The term Golden Handcuffs slipped into the vernacular in the 1970s. It describes the retention efforts of employers to keep highly valued employees from jumping ship. Its definition initially referred to additional base pay, bonuses, benefits, stock options and other perks that made it next to impossible for wearers to escape their job.
Today, in the post-Great Recession period, the definition of Golden Handcuffs has grown significantly to include all workers who feel tethered to a job or career by student loan debt, a mortgage, the need to support a family or feeling trapped by a lack of opportunities.
Golden Handcuff Quiz
To gain awareness of whether you are wearing golden handcuffs, count the number of the statements below that describe your life.
- I am not happy with my job, but enjoy my income and lifestyle.
- I lack enthusiasm for my current job, but I am good at it.
- I don’t care for my job, but I enjoy the relationships I have at work.
- I have been here too long to be attractive to another organization or go into business for myself.
- The chances of my finding a job that pays about the same are small.
- Change is harder and riskier than doing nothing.
- I don’t know how to start a job search.
- Work takes all my emotional energy so I have none to look for a new job.
If you said, “yes” to none or one of the eight statements, you probably aren’t wearing Golden Handcuffs. If you agreed with two or more, you might be cuffed.
But, don’t rush to quit your job just yet. There are steps to take to determine your readiness to make a job or career change. Start by asking yourself the following questions.
What are my assumptions? Think you can’t live on less? Create a budget and look for spending that is unnecessary (satisfying wants and not needs). Don’t think you can change jobs or career due to pay issues? Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics or this calculator. Don’t know who is hiring? There are more job boards than you may realize, and some are career specific. If you are a manager or executive recruiters definitely want to talk to you. Find them on LinkedIn, a web search or through your network.
What do I value? There are hundreds to choose from such as family, friends, travel, a larger home, honesty, integrity, time, love, health. Pick your top five values and write them down.
Am I living my values? Use a one to 10 scale with 10 being living your values fully, and pick the number that represents where you are today in living that value.
What actions can I take to align my values and my life? Depending on your values, you might ask for more flexibility in your work hours, repair a key relationship or take more time off.
If your answers are clear that you need to move onto a new job or career, create your action plan and shed the handcuffs that are holding you back from the life you deserve.
Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC in Naperville, Illinois, and specializes in leadership and life transition coaching.