My career is where it is, because of a lot of workplace misery. Over the past one and a half-decade, I’ve been wrapped up in numerous bad workplace relationships. Many of them have ended terribly, and I’ve had to move on from one role to another.
Having had plenty of sore experiences as an employee, a manager, and now an administrator, I now understand the behavioral patterns that inevitably lead employees down paths of countless frustrations, desires, expectations, feelings of bleak futures, and voluntary terminations.
When we look back at jobs and workplace relationships that should’ve been mutually rewarding, it’s easy to see that the root causes of voluntary employee termination are actually quite obvious – lack of recognition, low pay, unfulfilling workplace roles, lack of career advancement opportunities, substandard management practices, and unhealthy work cultures – there’s only a handful.
Yet, when someone asks ‘‘Why are you leaving?’’ most ‘job-hoppers’ don’t cite these root causes in their responses. They’re likely to cite personal reasons or say something obliquely. That’s because they’re not being asked the right question – ‘‘Why are you not staying?’’
‘Job hoppers’ themselves don’t ask themselves the latter question. That’s why on their fifth job in a span of twenty-four months, they worry about being seen as a job hopper, instead of reassuring themselves that the decision to leave their previous jobs must’ve had some sense of logic.
They’re not alone in failing to answer this vital question. The people who need to be most aware of the answer to the question ‘‘Why are employees not staying?’’ – the managers charged with keeping employees engaged in every organization also fail to answer this question.
The majority of managers believe workers leave when they’re ‘‘pulled’’ away by higher-paying job offers.
Of all the employees who responded to this survey, only 12% cited money as a reason for leaving the workplace.
This disconcerting gap between reality and what managers believe is one of the key reasons behind the rise of job hoppers. Sure, countless employees do leave for higher-paying offers, but it is naïve, insincere, and ironically ‘managerial’ to accept that money is the only factor that “pulls” employees away from jobs. Such a claim also assumes that there aren’t any ‘‘push factors’’ that open the doors for employees to leave.
The Age of Job Hoppers
Workers of the post–Korean War era were viewed as the “What” generation – tell them what’s needed to be done and they would do it. Management didn’t have to knuckle down to give their employees satisfaction; employee satisfaction came from the work itself.
Modern-day employees are widely viewed as the “Why” generation. Telling us what to do isn’t enough – tell us why what I’m doing is important. Many employees like myself in the past need a sense of connection at our jobs, or as some may call it ‘workplace engagement.’
Performing tasks we are already qualified to do isn’t sufficient. Surely, this mustn’t be a widespread phenomenon, right? The stats tell a different story –
- The recent findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that younger employees are likelier to ‘job hop.’ On average, employees aged between 55 to 64 spent 10.1 years at one fixed job. Compared to employees aged between 25 to 34 who spent an average of 2.8 years at one fixed job, the difference is massive and signifies a generational shift in the way we view job hopping as a practice.
- Another recent study found out that in 2018, 41 million employees voluntarily quit their jobs. In 2019, that number was close to 47 million. That’s 1 out of every 3 employees voluntarily leaving their jobs.
Is there any organization in the country where employees aren’t voluntarily leaving their jobs? Don’t worry, the answer is yes.
- Companies that are renowned for their employee training programs experience 53% less attrition rates.
- Another survey revealed that 90% of employees are likely to stay at jobs where their feedback is heard and valued.
The point I’m trying to make is that people shouldn’t stress over their perceived statuses as “job hoppers.” Yes, working in a string of jobs isn’t ideal for employers or employees. But it isn’t always the job hopper’s fault. Too much movement or ‘hopping’ isn’t always a sign of instability – sometimes, external factors are at play as well.
As we see from the stats above, organizations have to invest in employees to increase retention rates. For instance, many young professionals gravitate towards jobs at startup companies that are unstable by nature. Hence, it’s completely normal for such employees to have a few ‘hops’ in their CVs. In other situations, poor experiences or treatment from the management “push” employees away from jobs.
Recognizing these “pushes” and separating them from external factors that are out of your control is very important. Or else, you won’t be able to give future recruiters solid reasons why you had to make those moves.
Once recruiters understand the legitimate reasons behind your previous ‘hops’ they’re less likely to judge you because as stated above, job-hopping is quite common than you think. Still, most organizations think twice before hiring employees with a track record of voluntary terminations.
Negative Impact of Job Hopping on Individuals
Job hopping isn’t pleasant for individual employees either. Serial job hoppers often experience difficulties like –
- Unexpected financial setbacks that come with the uncertainty of landing future jobs
- Unnecessary breaks in employment damaging their CVs
- Loss of job seniority
Overall, job hopping can be demoralizing for the individual and takes tolls on their self-esteem. Frequent job hops are also difficult to explain to friends, relatives, and potential future recruiters. But blaming yourselves and not exploring the root reasons behind your decisions to leave your past organizations isn’t the solution.
The Need for Versatility
I was really inspired by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s exploration into employees’ feelings of engagement with their jobs. In his article, Friedman states there are three types of employees –
- The Generalist – A worker who can level headedly carry out various responsibilities.
- The Specialist – Workers who execute specific tasks exceptionally well.
- The “Versatilist” – A new breed of workers who can adapt to changing times very well.
According to Friedman, the versatilist will outperform the others in the modern-day work environment. Given that modern-day job positions require workers to apply extensive skills to a wide range of situations, developing new competencies throughout these changes is the most important attribute for a new employee.
So, even if you’re a stereotypical ‘job hopper’ who assumes new roles every six months, as long as you build new skills and relationships along the way, markets and industries that themselves are ever-changing (thanks to technological advances), will accept you despite the fact that society may deem you unstable as a professional.
One of the core skills you need to invest time into is being transparent, when you are not bullshitting and doing your job correctly along with building managerial skills, you can expect a similar level of transparency from the management.
There is no magic formula which can fix this; but there are some first-hand experiences I’ve shared with “job hoppers” that might help.
Problem #1 – Lack of Communication
My friend Dennis was an unsatisfied assistant manager at a fintech company. It was his fifth job in the fintech industry in three years. Seven months into this new job, he was pondering over his resignation.
For eight weeks, he thought about how his employer had thrown him into the job with zero training. None of his seniors were interested enough to brief him. The only feedback he received was when his work wasn’t acceptable.
His intimidating manager would only tell him how to correct his mistakes. As a result, Dennis found it hard to follow the right work procedures, even though he was working way below his skill set levels.
Unfortunately, Dennis resigned after eight weeks of internal deliberation. There were no formal exit interviews, just thankless goodbyes. Later, he told me he learned a valuable lesson – managers will not hear employees who do not speak.
After assessing his job-hopping pattern, Dennis decided that he wouldn’t rush into another job offer. Instead, he created a list of qualities that he would look for in his next job –
- Proper communications with senior leaders
- Clear pay structure (being paid fair-market value)
- High-quality training programs
At his next couple of interviews, when recruiters indirectly inquired about his ‘job hopping’ tendencies, Dennis clearly stated the reasons he left his previous jobs.
He said he was uncomfortable about the lack of openness with information at his previous workplaces. The pay wasn’t a major issue for him but he did expect effective performance appraisals. He also stated that he didn’t perform well under leaders who were unresponsive, uninspiring, and sent mixed messages.
Lastly, he confessed that he failed at his previous jobs because he was rushed through insincere training. So, he demanded management training from his new employers that guaranteed his future advancement.
Although Dennis took two months to find recruiters that ticked his boxes, thankfully he did find a company in another state that accepted him with open arms.
Six years later, he’s now the vice-chairman of that company and his job-hopping days are behind him. Dennis addressed the root causes that were causing him dissatisfaction. Determined to be a ‘stable’ employee, he chose the route of free and open communication with his employers.
Problem #2 – The Workplace Wasn’t What I Expected
When one of my college friends, Lucy, took up her first job, she was really excited. But the moment she realized that her employer could not meet key expectations that were mentioned in the contract they signed, she felt that the industry of textile management had betrayed her.
This shock was her “last straw” and she soon stepped on the downward spiral of workplace disengagement and departure.
She went through this rabbit hole of disengagement and departure quite a few times after that.
‘‘My senior manager lied to me about a bonus program just to hire me”
‘‘The job description wasn’t clear.’’
‘‘I wasn’t given the training I needed to be a senior executive.”
Blah Blah Blah……
These were her excuses to ‘hop’ in the next seven jobs she took up.
At her second last job, after sitting at the desk for three or four hours on her first day, she had already started browsing LinkedIn, looking for other available jobs. She realized that her issue was being unable to read the indications of potential letdowns before taking up the job.
To make sure she didn’t feel disillusioned again when starting her next job, Lucy took these steps –
- She made a detailed list of questions she needed to ask before starting an interview
- She would research her prospective employers extensively on websites like Glassdoor to know about the workplace culture
- Before or after being interviewed by the hiring manager, she would attempt to reach out to some of the current as well as ex-employees on Linkedin as it’s good to have biased as well as non-biased feedback.
- She would demand tours of the office/facility to have first hand impressions
With these above questions in place her “job hopping” days were finally over because of her courage to ask this question –
‘‘Is there anything about this office, the workplace culture, or the responsibilities that come with my job that new recruits are occasionally surprised to find out after starting?’’
She asked this direct question and was happy to find out the answers. As a result, Lucy joined her new workforce knowing fully what to expect and hasn’t “hopped” since.
Bear in mind – the way in which you’re interviewed also indicates how you will be usually treated at the workplace. If your hiring manager isn’t willing to address these vital questions, there’s a high chance of more unanswered questions and frustrations will pop up in the future. So, be open. know what you’re getting into and avoid stressing yourself out!
So yeah, that’s all for now, let me know in the comments below if you have any pain points which I did not address or you can even reach out to me over email.
Thanks for reading.