Find your fit: how the Great Resignation brought clarity to Karbon

Stuart McLeodCEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

We’ve all seen the reports. Workers around the world are restless. They’re re-evaluating their priorities and many are considering (or have already made) a move.

According to a recent study, 53% of US-based workers are open to leaving their current jobs, and 44% are actively looking for a new job. Similar statistics are surfacing in other parts of the world, including Australia. 

Dubbed by psychology professor Anthony Klotz as the ‘Great Resignation’, I find myself more of a member of the ‘Great Reshuffling’ camp. This global event is less about employees quitting their jobs and more about a worldwide realization that finding happiness at work does, in fact, matter. 

The Great Resignation doesn’t have to be viewed as a catastrophic event. And the doomsday tone of the narrative feels overdone and unproductive.

Here’s my take: Not everyone will be a good fit for every company. Likewise, not every company will be a good fit for every individual. 

One size simply doesn’t fit all. And that’s okay. 

I’ve written about the importance of staying true to oneself before. After all, who am I to judge?

Withholding judgment is about a lot more than sports allegiances. Withholding judgment is about acknowledging that not everyone views life through the same lens as your own. 

The Great Resignation is merely an opportunity to look up from the crowd and perform a self-check. Are you sitting in the right section of the stadium? Or is it time to trade in your ticket and find your people?

With the right attitude and approach, I believe that employers and employees can come out of the Great Resignation net positive. But to do so requires individuals and companies to both invest in articulating and clarifying values. 

We can all find our fit, but we must be willing to do the required self-reflection. 

Take off the mask—live and work with authenticity 

Each to their own. You do you. 

I’m a big believer in staying true to yourself, which also applies to the workplace. It’s one of the many reasons authenticity has long been one of our company values at Karbon. 

But what authenticity means to you may be different than what it means to me. 

When I talk about being your authentic self, I’m talking about being honest and bringing your unique perspectives to the table. Someone else, however, might see authenticity as telling Shirley in HR to “eff off” as you kick your feet up at your desk. Our definitions don’t align. Therefore we don’t align.  

Look, we all have to exhibit some form of self-control at work. We all perhaps restrain our weirdest personality quirks for the sake of basic human decency. 

But there’s a fine line between minimizing certain idiosyncrasies in the name of civility and minimizing your true self for fear of rejection.

Finding a good fit is about finding a company that allows you to be you—sans whatever bizarre habits you reserve for your home life. It’s about clarity, compatibility, and usually (a bit of) compromise. So to find a good match, you first must know who you are. What are your non-negotiables? Where are you willing to compromise? 

Through what lens do you see the world? I’m not talking about political or religious affiliations, I’m talking about mindsets: fixed vs. growth, optimist v. pessimist, internal v. external locus of control

Seeing eye-to-eye on certain fundamental human behaviors allows otherwise different people to operate cohesively within a larger group environment. Sameness and compatibility are two different end results. 

When employees and employers step back and participate in self-discovery, everyone wins. 

Define and clarify—leave little up for interpretation  

It’s not enough to list off some words and move forward with confidence, believing people will ‘get you.’ The problem with that approach lies in semantics. 

Until recently, our values at Karbon were articulated as: authenticity, operational excellence, leadership, insightfulness, people-centric, resilience and perseverance. 

It was a good starting point for Karbon’s early years, but as we grew, we learned the hard way that not all of our constituents shared the same definitions of our company values. With the help of our VP of People and Places, Jourdan Pym, Karbon’s leadership recently embarked on an exercise in further-articulating our values. We did this by putting more context around these important words and phrases. We needed not just nouns, verbs and adjectives, but action statements.  

What does people-centric actually mean? What does being a people-centric company look like on a typical day? What does being people-centric look like specifically at Karbon? 

As a team, we started by developing examples to demonstrate our values. The activity allowed us to bring our values to life. After all, what good are words without action? Our values didn’t change as a result of the process, but what did change was the articulation of our values. 

When put into practice, values help people understand what you mean, what you stand for, and who you are. 

Side note: Have you considered creating family or personal values just as companies create corporate values? It’s a worthwhile exercise and one I highly recommend. 

When you miss, iterate and move on

No matter how hard you try to clarify and define your values, sometimes you’ll miss the mark. 

Sometimes you’ll be wowed by a gold-star resume and a candidate who nails the interview process. Sometimes you’ll be certain you’ve hit a hiring homerun. And sometimes, once that new hire starts, it will become abundantly clear they’re not the cultural fit you thought they’d be. 

And while these instances are deeply frustrating (for both parties), it’s simply part of the gig. A bad match is a losing scenario for everyone involved, and it’s not worth the time, energy, and consternation. 

Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole, set that square peg free. It’s not about right and wrong. It’s about ‘right for us’ and ‘wrong for us.’ It's about ‘right for you’ and ‘wrong for you.’ 

Finding joy in work (not just productivity and profitability)

Why does this all matter? Beyond the importance of building a successful business, I’d venture to say that satisfaction and happiness should be an essential part of work, too. 

Most of us spend nearly ⅓ of our lives at work. It’s just not worth it to be miserable. 

Why run a company if you hate your daily reality? Why work so hard if you don’t find it fulfilling? Why immerse yourself in a culture that keeps you up at night? 

Finding the right fit makes everyone happier, and it also better-positions your company for success. Defining values isn’t fluff. It’s far from it. 

Defining values is an opportunity to create a joy-filled community.

And as so many members of the workforce are reckoning with whether or not their work provides meaning, what better time to do the same for your company?

We could all stand to be more intentional. We could all stand to step back, pause, reflect, and redefine. 

No, the Great Resignation doesn’t signal a need for panic—quite the contrary. Instead, the Great Resignation is an opportunity to reset, refresh, and move forward on a realigned and better-defined path. 

As a significant portion of the workforce is grappling with their values, priorities, and what they want out of life, it’s the perfect opportunity for companies to do the same—exploring values, philosophy, and culture. 

Finding the right fit is an exercise in transparency and truth-telling. And now’s the time to seize the opportunity and build your perfect team.

Stuart McLeod
CEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

Stuart started his first business 11 years ago and has had many successful ventures, including Paycycle, founded in 2009, which he sold to Xero in 2011. He then built the global Xero Payroll team that delivers payroll software across the US, AU, UK and NZ markets. Stuart is now paving the way for smarter tools to improve how knowledge workers collaborate with their colleagues and look after their clients.