Most of us grew up with the mantra, “don’t be a quitter.” We were taught to be persistent and finish what we started. And for years, this same mantra was commonly practiced in the workplace – employees would stick with the same employer up until retirement.

From an employee perspective, working for the same employer made sense as companies invested heavily into employees by offering an attractive benefits package including pensions, investments in its people and a family-like atmosphere. Companies even had a chant of their own, “our employees are our greatest asset.”

Flash forward to today, however, and companies are lucky to have employees work for them for more than a few years. Welcome to the “quitting economy.”

Contrary to popular belief, millennials didn’t invent the quitting economy. In a recent Aeon essay, the quitting economy can be traced back to the early 1990’s when two radical shifts occurred in the market.

First, career advice started to change as a neoliberalism movement was transforming society. Employees were being told that they should think of themselves as their own CEO and “view themselves as a business – a bundle of skills, assets, qualities, experiences, and relationships to be managed and continually enhanced.”

This change in career advice occurred at the same time that the value of a company was redefined. Maximizing the short-term interests of shareholders prevailed, and “quarterly earnings reports and stock prices became even more important, the sole measure of success. How companies treated employees changed, and has not changed back.”

As a result, the quitting economy was born, and loyalty within the workplace became a thing of the past.

“Good jobs used to be ones with a good salary, benefits, location, hours, boss, co-workers, and a clear path towards promotion. Now, a good job is one that prepares you for your next job, almost always with another company.” Ilana Gershon is associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington.

How does a large enterprise exist in today’s quitting economy? Enterprises really only have two options, and selecting the right option to go with is best made consciously, intentionally, and with follow-through.

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Introduction

Option 1: Re-establish Relationships with Employees 

Option 2: Embrace the Short-Term Nature of Work