Op-Ed: Shift Shock Pushes Workers Back To Their Old Jobs

Published 8 months ago
Business colleagues in meeting discussing project

By Gary Martin

It came with a snazzy new title, a salary rise big enough to starve off the impact of the spiraling cost of living, a corner office to die for and the promise of an engaging and supportive work environment.

Yet just one month into your new job, you realize you have been sold a pup as you come down with a bad case of “shift shock”. You desperately want to boomerang back to your old job but fear you might have slammed the office door shut a little too hard when walking out on your former employer.


As employees continue to jump from one job to the next to try to jag better pay and working conditions, more and more workers are discovering that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Shift shock, also known as ‘quitter’s remorse’ or ‘new job regret’, is washing over those who have switched jobs only to find their new position is not living up to their expectations.

There is little doubt that plenty of workers are happy in their new jobs.

Yet for others, the grass on the other side is less green. Some job hoppers have discovered that the grass they have strayed onto is fake lawn. Despite assurances to the contrary, flexible work arrangements are rigid, the work environment frenetic rather than relaxed and open doors to managers are slammed shut.


Others have worked out that their fresh patch of lawn is exactly the same color as the old one. Their new role comes complete with the same feelings of dismay, disengagement, disappointment and disaffection that accompanied their old gig. Perhaps worse, some job switchers fast realize their new lawn requires even more water to maintain as their old patch – a metaphor for a new job that is even more
demanding than the old one.

And many will be only too familiar with a scenario in which their new lawn starts out lush and well-manicured before slowly turning brown.

Under these circumstances, the rot sets in as they are drip-fed the harsh realities of a workplace culture beset by harassment, bullying and gossip. Those who job-hop can quickly find themselves sinking in quicksand rather than strolling across a patch of thriving, perfect-looking lawn.

No matter the depth of your due diligence or the length of an interview process, it will remain a gamble.


You will be spinning the roulette wheel on things like whether the new job makes adequate use of your existing skills, offers the development opportunities you have been seeking and provides the longer-term career path you had been hoping for.

While a little shift shock is to be expected until you find your feet in a new role, experts suggest the majority of those suffering from quitter’s remorse will last less than three months with a new employer.

For those who accept a new job only to find it is a poor personal fit or an oversold opportunity, three choices remain. You can stay with your new job and remain disillusioned indefinitely, look for another more suitable job or try to boomerang back to your former boss.

Boomeranging to an old position is increasingly attractive for those suffering from shift shock. This assumes, of course, they left their former employer on good terms and their old job or a similar role is


While asking for an old job back might be ego-bruising for some, capable former employees have little to fear.

Many former employees find themselves welcomed back with open arms. Some are even able to negotiate better employment conditions.

Employers acknowledge that where vacancies do exist, hiring a boomerang worker can save recruitment and on boarding costs because most former returning employees can hit the ground running.

There is a message in all of this for those workers contemplating a switch in jobs.


If there is something in your current role that you would like to change or improve, consider discussing it with your employer first before you exit the office door. It is a whole lot simpler than making a move and then hoping for a second chance when opportunities elsewhere do not turn out as planned.

So if you are thinking of jumping the fence to find a new and greener patch of grass, try watering the side you are on first before making the move.

– The writer is Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of Management WA