That should be the bumper sticker for 90% of the people I know working in Corporate America (I reserve the right to exaggerate for poetic license.) These are the people who earwig you constantly about the “idiots” who run their company, the ridiculous bureaucracy, the bleak prospects for a happy future, the unfair or even abusive conditions they face every day; yet they stay. Pourquoi?

Why would people stay in a situation they dislike or even hate? Simple – misery is more comfortable than uncertainty.

This, my friends, is what’s known as the folly of fools. The “stories” we would never sell to others, we then find very easy to accept ourselves. We cannot tolerate the unknown, so we default to that which we have grown accustomed, as if we are “controlling” our place in life. That mindset is why people are caught completely blindsided by a layoff, job elimination, re-shuffling of responsibility, etc. We live in a false sense of certainty, when in fact we have no idea what is to come despite our best efforts to control outcomes. These are not the corporate caregivers our parents enjoyed; at the very least, it might be a good idea to have an updated resume on hand, right?

I have a friend who sits in a fairly comfortable corporate gig (nothing inherently wrong with corporate gigs, I’m just providing detail.) He hates it. Has hated it for years. On the other hand, he’s paid handsomely for this job he hates, so the proverbial “golden handcuffs” keep him attached to this position. He’s turned down several opportunities to leave over the years, mainly because there are no guarantees he would not regret his decision. Do any of us still believe there are “guarantees” for anything? So, he sits and waits for a miraculous change of heart, or, more likely a forced decision – i.e., maybe he’ll be lucky enough to be laid off & get on with his life.


“Heads I stay, tails…ah, screw it.”

I get it, I’ve been there m’self. Paychecks and benefits are good stuff. But they also contribute to the illusion of “certainty.” With the volatile and unpredictable nature of the job market today, it’s more & more likely that everyone will face at least the threat of displacement ~ change your outlook and realize it may not be a threat after all. Life’s too short to be miserable, even if it means forsaking great dental benefits.

“The defining nature of uncertainty is its very unmanageability. Seeking to control it is like trying to rearrange fog.” (Pritchett, Hacking Uncertainty)

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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