment, backfiring for everyone involved. Speaking openly and honestly about your limits may result in short-term frustrations, but ultimately long-term and sustainable success.

Get very good at identifying when to say no, and how to say yes

Saying no doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a potential collaboration. A well-timed no, given at the right time, for the right reasons, is always a gift. It’s always better not to waste someone’s valuable time if you are tempted to say yes, when you should really be saying no.

So, make it clear.

"I physically cannot do it because I don’t have the necessary experience, skill, knowledge, time, or tools. Allow me to introduce you to another person who can help."

"I am not allowed to do it because it is against the law, rules, procedures, or marching orders from my boss. Allow me to recommend someone else to learn more about this."

"I should not do it, at least right now, because there are other items higher on my current priority list; I don’t think it’s a good idea; or the ask is still not sufficiently clear. Allow me to introduce you to someone who can help. Or, perhaps we can return to this discussion at a later date or time."

Remember, “not yet” is always a viable option: "Not yet, but I can do this in two days, two weeks, or two months."

When saying yes at the beginning of a collaboration, make it clear you are serious about the commitment you’re making. It’s the classic “yes, and.”

"How can I help you help me help you? What information can I provide about how I do what I do?"

"I’ll do abc by this date or time, and you do xyz by this date or time. Let’s talk again for a fifteen-minute check-in at the end of the day Thursday. How does that sound?"

Leverage your commitment

After a few days, weeks, or months of adopting this approach, you will almost certainly have gained enough leverage with your superiors to advocate for the recognition, rewards, or other benefits you would otherwise seek elsewhere. Keep detailed track of your performance, so there can be no question about the value you’re adding. Don’t hesitate to mention you’re likely saving them from the huge costs of gambling on someone new.

And if that doesn’t work? Then it really is time to join that resignation wave.