‘Boomerang’ Employees Are Back in Force. Why You Should – or Shouldn’t – Try to Get Your Old Job Back
Goh Chiew Tong
If you are settling into your new gig and realizing that it’s far from the dream job you envisioned – you’re not alone.
A 2022 research from payroll firm UKG found that 43% of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were actually better off in their old job.
It also reported that nearly 1 in 5 people who quit during the pandemic have already gone back to the job they left.
These individuals are sometimes referred to as boomerang employees, and they could be the next big trend after the so-called Great Resignation, according to workplace experts who spoke to CNBC Make It.
The Great Resignation, or the Great Reshuffle, saw waves of workers leaving their jobs during the pandemic for higher pay or what they perceived as greener pastures.
“It definitely forced some nascent, somewhat aspirational ideas we had about work to the forefront of our brain,” said Brad Harris, a management and human resources professor at HEC Paris.
“To start, a lot of us were thrown into a sort of shock when COVID hit and decided to leave previously-tolerable employers for options we hoped would give us more control, more money, or just some different ‘scenery.’”
But now that the world has returned to some pre-Covid normalcy, “our old gigs might look a little better,” added Harris, who was part of a team who conducted research on boomerang employees.
“Coinciding with all of this, our old organizations may have changed and adapted since our departure in ways that improve their value proposition. Maybe they’re more flexible... maybe they’ve had a chance to adjust their compensation strategy.”
Will your former employer want you back?
Thankfully, employers are inclined to receive alumni with open arms, according to experts.
“The Great Reshuffle obviously plays a big part, based on months of record-high resignations. As employees were resigning, a talent shortage was created in many roles,” said Jennifer Brick, a career coach.
“We’ve seen an emerging trend in talent acquisition to target former employees – they know the business, the workplace culture, and have lower onboarding costs.”
Harris agreed, saying that the hot labor market makes a boomerang talent strategy “more palatable” for organizations that previously avoided it.
“Of course, there are still some employers that are pretty anti-boomerang hiring because... they think it sends a harmful signal to other employees about loyalty,” he added.
But if you were a high performer at your previous job, you may have little to worry about because your former employer might already be keeping tabs on you.
Amy Zimmerman, the chief people officer of Relay Payments said: “What company wouldn’t want to rehire a former star that already knows their business?”
“Also, it’s a great way to retain other team members who might be contemplating greener pastures for them to see a high performer return,” she added.
What’s in it for you?
The biggest pros about returning to your old job center around familiarity, the experts told CNBC.
You’re going back to “the devil you know,” said Zimmerman, pointing out that there’s already prior knowledge of the people and company culture.
Time away may help employees to “scratch their itch” or “calibrate their own values,” but that can cut both ways too, said Harris.
He added: “Best case, you get a raise or a change in the working arrangement that implies your value is somehow more accurately realized.”
Brick observed that many of her clients who “boomeranged” have “stepped right back onto their career track.”
“Some have even received promotions as they return.”
When to think twice...
However, not everyone will be happy about that.
“If they get a promotion, or some other special treatment for returning, it could alienate some of their colleagues and create a rift in their relationships,” said Zimmerman.
Workplace experts also cautioned that things at your old gig may not be as rosy as it seems.
The biggest downside is “ensuring that the reason you left in the first place has been addressed or resolved,” said Zimmerman.
But that’s easier said than done.
“Social psychologists have shown us that we as humans have a remarkable tendency to fall back into unhealthy personal relationships and this probably holds true at work too,” said Harris.
That’s why it’s important to assess “why you left and why you want to return” – to make sure the move to return to your old job “makes sense,” he stressed.
“We probably assume more has changed, about ourselves and our employer, than really has. Things may seem better in the short-term, but there’s a real risk that they quickly revert back to the old way.”
If your reasons for leaving before were incompetent leadership or a toxic work culture, they are “still likely to be there,” Brick pointed out.
“You might want to think twice before signing the dotted line again.”