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

HR should think proactively about "job cuffing" during the slow winter months to avoid disruptions and talent loss.
By: | December 21, 2023

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

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, employees decelerate into slowdown mode, doing as little work as is acceptably possible—similar to the Great Resignation—driven “quiet quitting” phenomenon—which, experts said, can have long-term impacts on an organisation.

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 employees being willing to stay put because of ongoing economic uncertainty, said Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer at Vistage, a global executive coaching advisory organisation.

“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 said.

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 paid time off (PTO) for the holidays is also a consideration, he added.

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

Instead, Galvin said, “Spring is often associated with ‘new’, and employees may feel ready to ‘spring clean’ their resumes and seek a new position that 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 said, workforce dynamics, productivity and organisational 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 said, 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 employees want and ensure it is delivered, such as by offering more flexible working arrangements. This could ultimately increase employee morale and loyalty and dissuade top performers from looking elsewhere once the calendar turns.

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

About the author: Tom Starner is a freelance writer. This article was first published on Human Resource Executive.