‘Tis the season for ‘job cuffing.’ How to avoid the trend

When it comes to buzzwords, the HR industry never seems to run out of new concepts.

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With that, another new and timely buzzword has emerged: “job cuffing”—a variation on “relationship cuffing,” or staying “handcuffed” in a coupling for a defined period of time, particularly through the holiday season and cold winter months.

While job cuffing involves a delay in “breaking up” with an employer, it also suggests that during this time, workers decelerate into slowdown mode, doing as little work as is acceptably possible—similar to the Great Resignation-driven “quiet quitting” phenomenon—which, experts say, can have long-term impacts on an organization.

What’s driving job cuffing?

While employers are typically more likely to sit tight in unhappy jobs until after the start of a new year, this year may have even more workers being willing to stay put because of ongoing economic uncertainty, says Joe Galvin, chief research officer at Vistage, a global executive coaching advisory firm.

“Mainly, the concept of job cuffing stems from the idea that enduring the winter months might lead to a more thriving job market during the spring,” he says.

Employees may also be more willing to stick it out to secure end-of-year bonuses, raises and promotions, which often happen in Q4 or the beginning of the calendar year. The desire to use up PTO for the holidays is also a consideration, he adds.

Job hunting typically decreases in December, as candidates prioritize the “life” aspect in their work/life balance equation, and certain companies scale back hiring toward year’s end. Also, many workers place a premium on stability during this high-expense time of year.

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Joe Galvin
Joe Galvin

Instead, Galvin says, “Spring is often associated with ‘new,’ and employees may feel ready to ‘spring clean’ their resumes and seek a new position that better matches their career goals.”

Reducing the risk through EX investment

As employees bide their time to make a move, job cuffing can actually have significant effects on the workplace. In particular, he says, workforce dynamics, productivity and organizational operations can all take a hit, as disengaged employees just keep reporting to work while waiting to resume a job hunt.

What can HR leaders do? First, he says, understanding that this seasonal slowdown may be happening in job activity is crucial.

To address the retention risk before springtime arrives, HR should evaluate the employee experience workers want and ensure it’s delivered, such as by offering more flexible working agreements. This could ultimately increase employee morale and loyalty and dissuade top performers from looking elsewhere once the calendar turns.

They should also look to the long-term—beyond these slow winter months. For instance, professional development and training programs, particularly offered during this period of time, can help “keep employees engaged and motivated,” Galvin says, as can performance management conversations.

“Timed to end-of-year reviews, now is the perfect time to assess employees’ goals and ensure they are in a role or working on projects that they are invested in.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].