A Change is as Good as a Rest - Retaining the Tired and Talented
My mom used to say ‘a change is as good as a rest’ - and I don’t think I ever really understood it, and I certainly didn’t feel it - until now. Everywhere you look there are signs of people struggling with burn out, and articles and resources to help manage the stress of the covid lockdowns.
With vaccine roll-outs well underway, the world is opening up and I can see and feel hope in the people I talk to - hope with a side of apathy and exhaustion. As we move toward the new normal, there are a flurry of posts and media coverage on ‘The Big Quit’ an expected rash of resignations that we are expecting to sweep across all sectors of the economy. Like it or not, the tech companies who pay well and offer cool perks will not be immune. Our people are tired, and in a world that rewards hustle and grit, taking a rest is hard, it makes us feel guilty, and it is something many of us don’t really know how to do.
So when a rest and recharge isn’t available or isn’t enough, then a change will be just as good. Right? But will it be good enough?
Now you might be thinking “you’re a headhunter. You must be overjoyed at the notion of 40% turnover across the tech ecosystem. More open roles to fill and loads of people ready to jump into a new ship.” But it isn’t good for the health of the ecosystem to have that much movement all at once. Our entrepreneurs (who also need a rest BTW!) will have to keep growing their companies, while simultaneously rebuilding leadership and tactical teams. It brings to mind the saying about building the airplane while it’s in the air … only this time the pilot is on her 12th cup of coffee.
So no, I’m not happy about the Big Quit. I’d love to find a way to help our tech leaders re-engage great employees, help them find ways to recharge and re-energize while maintaining a commitment to the great visions of the companies they work with today. I want to be recruiting leaders to work for entrepreneurs who have figured out how to take care of themselves and their teams. I want to build healthy, resilient companies that can solve big, important problems without leaving a trail of burnt out employees in their wake.
I don’t have the answer, but I have some ideas.
First, if you are an entrepreneur, talk to your people. See how they feel and get a sense of whether they are still all in. Maybe their job isn’t burning them out, but when life has been really hard thanks to a pandemic and a boatload of stress at home, they may not have much left to give. Your burnt out employees are thinking about changing the one thing they can control - their job. You may need to land the plane for a little bit to take care of the passengers.
Next, invest in doing whatever it takes to help your people get back on their feet. Support them with coaching, a sabbatical, a new role or project, or a bigger team. Offer compassion and a safe place to recover and rediscover how working towards a vision (your vision) can be energizing.
And maybe most importantly, take care of yourself. Be an example to your team. Lean on coaches and find support in your community, so that you are leading from a place of sound mental health. (folks like the teams at Raw Signal Group and Atlas Q can help, but there are loads of others out there too.)
This work will slow you down at first. But trust me, it’ll be worth it.
If you are an employee or leader who is run-down and looking for the exit, take a moment to think about whether change really IS as good as a rest. Will you just be bringing the same fatigue to a new Zoom window? Have you thought about whether you still believe in the people and the mission of your current employer? Can you get re-energized with other changes to your routines or your role?
And if after some reflection you decide that making a move is best, resign tactfully and find a way to take some time off before you start that new job. Because you may need a change, but I’m sure that you also deserve a rest.