So what is it about taking time off that makes us want to … take off? According to Papadakos, intrinsic motivators usually outweigh our desire for a bigger paycheck: “In my experience, the most common reasons people have for quitting their jobs are a clash with
their manager, a lack of values alignment with the organisation they’re working for, a lack of job satisfaction, a feeling that they have no more to learn or are bored in their role, seeking better work-life balance or wanting to find a sense of purpose,” she says.
If you’re still feeling very unhappy within three or four weeks, that’s telling you something.
Psychologist Tina Papadakos
Discerning between a deep need to act on one of these factors and following what could turn out to be a reckless urge “is about [seeing] what happens within a week or so of returning to work”, Papadakos says.
“It’s pretty normal to have a sense of dread when we’re getting back into our regular routine. Usually when we’re on holidays we’re having fun, we’re relaxing, we’re doing something different to the norm and it does feel sad to come to the end of that holiday period; that’s normal.
“When we’re okay with our work we might still have that sense of dread, but it dissipates pretty quickly, even within a day or so. If you feel a sense of persistent dread, then it’s probably time to take stock and recognise that it’s just not working for you.”
Whatever the cause of your back-to-work dread, if it develops into all-out dissatisfaction – due to
boredom, burnout or one of myriad other reasons – Papadakos says the game may be authentically over: “If you’re still feeling very unhappy within three or four weeks, that’s telling you something.”
Sociologist and senior lecturer in The University of Melbourne’s Master of Management (Human
Resources) program, Dr Erica Coslor, agrees. “When you’re super busy, sometimes there’s just not enough space in your brain; we call it a ‘bandwidth problem’,” she says.
“If there’s too much going on it can be hard to accept new thoughts and ideas, but when you have time to step back and explore how you’re feeling it can help us find clarity and make decisions. Once you get to a certain point of turnover intention, which is the intent to leave your current employment, it’s fairly unstoppable.”
This year there’s additional impetus to take action. After a holiday season marred by bushfires,
Australians are even more likely to take stock of their lives, and their livelihoods, Coslor says.
As Roy Morgan research shows almost a third of Australians plan to quit their job in the next 12
months, it’s not just workers who are giving thought to their careers. Employers, too, are reflecting on their efforts to retain talent into the new year.
Once you get to a certain point of turnover intention, which is the intent to leave your current employment, it’s fairly unstoppable.
Dr Erica Coslor
“Companies today are spending more time paying attention to workplace culture, keeping their
employees happy and focusing on diversity and inclusion,” Coslor says.
“For companies that do see a spike in employees leaving to start the year, that’s probably a clue that
something negative is going on. A better approach is to have a good workplace culture and
environment, and to train your managers to lead their teams and implement change effectively.”
But as the clock counts down to January 31, Papadakos cautions it’s wise to sit tight until you’ve secured a new role before staging your very own Brexit.
“Quitting really is the last resort,” she says.
“If someone is incredibly unhappy and it’s impacting on their mental health and their wellbeing then quitting might be the answer, but if they’re not in that position I would probably suggest they do whatever they can to transition into alternative employment rather than move into unemployment.”