Featured in today's newsletter:
- Mindset shifts that lead to more job satisfaction.
- Rising 'productivity paranoia.'
- Why you should adopt different listening styles.
The latest virus forecast: The US had an 18% decrease from two weeks earlier, with about 54,088 new Covid cases on Friday. The new case rate is now at its lowest since April, though epidemiologists are watching the variant BF.7, an offshoot of Omicron that’s currently gaining ground in the US.
The business impact: The Dow dropped to its lowest point so far this year and the Federal Reserve raised interest rates another 0.75 percentage point this week in an attempt to curb inflation. Economist Nouriel Roubini, who earned the nickname “Dr. Doom” after foreseeing the last financial crisis, said in a Bloomberg interview this week that a “long and ugly” recession is ahead.
Focus on How to Shape Bad Jobs Into Better Ones
Amid all the recent buzz over quiet quitting, the other, more literal type of quitting continues apace. Some 4.2 million people in the US voluntarily left their jobs in July, accounting for 2.7% of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This movement isn’t just costly for employers. In recent months, multiple surveys have pointed to dissatisfaction and regret among many people who resigned recently, for reasons ranging from difficulty finding employment to disappointment with the reality of a new job. To understand how someone seeking a change in their professional life might find one in a lower-risk way than tendering their resignation, we reached out to Insider reporter Shana Lebowitz Gaynor, author of the recently published Don’t Call It Quits: Turn the Job You Have Into the Job You Love.
A caveat: Some jobs are simply bad, full stop. “I’m definitely not the anti-quitting spokeswoman,” Gaynor says. “If you feel like you’re working in an environment that’s toxic or harmful to your mental health or discriminatory, leaving the company could be best for you,” assuming leaving is a viable option. But for those whose employers provide a baseline of dignity and a decent wage, an intentional mindset shift can help morph an unsatisfying job into one with more redeeming qualities.
Below are excerpts of our conversation, edited for space and clarity:
Why does the idea of quitting hold so much appeal?
It holds the promise of a life and career and a day-to-day experience that is very different from what we have now. You show up or show up virtually to work every day, you log in, you do your assignments, you chat with your boss—there's this idea that if you quit, you won't have to do any of that. Maybe you’ll run your own business and answer to no one but yourself. Maybe you’ll be working outdoors instead of at a desk. That’s so tantalizing.
If you're a person who is miserable and feels stuck at work, that's a really good story to tell: ‘I was miserable, then one day I decided I can't take this anymore and I'm quitting. I got a new job and I feel great now, and no one's holding me back.’ On the other hand, if you have a story like, ‘I hate my job, but I'm still there,’ that's a terrible story, or it seems that way. When we talk to other people, we crave the happy ending and the redemptive narrative where people release themselves from some kind of challenge or trauma. In some cases, people are able to tell those stories because that's actually what happened to them. But in many, many cases, that's not how the story actually went for the person.
All this to say is that we feel a kind of social pressure to triumph and be our own hero in the end. And, given that that doesn't always happen. I think we would do ourselves a favor to be a little kinder to ourselves and to our friends, and offer them more grace in the kinds of career stories they can tell.
You write about how expecting less of your job can counterintuitively make it more fulfilling. How does that work?
A lot of people, particularly knowledge workers in cities and large metropolitan hubs—and I count myself among them—have this idea that our jobs or our careers are our identities, and how we perform at our job defines how we perform in life.
In the book, I analogize expecting less of your job to expecting less of your relationship, which is an idea that came from a psychologist at Northwestern, Eli Finkel. He has this book, The All or Nothing Marriage, and he advocates for expecting less of your marriage and your spouse in some cases. Pick one or two things. Your spouse doesn’t have to be your soul mate, your intellectual conversation partner, your tennis buddy, and also your best friend and the person who reads over all your work projects.
So in terms of your job, maybe your job is not your passion and your calling, and also the place where you make friends, and also where you define your self-worth, and also where you spend all your time and make all your money. Maybe it can be one or two or even three of those things. But if you look outside your job for sources that will fulfill those other buckets, you're probably going to be happier in a shorter time.
What are some of your favorite tactics for shaping a less-than-stellar job into a better one?
Susan David is a Harvard medical school psychologist who wrote about this in her book, Emotional Agility: productive complaining. You can use the words and the sentiments that are coming out of your own mouth as a vehicle for introspection. To use one of David's examples, if you find yourself saying, ‘I find this job so boring, the tasks are not stimulating at all, I'm miserable,’ well, I'm sorry to hear you're miserable, but maybe that also suggests that creativity and intellectual engagement are things that really matter to you at work. Now knowing that those things are important to you and they're missing in your current role, how can you either shape your current role to give you more of those things, that creativity and stimulation, or look for another role that does give you those things that are missing?
And how do you create your own learning opportunities? This particular piece of wisdom comes from the social psychologist Ron Friedman, who said if you can pinpoint one thing you'd like to get better at, one skill you'd like to develop, or one area you'd like to strengthen in terms of your professional skills, pick that one thing and see if every day you can do one little thing to try to try to make progress on that goal. Let's say you heard a speaker or another colleague give a presentation at your workplace, and you're like, ‘Wow. I wish I could have that kind of public-speaking skill and give a presentation like that.’ So maybe today it's, ‘Okay, I'm going to watch the video recording of that person speaking, and I'm going to jot down a few things that they did well that I'd like to emulate.’ It’s kind of a little thing—you're not taking an instructor-led class—but it's a way to make that learning and development opportunity for yourself, and fold it right into the rhythms of your workday. The more granular, the better. Instead of trying to be a better leader, try to do a better job leading the 9am meeting. That’s an easier target.
And I wrote about some research co-authored by Patricia Chen, who was at the National University of Singapore. She and her co-authors wrote about a strategic mindset, which basically means asking yourself, ‘If I'm in a rut at work, what are some ways I can get myself out of this rut?’ The point is, you might not even need to read this book. Maybe you don't need a career coach. You don't need your boss to help you. You can just think of a few ideas yourself to help you get unstuck. You're smarter and more influential than you think.
Read a full transcript of our conversation, including how to handle bad managers and how to find a sense of purpose in small moments.
What Else You Need to Know
Casual acquaintances are the most helpful connections in landing new jobs. That’s according to a new analysis of the LinkedIn activity of 20 million users over five years, which sheds new light on the most effective way to network.
- While varied estimates put the number of jobs found through networking somewhere north of 70%, the study, recently published in the journal Science, challenges widespread assumptions that friends and family are the most valuable resources in the job search.
- Researchers from LinkedIn, MIT, Harvard, and Stanford tweaked the platform’s “People You May Know” tool to show users the profiles of people with whom they had stronger or weaker ties, and followed their job mobility in conjunction with the new connections they made. The connections that most often led to new roles were with “moderately weak ties,” or people with whom they had roughly 10 people in common.
- The power of “weak ties” was highlighted nearly 50 years ago by Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter, who wrote in a 1973 paper that these more distant acquaintances could provide “diffusion of influence and information, mobility opportunity, and community organization,” with less overlap in networks and perspectives than someone in a person’s inner circle.
- Employers can combat the “networking gap”—the disadvantage faced by job seekers from lower-income and underrepresented backgrounds, who don’t have the same professional networks to draw on—by posting every opening, standardizing their hiring process, and building their pipelines by partnering with organizations that help underserved applicants.
Managers’ “productivity paranoia” is burning workers out. Some 87% of employees say they’re productive, but 85% of managers believe hybrid setups have made it harder to know when the people on their team are getting things done, according to the latest pulse survey from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, which included 20,000 people in 11 countries.
- The disconnect, along with the associated use of employee tracking tools, has led to a rise in so-called “productivity theater,” with employees spending more time and effort signaling that they’re working, often at the expense of their actual work.
- , The average worker spent 67 minutes each day making sure they appeared productive to their bosses and colleagues, according to a July survey of 2,000 US and UK employees from Gitlab and Quatalog.
- Some 81% of respondents in the Gitlab/Quatalog survey said they were able to accomplish more when they could control their working hours, underscoring the well-documented link between flexibility and productivity.
- Around half of hybrid managers surveyed by Microsoft found it difficult to trust their employees to do their best work, significantly more than just over a third of in-person managers.
A four-day workweek may help workers afford the rising cost of living. The UK think tank Autonomy calculated that the average employee with a child under two would save nearly 2,000 pounds (about $2,200) per year with a shortened week, based on average commuting and childcare costs.
- Some 73 companies in the UK are now midway through a six-month trial giving employees one day off each week for the same pay, organized by Autonomy and the organization 4 Day Week Global. In a survey of enrolled employers, 49% said productivity had improved slightly or significantly, while 46% said it had remained the same. Some 86% said they were likely to consider extending the four-day schedule beyond the trial’s closing date.
- While 88% said the experiment was going well, some smaller firms with full-time staffing needs have struggled to implement the new schedule, as well as some that have undergone leadership changes or other major shifts during the pilot.
Sustainability-focused skills training can be key to helping companies meet climate goals. Amid a shortage of ESG talent, new global Salesforce data found that while more than 80% of workers wanted to help their company become more sustainable, 82% said their organization’s efforts to do so were hampered by a lack of the right people.
- “By upskilling existing workers who want to make the jump into sustainability careers, companies can source talent for hard-to-fill roles, while helping employees work on something they’re passionate about,” read the report, which encompassed 1,300 knowledge workers in 11 countries.
- Climate initiatives can also be a powerful recruitment tool: Some 43% of tech workers and 30% of the general population say environmental impact is a “very important” factor for them in deciding whether or not to take a job, according to recent research from intelligence firm Morning Consult. In an IBM global survey of 14,000 workers last year, 71% of respondents said they were likelier to take a job at a company with sustainability initiatives.
Return to workplace speed round:
- Many workers are still worried about getting Covid at work, according to a recent Gallup poll in which a third of respondents said they were “very” or “moderately” concerned about Covid exposure in the workplace.
- Commercial furniture company Steelcase announced layoffs of 180 employees, blaming the downsizing on “lower-than-expected return-to-office trends in the Americas.”
- Office attendance in the second week of September was higher than any point since 2020, reaching 47.5% of pre-pandemic levels in 10 major US metro areas, according to card swipe data from Kastle Systems.
- New York City will end its vaccine mandate for private-sector workers on Nov. 1, though city workers will still need to be vaccinated. Roughly 80% of New York City residents are vaccinated, higher than the national average.
- With temperatures still above 100 degrees in parts of Arizona, a survey of 2,809 workers in that state found that one in five respondents have headed back to offices to save on home energy costs.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Reflect before taking on new tasks. You can make it easier to set boundaries to prevent overload by assessing how new tasks will affect your workload as they come onto your plate. With any new assignment, ask yourself, “What is the time commitment needed from me?” and “What adjustments will I need to make?”
- Train leaders on emotional skills. In order to improve psychological safety and emotional agency among employees, consider implementing an emotional skills training program for managers on how to identify their emotional triggers and harness positive emotions at work. Finnish researchers found that one such program improved attendance, workplace satisfaction, and performance among employees.
- Brainwash yourself. That’s the term that Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, uses to describe the process of cleansing your brain of lingering stressors. Taking brainwashing breaks can boost creativity and exploration during focused work. Throughout the day, take 10 minutes to get a drink of water, move around, or look out a window to give your brain a chance to reset and refocus.
- Practice different styles of listening. Depending on the situation, your colleagues may need you to immerse (listen and absorb without judgment), discern (listen to help identify options), advance (listen to help push a project forward), or support (listen to provide emotional help.)
- Give feed-forward, not feedback. When in a performance conversation, try framing your feedback within an employee’s larger career or growth trajectory. Instead of focusing on past actions, provide a path forward to help the employee grow.
Danish workers get an icy reception at work. In an effort to curb high heating costs, employers in Denmark are capping office temperatures at 19 degrees Celsius (about 66 Fahrenheit), with some passing out blankets and extra layers to help employees beat the chill.
Baseball caps are the latest flashpoint in office wear. The pandemic may have ushered in an era of more laid-back workplace attire, but casual hats still spark visceral reactions in some corners of the working world.
- “Cap wearing in the workplace must be stopped,” British etiquette writer Peter York told the Financial Times. “They make their wearers look silly. Indeed, wearing one is like saying ‘I’m being jaunty and youthful, but in fact I’m 45.’”
The Earth adds a new line to its resume. The hair-care brand Faith in Nature has a new member of its board of directors: nature itself. (Presuming the natural world will not attend board meetings, the company will appoint a representative to vote in its interests.)
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.