Understanding The "Grass is Greener" Syndrome

August 29, 2022

As you probably remember or experienced, you know millions of employees quit their jobs in 2021 in what was defined as The Great Resignation. But now, just six months later, a new survey of 15,000 of individuals who left their jobs found that nearly half (42%) feel their new role “hasn’t lived up to expectations.” Overture-Grass is greener.png

With so many employers adjusting compensation, offering remote work, and making other competitive changes to attract and retain employees in a tight labor market, these results are somewhat baffling. They also make us wonder whether employees were truly unhappy in their former positions, or if they were falling victim to “The Grass is Greener” Syndrome.

“The Grass is Greener” Syndrome

Just as the old expression, "The grass is always greener on the other side,” suggests, it’s easy to get caught up in possibility. Circumstances can seem better than our own when we haven’t experienced them (or if it's been a long time since we did).

In a career context, we think about unfavorable tasks or cultural frustrations and imagine a job where none of those exist. Job postings we read suddenly seem new and exciting. It makes sense that this would be even more common during the pandemic, when people had more time to stop and reflect on what they wanted from their lives. That reflection easily turned into resignation for many workers.

Of course, when we're caught up in idealizing, we neglect the reality that all jobs have their unique challenges. Whether it’s a disorganized corporate structure or cliquey coworkers, most negative aspects of a company aren’t realized until well after accepting the position.

Months after many Americans made the bold move to quit, they’re finding out about the unique sets of issues at their new job. In other words, they’re finding out the grass was not in fact greener. Of the individuals surveyed, 26% even said they regretted their choice.

Keeping Your Pastures Green

While it’s employees experiencing this syndrome, there are certainly lessons to be learned by employers.

This massive wave of resignations in 2020 and 2021 may have been triggered by the pandemic, but we as humans will always envision greener pastures. And with 25 percent of all jobs expected to be remote by 2023, employees increasingly have more possibilities to ponder.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep your pastures “green.” In other words, ensure you’re staying competitive. Here are two things your company should be doing to keep employees happy:

1. Conduct an Annual Market Analysis

All positions have differing rates of demand, and it can change quickly. For example, the average salary for chief financial officers (CFOs) rose 17% from 2020 to 2021.

To avoid losing your employees to lateral moves, make sure you’re doing market research regularly. Monitor average pay rates for each position your company offers and adjust compensation accordingly. If you need assistance, our compensation experts would be happy to help!

2. Build a Culture That’s Hard to Leave

If you have a great environment, employees will feel like they’re losing something by making a switch. While there’s no perfect formula to please everyone, we do know that organizations with highly ranked company cultures have many things in common:

  • Leadership that cares
  • Clear definitions of success
  • Flexibility (Remote opportunities, flexible hours, etc.)
  • Growth opportunities
  • Moments of praise

If The Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s the importance of staying competitive. While The Grass is Greener Syndrome will always exist, you have the power to make your workplace hard to leave. Have any lingering questions? Be sure to reach out to our team.


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