Quitting. Typically, we would look upon this as a bad thing. After all, we live in a society where we are told continuously that “winners never quit and quitters never win!”
However, there is a weird aspect to the willingness of people to leave their jobs voluntarily. And yes, it is part of why economics is indeed rightly referred to as the “dismal science.” At the same time, quitting is — almost ironically it would seem at first glance — a sign of optimism, both in the future and in one’s self!
In economic terms, quitting…is good! Quitting…is a sign, almost paradoxically, of optimism. And yes, if one thinks about it, we are much less likely to leave any situation — professional or personal — unless we know — and are certain — of what is on the other side. Quitting, at least when it comes to out jobs, is a sign of our personal confidence that we can better our situation. And collectively, when more of us quit our jobs, that is a signal to economists that we have faith in not just our individual futures, but in our collective one as well.
And so we have the most recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Yes, with your tax dollars — and with mine, a team of government economists compiles data on who quits their jobs each and every month.
And yes, in the most recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, approximately 1 in 40 of us (2.4%) voluntarily left our jobs in the month of July 2019. Of course, the word voluntary is key, as an additional number of us, well, we were escorted from the premises or we just were simply taken off the schedule, never to be seen again. However, to economists, the fact that 3.6 million of our fellow Americans quit our jobs in that one month is a very good sign.
Why you might ask? Well, economists view our willingness to quit our jobs as a good economic indicator — an indicator that we are individually optimistic in the future! And when more people take the leap to quite their jobs, then they must believe that what lies ahead for them is better — right?
And so yes, in the month of July 2019, more Americans quite their jobs that at any time since that thing that we like to refer to almost nostalgically now as “The Great Recession.” In the 31 days of that month, 3.6 million of our fellow citizens voluntarily left their jobs. Just how many had another job waiting on them is unclear, although the economic assumption is that with new jobs being created at a record pace and with unemployment at almost all-time lows, one is more likely than ever before to leave one job for another job.
And so yes, in that one month for which the most current data is available, this past July, more Americans that at any other time in over a decade told their employers, “See ya!” And while some left with tears and cake, others, you darn well know, left with something like the classic Johnny Paycheck mantra…
…and yes, there are times where the smart move — and yes, the bold move — is to leave your present situation for a new one — even if that new one may not be certain.
As a tenured professor, know that no, I can’t relate personally to the idea of quitting one’s job voluntarily. However, I do know this. The notion that you would leave your present, stable situation — with yes good parts to it and bad parts as well, as all aspects of life have — if you have not known this, well, you will — that is a bold move. It is a brave move. It is an entrepreneurial move for your career, even if you are simply moving to just another job and another employer or if you are going to work to create a new future outside of a formal organization.
And so in the end, how do I view the fact that more of us than ever before are quitting? I see it as a point of optimism! A point of believing in future that you are looking to create — for more money, for more fulfillment, for more meaning, for more happiness, and yes, hopefully for a combination of all or most of these feelings. We need to come to think of quitting a job as a point of embarcation, not an end.
Today, nothing is guaranteed — a reality that the Great Recession brought home to many Americans in a way they had never experienced before. And today, we know — instinctively, intuitively, realistically — that we are responsible for creating our own futures, not dependent on “others” — and especially on companies and employers. The whole notion of “side gigs” and “freelancing” is still a new phenomenon, and yet, our work is increasingly our own, and as such, we should own it, we should maximize its value, and yes, we should leverage it. In today’s world, the dumbest move may be to stay. And yet, we still think of leaving, of quitting, or going out on our own as a risky move. Yet, in the world of today, the simple act of quitting — and taking control of your own future — whether that be aligned with an employer or not, is perhaps the smartest move one can make today.
About the Author
David Wyld (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness.
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