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Job and career decision-making as a core life skill

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

“I wish you the very best. As a leader in this company, I'm motivated for you to make the best job decision. Let’s work together to make sure you understand your choices.”

This was said by me and many other well-meaning leaders in many companies. Leaders desire a strong relationship with their employees. Those aspirations and activities include:

  • A healthy dialogue with their employees when it comes to job change decisions.

  • Effective pathways to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion ("DEI") with their employees.

  • Many companies take comfort in "climate surveys" or related information helping to understand their employees' sentiments.

In practice, many managers don't learn of their soon-to-be-ex-employee's job desires until the exit interview. These learnings, while helpful, are often too late. The core challenge is this:

Employees may not effectively share their job perspectives with their employer prior to making a job change. This lack of effective communication suggests employees may not have an objective and effective job-related decision process.

Appropriate job change decisions often include staying with the current company.

To be fair, some leaders have a gift for engaging their employees. They have the sort of relationship encouraging their employee to share their job perspectives. This enlightened leader is the exception, not the rule.

A different approach to job evaluation and potential change decisions is needed. This new approach is informed by progressive hiring managers, the behavioral sciences, and utilizing the best decision process.

We build upon the standard company performance review process.

We then go further.

We build perspective and provide tools to help employees make the most of their performance feedback. We help employees build competence and confidence in their decision processes to the most productive performance reviews. This approach improves employee attrition by building individual decision-making skills.

A wonderful by-product includes building high-quality decision-making as a core life skill.

This article is part of our article series:

Quiet quitting and performance reviews

Another way employees leave is by staying. Quiet quitting refers to opting out of tasks beyond one’s assigned duties and/or becoming less psychologically invested in work. Quiet quitters continue to fulfill their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviors: no more staying late, showing up early, or attending non-mandatory meetings. [i]

In a world where work is a zero-sum game, where not doing a task because it is "not my job" simply means the task will fall on someone else or potentially not get done. For many leaders, losing employees who want to leave is difficult, but having them not quit is even worse, as their unwillingness to go the extra mile often increases the burden on their colleagues to take on extra work instead. This means, having both the employee and manager have open communication about the needs of both the employee and employer is critical. Quiet quitting is avoidable. A fully engaged employee is the best outcome, a close second is an employee finding a good fit in another department or company, and the worst outcome is a disengaged quiet quitter. This is bad for both the employee and the employer.

Feedback is an amazing gift. In the work setting, performance reviews and other feedback should be powerful development tools. But work performance reviews get a bad rap. They sometimes get criticized as ineffective or biased. [ii] Most people have a tremendous opportunity to improve how they use and provide performance feedback. This article series encourages a healthy two-way dialogue. We provide tools empowering the employees to clearly define their own job benefits and communicate those as an equal party to the performance review process.

The performance review process is a great time to step back, take inventory, and holistically evaluate our jobs. Sometimes, a proactive job change is warranted. When it comes to our jobs, change is challenging. Natural emotions tend to negatively impact our willingness and ability to change. The decision sciences have tools and approaches to help us make the best change decisions.

Next, we provide an objective and confidence-building approach to evaluate the current job. If necessary, this same approach helps make a job change.

Resources - Definitive Choice

Definitive Choice is a smartphone app. It provides a straightforward user experience and is backed by time-tested decision science algorithms. It uses a proprietary "Decision 6™" approach that organizes the criteria (what is important to you?) and alternatives (what are the choices?) in a series of bite-size ranking decisions. Since it is on the smartphone, it can be used while doing research. It is like having a decision expert in your pocket. The results dashboard provides a rank-ordered list of "best choices," tailored to your preferences. Apps like this enable decision-makers to configure their own choice architecture.

Also, Definitive Choice comes pre-loaded with many templates. These templates can be customized, but the preloaded templates provide a nice starting point. For the current state or premortem alternatives, Definitive Choice will help determine, track, and weigh job criteria. It will also help apply the criteria to different job alternatives. This will help negotiate the best outcome. It provides confidence and accuracy when it is time for a change.

Other job evaluation resources:

Hulett, Negotiating success and building your BATNA, The Curiosity Vine, 2021


[i] Klotz, Bolino, When Quiet Quitting Is Worse Than the Real Thing, Harvard Business Review, 2020

In my former large company experience, I had a front-row seat to the administration of the performance review process. The biases I saw resulted from:

  • Lack of clarity on the rating scale. For example, on a 1-5 scale (with 5 being performing significantly above expectations) the scale definition was not clear. A "5" for one manager may not be the same as another manager.

  • Use of performance ranking for comp and firing decisions. This added to the bias as the managers doing the rating knew the "game" was to assign the rating in a way that played into a potentially severe outcome.

  • Over-reliance on "hard" measures. Certain data, like client utilization, were easy to obtain and compare. Whereas "soft" measures like leadership ability were difficult to compare and were situational. The easy-to-compare measures were overweighted biased BECAUSE they were easier to obtain and to provide HR action evidence.

  • Reward and punishment asymmetry. Most companies reward compensation on a percentage of the base salary. So, let's say someone makes $200k and the best-rated people get a 10% bonus. This is $20k in this example. However, a poorly rated person may get fired. This is a loss of a $200k salary and likely creates emotional turmoil. Thus, with the downside being far greater than the upside for overachieving, it creates an incentive to do "good enough" to avoid being fired, but not much more incentive to overachieve. Some people absolutely are wired to overachieve... I am only suggesting the incentives are not geared toward overachieving.

To be fair, these biases were known and enlightened leaders would attempt to counteract them. But in any organizational game, incentives and biases are relentless. While leaders attempt to overcome this, they still created risk and uncertainty as to the accuracy of the ratings.

Additional citations may be found in the following article:

Hulett, Changing Our Mind, The Curiosity Vine, 2021


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