Health and Wellness

‘Shift Shock’: Was the Grass Greener on the Other Side?

July 14, 2022

What is shift shock and why are so many people who participated in the Great Resignation experiencing it?

white picket fence with flowers on the other side

We have all heard the phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Never have these words rung more true than they do to the waves of people who participated in the Great Resignation. While America has historically been viewed as the Land of Opportunity, gone are the days when most will stick it out at a job they hate because it is a necessity for survival. In this age, where Millennials and Gen Z make up 46% of the workforce, we have to face the fact that almost half of our workforce has grown up in a microwave society. They have been fueled and fulfilled by instant gratification and dopamine release. As an older millennial, I can recognize that my generation and those younger than me simply do not have the same work philosophies as the generations that came before us. In many ways this could be viewed as a good thing. We have gotten quite good at creative, outside the box thinking. It has helped us innovate and learn to work “smarter not harder”. But it also can leave us unsatisfied and always looking for the next best thing.

The Statistics

computer with statistics on the screen, typing hands, glasses and a phone

The pandemic really fueled the life is too short mindset, for many, and sparked the Great Resignation. But what seemed like a door to exciting new opportunities is proving to many that it may not be all that it was cracked up to be. According to a recent survey of more than 2500 respondents, conducted by The Muse, 72% of people experienced ‘shift shock’ upon starting their new job. This is a term coined by The Muse’s CEO, Kathryn Minshew, to describe the experience of a new job not being as it advertised.

Additional findings of the Shift Shock survey include:

29% said their Shift Shock encompassed the job and the company

41% would give a new job two to six months if they felt Shift Shock as a new hire

48% would try to get their old job back if they felt Shift Shock at a new company

80% said it’s acceptable to leave a new job before six months if it doesn’t live up to your expectations

The most notable result, to me, is that 80% of people think it is acceptable to leave a new job before 6 months. Perhaps it is my old fashioned, homeschooled upbringing, but I found that shocking. I have certainly had some pretty terrible jobs in my life, but I was taught that we stick things out when they get tough. It definitely could be argued that this is not always healthy, and I’ve had to learn that in my life, but I do think that it is (generally) an important ideal to live by. Nothing good in life comes easy.

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The Story

Girl sitting with a dog

The other day my fifth grader wanted to make some money. I told her to get creative. She decided to put her animal skills to work and offer her petsitting services to our neighbors. Initially she wanted to create an online ad and post it to our neighborhood Facebook group. While this might fall in the category of smarter not harder, I told her I wanted her to print flyers and deliver them to our neighbors face to face. I want her to learn the value of sticking something out and doing it the hard way. It will hone her skills, land her more jobs and help her create a more well-rounded body of experience. Yes it’s hard. Yes there might be an easier way. But it isn’t necessarily the way that is best for her in the long run. It might not be the perfect parallel, but the similarities are there. Taking the most glamorous and appealing route isn’t always the answer.

The Moral

statue of a lady holding the scales of justice

I certainly wouldn’t advocate for staying in an unhealthy or toxic workplace. I just can’t help but wonder if we can inadvertently begin to view any job that way. It seems possible if we fall into the trap of looking through the lens that has been created by a world where we barely look up from our devices. Perhaps social media and its curated perfection has us striving for the unattainable? A job where we are happy and fulfilled 100% of the time. Where we never have disagreements with a co-worker. Where the work is never hard or unpleasant. Where we never feel overworked and underpaid. I feel that there must be some middle ground that we can achieve. A culture of workplaces that are fair, ethical, and respectful environments for their employees. But also a workforce that understands that work is just that, WORK. It requires dedication, drive, and focus. If it was easy to achieve success, everyone would do it. Always jumping to the perceived next best thing can be a slippery slope that prevents you from building a solid resume and honing lifelong skills.

mug of coffee that reads "what good shall I do this day"

Am I telling you to turn down an amazing job offer? Absolutely not. But am I cautioning against the “life is too short” mentality that has you chasing perfection that might not exist? Yes. Yes I am. I am not surprised that so many have had their illusions shattered by the reality of their new jobs. Because things are rarely as good as they are advertised to be.

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During the Great Resignation, many companies probably figured out how to pull people in by throwing out the buzzwords that everyone was looking for. They promised wonderful things and then could not deliver. But for many of the survey respondents maybe it is really just setting in that work is work. I believe everyone craves a job that doesn’t feel like a job. And while there are many careers that are deeply fulfilling (I am lucky enough to have one of them), every single person sometimes dreads waking up, bemoans Mondays, is exhausted at the end of a long work day and looks forward to their time off. And that is OK! These things don’t mean it is time to quit your job. I hope we can consciously pour ourselves in raising a generation that has the ethics, standards and self-respect of Millennials and Generation Z while having the drive and tenacity of the older generations. I think there is balance that is lacking right now, and I wonder if this newfound shift shock will lead to a repeat of the Great Resignation or whether people will start to realize that the grass isn’t always greener.

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