The Boomerang Employee.

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From an HR and leadership perspective, by now most of us have heard about the Great Resignation, the Big Quit, the Great Reshuffle – a voluntary mass exodus of employees leaving their jobs in search for more; more job flexibility, more pay, more job satisfaction, more intrinsic and extrinsic satisfactions. Just…. more. But have you heard of the Great Regret? How about the Boomerang Effect?

Most people close to me know that getting a job with Elevated was a dream for me. I love the company’s simple mission that Work Shouldn’t Suck as well as the progressive nature we not only embody internally but encourage externally to our clients. Elevated’s vision to integrate work and life seamlessly is something I genuinely aspire to create for myself and others. That said, I wanted to excel and be everything to everyone immediately (while also taking university classes), even though not only the role, but the career path was new to me. This ultimately resulted in stress, perfectionism, mental health challenges and ultimately, burnout. Not a good combo to foster positivity and growth. I wasn’t willing to admit I needed help and the only option I saw was that I had to quit, to search for….more. My ego convinced me to take the “easy” way out, which in retrospection, was not so easy after all.

Without getting into too much detail, it was an amicable split. I gave notice and started applying for jobs. This is when I started to have BIG realizations. One being that not many companies have learned the valuable lessons the Pandemic provided. Not only are most not offering even hybrid work options, but they are expecting employees to be back at the office 100% of the time, to sit at their desks for a defined time period, while not allowing the flexibility that so many came to appreciate (and expect) while navigating COVID.

Another realization was that the job market is wildly competitive, now more than ever! Since many workers have joined the Great Resignation, it seems that remote/hybrid jobs are the most desirable, but not necessarily the most readily available. Therefore, people are applying for roles they are overqualified for just to enjoy the perks that come with flexible work. One job I applied for had 750 applicants! How does one even attempt to stand out when facing that level of competition? I applied for upwards of 50 jobs in a month, 7 of which I had interviews for, 4 of which I was only contacted for due to my relentless networking, and all of which I wasn’t really all that excited about. Out of those 7 opportunities, none offered strictly remote work and only 2 provided a hybrid work option. All had very structured hours in place.

Maybe quitting wasn’t the answer after all? This experience made me realize that career wise, I had everything I wanted and more working at Elevated. The phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” has never been more fitting and smacked me in the face. Being able to take a step back from the situation I was in, breathe, and regroup was the best way to assess what was important to me. In most circumstances, it takes space, time and reflection to see the situation for what it really is.

Having all this newfound knowledge made me realize I was now part of the Great Regret, an outcome of the Great Resignation where employees regret resigning from their past role in hopes of greener pastures, but soon realize that perhaps it would have been more logical to explore more viable options with their past employer. Elevated is an extremely progressive HR firm, so I was in a position (undeniably more than most) to have an open and honest discussion about where I was at mentally and perhaps come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement to get me back to peak performance. Why did I think that quitting was my only choice? Well, people  do impulsive and sometimes illogical things when they aren’t feeling well.

So, as I sat there wondering what I was going to do – should I contact Elevated and tell them all of this? Should I just take the next job I can get and risk feeling unfulfilled? Miraculously, this is when I got a message from my past manager at Elevated asking if I was open to coming back. This was my window of opportunity to let the team know what I experienced the last month, all the realizations I came to and the newfound appreciation and respect I had for Elevated. So, I did just that.

But, I didn’t just jump back in exactly as it was because that would probably cause the same results. After experiencing the effects of burn out and taking that step back, I was able to see what about the role wasn’t working (for me or my employer). So instead, we discussed a bit of a reworking of my role to negate unnecessary stress, but also the personal boundaries I needed to follow to ensure I could maintain my resiliency and move forward in a more productive and positive way that would benefit both myself and the company.

Psychologist Anthony Klotz who coined the term the Great Resignation also predicted that the next major trend amongst the workforce would be the boomerang effect, which is simply an employee who leaves an organization and returns for a plethora of reasons. So why would an employer want to take back an employee who resigned?

  • The employee already knows the business. This means the employer won’t have to rehire and retrain all over again.
  • It sets the precedent that the business really is a great place to work and boosts morale for current employees
  • It demonstrates a culture of openness, resiliency and respect

Of course, not all workers who quit their jobs and want to come back should be given that opportunity. Being a successful boomerang employee depends on things like:

  • Performance: were they hardworking? Did they strive to continuously improve?
  • Relationships: did they get along with the other team members? Were they a good fit for the company’s culture?
  • Attitude: how did they approach the day-to-day work? For the most part, were they a positive addition to the team?
  • The reason for leaving: was the employee in the right state of mind? Did they maybe need an accommodation instead?
  • How they left: was it respectful? How did they set the team up for success before they left? Were there any bridges burned?

So, although not all employees should be taken back, if the above points are considered, it is worth a discussion.  PS – At Elevated, we also build Boomerang programs for this very reason! You never know what the future may hold. After all, it just so happened to work for me!