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Great Resignation Rule #1: Don't Leave Angry

Updated: Dec 2, 2023


Last week, Sharon told us about how she just hit the one-year mark since she left her previous job. We like to joke that she’s “patient zero” of the Great Resignation - she experienced what so many of us have and wasted no time before she set out looking for something better.

Since Sharon blazed that trail, many of us (myself included) have done the same thing. Whether it’s the lure of a new opportunity or the realization that we’re unhappy doing what we’re doing, many are in search of their next home. Since we’re fundraisers and this is a turnover issue, odds are this applies to us more than most!

When Sharon and I discussed her blog and what she’s learned in the last year, we had a revelation about leaving a job. Sometimes an exit is bittersweet; you genuinely love a workplace and will miss the people you’ve shared it with. You’re excited about what’s next but emotional about leaving the place you’ve known.

That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes you’re angry. You’ve had enough. You’re ready to walk away and never look back. You never want to think about that job again.

That’s natural, but it leads to the point we discovered: Don’t leave angry.

I know, easier said than done. Many of us have good reason to be angry - there are inexcusable things that happen to fundraisers that leave so many jaded, burned out, and questioning themselves. Feeling angry is normal and healthy. Acting angry, though, is another issue.

It leads me back to the wisdom of the Persian poet Rumi. I have a folder on my phone full of pearls of wisdom from Rumi that I refer to during challenging times, and one particular quote stands out for anyone battling anger after leaving a job:

“Bring anger and pride under your feet, turn them into a ladder and climb higher”

We have lessons to learn from that anger. What was done to us that we don’t want to repeat? What flaws did we see in our previous workplaces that can be corrected in our next jobs? How did the challenges of that workplace hold us back from doing our jobs as effectively as possible?

Questions like those will lead to self-growth and improved performance in the future.

The alternative is much less productive. We can ruminate on our anger, air out our grievances toward a former employer, and get in our own heads about what went wrong. Those bursts of rage can feel therapeutic in the moment, but they don’t advance our careers. They lead us to stagnation, bitterness, and a refusal to grow.

This is much easier said than done. I know it because I’m living through it myself. I left my last job immensely proud of my work but ready to pursue a new opportunity. I won’t go into detail out of respect for people I worked with and still care about, but I’ll say this: my desire to explore new opportunities was not met with understanding. Things were said to me that were hurtful, shocking, and completely unexpected.

I have moments where I still fume about it. There are times of complete dismay when I can’t believe that happened. But then I remind myself - find the lesson in the anger, work to improve yourself, and look forward instead of backward.

The most important thing I fall back on is my pride in the work that I did. No matter what happened in my last few days in that job, I’ll forever be proud of what my organization accomplished. If I let the anger define my experience, I’ll lose sight of that.

Then, I try to look ahead. Fortunately, like most things in my life, Rumi has wisdom to shine on that as well:

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

Such a simple line has so much power in moments like this. If you’re mired in anger and frustrated by how things have been before, search for that thing that inspires you. For me, it was the chance to work with fundraisers and nonprofits to help them raise more money build healthy workplaces. I had to go through some things to get here, but I’m glad anger didn’t hold me back.

If you’re navigating the complicated emotions that go along with joining the Great Resignation, you’re not alone. Just remember to look forward with hope and learn from where you’ve been.

Are you trying to build a culture that limits turnover and doesn’t get affected by the Great Resignation? Our team of nonprofit fundraising consultants is here to help!

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