Change is often good and perhaps never more so than in these post-pandemic times. But Louise Rodgers advises that you explore your desire for something different a little more carefully before you jump ship

Louise Rodgers crop 2

There is a lot of hype around about the so-called “great resignation”, and while it is true that there appears to be an almost feverish anxiety among architectural studios to hire and hold on to talent, it would be easy to assume that this is a short-term pandemic-induced crunch rather than something that has been much longer in the making and it won’t be solved by throwing either money or promotions at the challenge.

Like other trends, some people’s desire to move on has in part been accelerated by their experience not just of working from home but doing so against the background of the kind of existential threat that has made them rethink many things about life, and work. So, while some have come back to the office with new expectations of flexibility, others are taking decisions that may have a longer-term impact. 

Many younger workers were already thinking about what it means to commit to a single career, much less a single employer, before the pandemic struck. Others may have been, and remain, committed to the design profession, but are in a greater hurry for progress on a linear career path and decide that moving to a new practice is the most expedient way to fast-track themselves.

This is mostly seen as an employer’s problem: “They want more flexible working”; “they want the job title of associate”; “they want more money without more responsibility” – these are all becoming popular tropes. That is a whole lot of one-sided wanting, which is placing enormous pressure on practice leaders.

It has been said that people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. Is this true of you?

A word of caution here to anyone who is thinking of making a change: I would invite you to explore your thoughts and feelings about wanting to do so a little more carefully before you jump ship. Perhaps greater flexibility, more money, or an enhanced job title will prove to be only a temporary fix, and not the “cure-all” solution you are hoping it will be.

A good start would be to be honest with yourself about whether you are running away from something, or toward something that you are excited about. It has been said that people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. Is this true of you? Is it someone or something that is making those feet itchy? 

If this is the case, make sure that you are not taking the problem with you. There may be a pattern of behaviour, or of responding to a certain kind of behaviour, that could be repeated wherever you go next. Try to see dealing with it – rather than evading it – as a learning and personal development opportunity.

Another thing to think about is whether you have exhausted all your options in your current role before seeking a new one. You won’t know this until and unless you have a proper conversation with the leaders of your current practice. And, employers, you will never know until you make the time for those conversations and focus on listening to what people have to say. This may not dissuade them from leaving but you can gain some comfort from knowing that you did everything you could to make them stay.

Consider whether you are having the kind of impact you want to have where you are. If not, what kind of impact do you want to have? What steps do you need to take to make this happen?

Is there anything you want to do where you are that will bring you closer to your longer-term objectives, and do you know what those are?

Remember you are more likely to be given the opportunity to do something new or different with an employer with whom you have already created a relationship than you are in a new role elsewhere. And making more of a mark where you are can only enhance your future career and job prospects.

People can easily become disenchanted when they see people they have worked with as peers given leadership responsibilities, and don’t quite understand why

In my coaching practice, I often explore with clients how they can demonstrate their leadership qualities to their current employer by stepping up to new responsibilities, or by taking the lead on new initiatives or practice innovations. This may also be a route to finding more “purpose” at work or being able to follow your passions more closely. 

A final word for employers: people can easily become disenchanted when they see people they have worked with as peers given leadership responsibilities, and don’t quite understand why.

Have you explained to those seeking promotion what they need to do differently to become an associate, for example? Have you considered how you are going to support them (for example with coaching or mentoring) to step up to these responsibilities?

It may seem a bit of a stretch to reframe the “great resignation” as the “great opportunity”, but for people who find themselves on either side of the equation it may well be.

As a sponsoring client once said to me about someone I was asked to coach, who was evidently unhappy: “I don’t mind if she stays or if she goes, but I want her to be a happy stayer or a happy leaver – and I want to know I did everything I could to make her stay.”