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The Great Resignation: Ground Zero

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Written by: Teri Swope, Founder of SwopeLight

The last day of 2021 was my last day of employment with my company. Five months ago, I walked into my boss’s office and said “you know that thing that I love to do, that I spend some time doing here but have been talking about doing more of? Well, it’s time for me to go do that thing that I love full time.”

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I’m leaving behind a career that has been good to me financially, a role that is in my ‘zone of excellence’, as Gay Hendricks calls it in his book The Big Leap, and a good company with a solid reputation in the industry. It’s just that…none of that is enough anymore. And I’m not the only one that has come to this conclusion.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this…regardless of the judgements we make about varying types of change, change of any kind creates new opportunities. The pandemic informed dramatic changes in the way we live our daily lives. These changes resulted in a massive global slow-down; no job site to run off to, no gym to burn off our stress, no kids to pick up from school/daycare/athletic practice/friend’s houses. For months, we sat in the presumed safety of our homes and marveled at how we got from there to here in such a short period of time. We questioned what the future would look like. For a while we thought everything would go back to the way it was before. Then it became clear a new reality was emerging; a new way of working, educating, shopping, communicating. A whole new way of being in this world was emerging right before our eyes. And without conscious awareness of it, so was our idea of how we wanted to be in this new world.

The changes imposed as a reaction to the pandemic broke down walls we didn’t even know were there before. They caused us to see that we could not only survive, but potentially thrive in this new paradigm. I have been a people/process leader for decades. It is not a job you do remotely. Until one day, it was. Our kids never even considered doing online school by choice. Until one day, they did. The things we knew to be ‘hard and fast’ rules of structured life disintegrated right before our eyes. The walls that kept us boxed in, while perhaps suffocating at times, gave us some sense of mindless purpose, somewhere to get up and go each day. Even if we weren’t entirely satisfied with where we were headed off to, at least we had somewhere to go. And then, almost overnight, the walls collapsed. We waited with bated breath for the walls to reemerge. Afterall, there was comfort in those walls. But they didn’t. And they haven’t. And they’re not going to.

So where has this left us? Exposed, vulnerable, reflective and a bit more curious about how this change could actually end up serving us well. But here is the main driver of this watershed – we are no longer as fearful of big change. This global reset has brought a stronger sense of strength and resilience than we’ve ever known. We didn’t know we could endure such dramatic change in such a short period of time. And now we do. And we’re acting on this knowing. We’ve seen the millions of people leaving their jobs in pursuit of something other than what and how they were working before. I am among them. But here’s the thing, not everyone needs to leave their job to find what they’re looking for. I strongly believe there is huge opportunity for companies to meet their employee’s need for change right where they are. It is most certainly not a difficult undertaking, but it does require deliberate intention.

So what is this newly inspired workforce demanding? Here is my ‘ground zero’ observation – purposeful work with purposeful teams and purposeful organizations. Arguably people have always wanted this, even if they couldn’t quite articulate it this way, but now, they’re no longer willing to settle for anything less. People want to get clear on what they are in this world to do. They want to deeply connect with their peers with the intention of great innovation. They want a safe place at work where they can empty the whole of their beautiful, inspiring, unique gifts. They want a company and leaders that nurture and create space for them to dive deep to find these gifts. And they want a company and leaders that model the way by doing this work themselves. Again, it’s not difficult work. But it takes intention on the part of an organization to make these things happen.

Business leaders: This is a call to action. The change is here. The time is now. Time to take deliberate steps to get clear on your organizational purpose, help your employees do the same and create a purposeful and aligned culture. The opportunity to thrive in this new paradigm is in front of you. Will you take it?

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