According to business websites and media around the world, The Great Resignation that took place during Covid is over. Back then, more than four million workers in the US alone quit their job every month, the pandemic having made them feel they wanted more flexibility, creativity and, yes, fun in their future lives. But now it’s being replaced by something new—The Great Resentment.
With Deloitte Access Economics warning in April that the Australian economy is on a knife edge and facing consumer recession, employees are increasingly concerned about job security. Many are changing their mindset from, ‘I want to leave this job, where can I go?’ to ‘I need to stay’. Fear is a driving force right now in career decision making.
In a survey conducted with 1000 employees by Elmo Software, 81 per cent were concerned they could lose their jobs and 70 per cent were fearful to move on. What this represents is a real opportunity for leaders to step up and role model wellbeing in the workplace to ensure we keep our employees and teams healthy, mentally and physically.
It’s a really powerful way for leaders to respond to changing conditions. Because the more we look after our employees, the better everything will be: better culture, better productivity, better results. The bottom line is it makes sense to do it and try to cut off at the pass any resentment that may be brewing with your employees.
What are employees now resenting?
For a start, feeling trapped where a year or two ago they felt they had the whip hand and could make career choices based on lifestyle dreams.
They might feel less valued, underpaid, they feel like they have to stay because of the fear of what’s happening with world economies and politics now. That all has an influence on how people are feeling in the workplace.
In 2023 we’ve learned so much in terms of what people want, and that leaders want people back in the workforce. Perhaps sick of the isolation of working from home, people are quite happy to be back in the workplace—but they don’t want to be tied to it in that old school ball and chain scenario of Monday to Friday working dawn to midnight. It’s the leader’s role to model wellbeing by allowing the team to create the balance that works for each individual – and trusting them to do so.
They have to act as a leader how they’d want to be treated as an employee.
Yes, easier said than done. Often leaders don’t allow themselves the flexibility to do that, especially if they’re my generation or older. We were first at the office, last to leave, would never have said we were going for a mani-pedi at lunch time or even just to lunch. If we had kids, we didn’t talk about them—and definitely didn’t openly leave early to do soccer or swimming drop-offs.
So, it’s an absolute mindset flip for us as leaders as well. If we’re going to be smarter and get the best out of people who are potentially two or even three generations younger, we have to be thinking differently.
Five Ways to Role Model Well Being as Leaders:
- Demonstrate that some flexibility is not just okay but desirable. Take off at lunchtime to go for a walk, take lunch to the park or hit the gym. Simple things. Decide you want to go home at 4pm on Wednesdays to miss the traffic and have dinner with the family, then follow through on that.
- Move away from managing hours to managing output. This is nothing new but actually enacting it seems quite challenging for some leaders. If you create that autonomy with people by saying, ‘I want you to do this amount of work but you can create the time blueprint that works best for you’, the flow-on effects are huge. Being trusted makes people feel valued.
- Understand the framework you operate in. If you’re in a client facing role, you still need to meet client expectations as well as the organisation’s. Align expectations and understand what people’s priorities are. Make work feel like an opportunity, not a burden.
- Think like you’re leading a small business, not a large organisation. Create the change that small businesses seem so good at doing. Once you start changing mindsets and role modelling wellbeing, performance will change and questions will be asked about how you’re achieving your results. You can share the story: when you accommodate people and trust them, they work harder and faster for you. Treating people as adults with lives outside work will repay that investment tenfold.
- Have one on one conversations. It’s a powerful and accessible tool to understand where people are at and what they need, which means you’ll know how to get the best out of them and how they’re going. Then you’ll have a broad picture of how individuals can collaborate as a team and what you can do together to support wellbeing, both in a social and work setting.
The goal is to think differently about things and not be so set in our ways that things have to be nine to five. That you can’t leave before a particular time because the boss never does. That you have to be the last to turn off the lights. Resentment is tough to fix once it creeps into a culture. Get the jump on it now.
You can have people at the office bang on time and have 100 per cent attendance but if people are doing it begrudgingly, it will 100 per cent damage your engagement and employee satisfaction. Which in turn will impact your client satisfaction, which in turn will damage your bottom line and also potentially damage your brand because your employees will invariably talk about your business in a negative way.
You have to really sit down and assess what is the benefit in not having wellbeing as a high priority, even in a market where employees may have less power to negotiate dollars and conditions.
For me, it’s a no brainer.