January 26, 2015
What Your New Rules Index Says About Whether You Should Quit
In September 2013, video producer Marina Shifrin announced her resignation by producing one final video at her job.
“It’s 4:30 a.m. and I am at work,” says the subtitle as the beginning footage shows her setting up the camera to face herself. Then she starts dancing.
“I work for an awesome company that produces news videos. For almost two years I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time, and energy for this job,” say the subtitles as she continues to dance.
“And my boss only cares about quantity and how many views each video gets. So I figured I’d make one of my own to focus on the content instead of worry about the views. Oh, and to let my boss know (dance break) . . .
Shifrin became a YouTube hit – her video has accumulated 19 million views – and she changed jobs.
The ultimate self-defense technique for an employee who feels she is being treated like a widget is to resign and move on. That leverage was largely lost during the Great Recession. Now that the labor market is strengthening, that leverage is back. Chances are much better than they were a few years ago that you could get out if you wished.
But should you?
It would be presumptuous of me to answer the question. It’s your life. I don’t know you. Depending on where you are in your career and how many people depend on your income, quitting or staying can be a huge decision. A lot of factors are involved, many beyond the scope of my team’s studies.
What I can do, however, is give you comparative information to help you make the decision, plus a brief editorial at the end of this post based on advising many people I do know.
First, go to the link at the lower left of this page and get your New Rules index report. You, of course, know going in if you have a good job or a bad one. Once you have the report, you’ll know precisely how good or bad it is compared with the rest of the country, and what makes it so. If the self-assessment shows you’re in a better spot than 95 percent of employees in the United States, it’s unlikely you’ve been eyeing the exit sign. Count yourself extremely fortunate. If your job rates a 55, you need to decide if that’s okay. If it came in at 10, something’s got to change.
Pay particular attention to what the report says about your job on rules 2, 3, 4, and 8. Being fearful, feeling poorly compensated, suffering burnout from too much work, and not seeing much future in the company are more powerful motivators for getting out than the other rules.
In the future, we’ll build into the New Rules index report the additional comparisons I’m about to share below. But if you’re wrestling with these issues now, you need that information now. With apologies for showing more of the wiring than some people might want to see, here we go.
One of the statements to which you reacted on the self-assessment is, “I wish I were working somewhere else.” Your answer there was not factored into your current New Rules index. We analyze it separately.
The graph above (if it displays too small, click on it) shows the proportions of U.S. employees at each percentile of the New Rules index wishing they were working elsewhere. Find your current number on the bottom scale and then follow the vertical line to see how many people in situations similar to yours are wishing they could bolt.
Not surprising, the worse the job, the more people wish they could do what Marina Shifrin did. More counterintuitive is how many people with jobs in the middle ranges (New Rules indexes between, say, 40 and 60) who nonetheless say they don’t wish they were working somewhere else. Not until people give answers putting their jobs at the 16th percentile do a majority say they wish they were somewhere else.
What about actually preparing to pull the ripcord? The second graph shows what proportions are planning or not planning to leave their current employer at each level of the New Rules index. Here, too, you can take the number from your report, find it at the bottom of the graph, and find out what the rest of Americans at your level plan to do about it.
Notice the differences between the two charts, how many more people wish they were working somewhere else than are planning to actually go somewhere else. In the second graph, the combination of resilience and reticence is startling. Things have to get truly horrible – down to the 5th percentile – before a majority of employees say they plan on leaving in the coming year.
A New Rules index of 5 is a terrible place to be. It means that out of the 12 New Rules, at best just one of them is in a healthy range. It means your manager is neglectful, you’re fearful, you don’t like your pay, you feel overworked, your company is not a cool place to work, there’s little transparency, you find little meaning in your work, you don’t see much of a future there, you’re not getting recognition, the collaboration is poor, you get few chances to take the lead, and you have little sense of accomplishment. Going to stay with that company? About three in 10 say yes and another two in 10 are neutral.
Why does it take things getting so bad before people are willing to take action? Because there’s a mortgage to pay. Because the kids are in a good spot at school and you don’t want to relocate. Because you’re early in your career and being at your first job less than a year would make you look flaky. Because you’re a few years from retirement and the pay would be tough to replace. Because your spouse’s New Rules index is much higher and changing your job would make him or her change jobs as well. Etcetera, etcetera. As a good friend of mine said when he saw these charts, “When the costs of not having a job are high, you’re willing to suffer many smaller costs of having a bad job.”
These things are always complicated. No one who has not been caught in a rotten job can blithely advise someone else to make the switch.
Still, these data indicate that too many people – and maybe you’re one of them – tolerate work situations they should not. They don’t take control of their own careers. They get complacent. They accomplish much less than they could, doing a disservice to themselves and their employers. Treated poorly over a long enough period of time, they lose confidence. They go to YouTube and watch Marina Shifrin dance out the door, get a vicarious thrill seeing her take charge – and then they go back to work.
They let themselves become widgets.
Don’t be a widget.
Maybe you should quit. Maybe you should stay. Maybe you should create a plan to make more of the job you’ve got. But you should not be shy about making an informed decision and strategically looking out for your own best interests. That’s the one job only you can fill and you should never quit.
(If you’d like to share your story confidentially with me about your stay-or-go decision, click the contact link at the lower right corner or email me directly at Rodd@WidgetsTheBook.com.)