The Uncomfortable Consequences of Accepting a New Job and How to Mitigate
You’ve explored your options, researched the companies and leaders, invested hours in interviews, compared against your criteria and, finally, accepted a job offer. Congratulations! Your excited, hopeful, and cannot wait to get started.
Then it hits you. Maybe the next day or maybe after your first few days on the job. Some describe it as a feeling of dreed, a sense of anxiety, or just floods of doubts and fears filling your head. Most people who have shared this experience with me were caught off guard and surprised by the negative chatter and anxiety producing self talk such as, “did I make the right choice, did I negotiate enough, will this be what I expect, are my assumptions accurate, is this the right move, can I trust the promises and impressions made?”.
Accepting a job offer is a big decision and it is no surprise that many people experience some degree of ‘buyer’s remorse’. Buyer’s remorse can catch us off guard even with low value purchases and even when we use a thorough process to make our decisions as discovered by Zachery Crocket in his extensive review of the research on buyer’s remorse.1
So, despite being thorough in your job evaluation process, you might still experience this triggering of the fight or flight response. When confronted with change and unknowns our nervous system can trigger a cautionary or full out freeze or ‘run away’ reaction. In trying to make sense of our negative feelings we often look for the reasons outside, speculating we missed something, not realizing that it is our inside out perspective that triggered it all. Even if we understand how our thinking is triggering it or discover previous stories are behind the trigger, such as your last job move didn’t go well, or your spouse has doubts, or it just hit you that you will be leaving relationships and forming new ones triggering memories of difficult childhood moves, we can still be caught in the feeling of dread or anxiety.
Whatever stories, doubts, or questions are formed in your mind be reassured that this is normal and that your thinking is just thoughts that may or may not be true. It is our thinking, since we are conscious beings that think, that then forms our feelings but because this ‘thinking’ process happens so fast we often look for evidence outside of ourselves to explain these feelings of dreed and anxiety. We can always ‘find’ evidence skewed to our ‘remorse’ focus, thanks to our Reticular Activating System, thus pulling us into a vicious cycle of more downhill thinking.
What you need to do in this state is to PAUSE, take a breath, and pay attention to the feeling.
The example I like to use here is this. We can understand gravity, just like we can understand it is our thinking or hidden beliefs causing the feeling, but just because we understand gravity doesn’t mean we will not hit the ground if we trip. In the same way we cannot think our way out of our stress response.
To move out of a stress response triggered by ‘buyers’ remorse’ and potentially even greater negative thinking, somatic therapy encourages us to pause and focus on the feeling and sensation in our body to lower the stress response. We are to shift our attention to sense where it is and describe it. What does it look like, feel like, is it moving fast or slow, what color or size is it?
By directing awareness into the sensation and just being with it helps to calm the nervous system. This process might only take it down a little and it might come back up again but be patient and be curious about the sensations.
Only once we are calmed will we more easily move back into our executive brain for a more reasonable assessment of our decision. Until we move through and unhook our reptilian like brain ‘reaction’, our brain is awash with anxiety producing hormones that are focused on getting us to safety which might be running away from whatever we were initially excitedly moving towards (our new job).
Once calmed, I encourage new hires to go back to the criteria that they established at the beginning of their search and review all the discoveries they made that validated why this new position is a good fit for their purpose, values, and objectives.
Once calmed new hires have reported that they can see the bigger picture, their original enthusiasm returns, and they have more confidence to manage things that may not be as they expected.
In fact, in any new job you will probably discover a lack of clarity on many items and even some disappointments but, having accepted and calmed the ‘buyers remorse cyclone of dread’ you can now move into a constructive process. I recommend making a list of all your questions and the discussions you need to have in the onboarding process.
Starting a new job means setting up a lot of new agreements with the new company, new manager, new peers, new reports, and new stakeholders. It is critical to address and move past any ‘buyer’s remorse’ mindset or dread so you can focus on how to constructively have these important conversations to set up for productive relationships versus being overwhelmed or distracted by what ifs and anxiety.
Buyer’s remorse is real and the easiest way past it is to settle into it and calm your stress response, so you can utilize your more resourceful and insightful self to see more options to meet your needs and the needs of those you are building a new relationship with.