The Grass Isn’t Always Greener…

This is HR’s go-to advice for employees who put in their two-week notice, especially if that employee is heading to a competitor:

“Just remember! The grass isn’t always greener!” 

HR is mostly right. I’d say here’s the actual breakdown of ‘greenest’:

  • 50% is actually about the same shade of green. You’re moving to just move. You’ll find the job, the people, the money, everything is almost the same. The only change is the name and maybe the location by a bit.
  • 30% is going to be a nice shade of light brown, meaning the grass isn’t green at all, it’s dead! HR wants to believe this number is higher but it’s not, but it’s high enough to give some folks some pause before making such a big decision.
  • 10% is way greener! Like green M&M green. Dream job green! Everything is better and you’re so happy you made the move. You found your dream job!
  • 10% isn’t grass at all. Someone replaced the grass with some other material, like in Phoenix where grass can’t grow so they pave the front yard and paint it green, or just put in rock and cactus. This is completely something you didn’t expect. You were hoping for a better job, and you got something that isn’t better but not worse, it’s not even the job you expected, so you can’t really compare.

So, you have about a 10% chance of getting what you think you’re getting. Not good odds, but like I said, most employees way overthink their odds on this and probably believe they have a 70-90% of bettering themselves when they move. Most will just stay the same or get slightly worse.

Why do we believe moving is better?

1. You’re being sold. Sold by a recruiter and a hiring manager that you’ll be moving from a trailer park to Disney World. You really, really want to believe that’s true, so you buy!

2. You over-value that what we don’t know, over what we already have. This happens in so many areas of our life. Relationships. Jobs. A table at a restaurant.

3. You over-value what others have, over what you have. Think about this for a minute. You’re so eager to get out of this job, yet others are so eager to get this job. What does that say? You’re brilliant and everyone else is an idiot? Probably not. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

Everyone keeps telling me all these ‘new’ young workers just want to jump from job to job. They don’t have loyalty, etc. The reality is much less about their desire to move, and more about them being more naive to the realities of changing jobs.  We all loved changing jobs until it backfires and you leave something good, for something crappy.

Once that happens, you’re less likely to change jobs the rest of your career, even if you’re in a bad job! Don’t underestimate what you currently have. It’s probably way better than you’re making it out to be, and the new gig isn’t as good as it sounds. That’s not sexy, that’s just reality.

8 thoughts on “The Grass Isn’t Always Greener…

  1. Thanks for the interesting breakdown of the change reality. I’ve experienced a variety of outcomes. It can be good, but I often find myself saying the grass only looks greener on the other side because there’s a lot more manure over there :).

  2. I do like reading your stuff. Even when you are wrong you are convinced you are right. That courage is inspiring.

  3. So true. If I could go back in time a year I 100% would, but I am grateful for what I know now and wouldn’t have learned that lesson had I stayed. Totally a double edge sword. TA and everyone involved in hiring have a responsibility to sell the truth vs. the allure to help people make informed decisions.

  4. Any comment on when it IS time to move on? According to your numbers there appears to be only a 10% (possibly 20% if you include the non-grass situation as positive) chance of improvement.

    • Ashland –

      I think you move on when you feel like the job you have no longer aligns with your career and life goals. Meaning, you might stay in a job that doesn’t meet your career goals right now, but it fits into your life goals right now or vice-versa.

      Once the job no longer fits either, and you don’t believe that will change any time soon, it’s probably time to look. I will say, most people miss two things:
      1. We aren’t patient enough to wait for something with our current employer.
      2. We don’t tell our current employer what our goals are.


  5. Well Tim, it doesn’t appear you have many job changes, so you really can’t speak with any authority. EVERY job change gives you a different experience. Whether it is just different people, different work methods, different parking lot, different hours, different software, etc. Any or all of these provide growth, opportunity, excitement, etc. A few people may not need those experiences for growth, but many do. Even some very minor differences in the job provide for growth and learning. Some people can work in the same place for their career. Many need continuing stimulation and other experiences. What I am saying is you are very wrong.

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