A New Deal for the Great Resignation

October 28, 2021
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

These statistics in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review caught my eye:

Despite the $15 billion companies spend annually on managerial and leadership development, bad bosses are common in the American workforce. A study by Life Meets Work found that 56% of American workers claim their boss is mildly or highly toxic. A study by the American Psychological Association found that 75% of Americans say their “boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”
And a recent study by Gallup found that one in two employees have left a job “to get away from their manager at some point in their career.”

Over the years, I’ve quoted many studies that have similar sentiments to the numbers in this article. But the evidence continues to overwhelm. Here’s another striking paragraph from the same article:

A study of 3,122 Swedish male employees found that those who work for toxic bosses were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening cardiac condition. Other studies in American workplaces show that people with toxic bosses are more susceptible to chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, all of which increase the risk of a lowered immune system, colds, strokes, and even heart attacks. Some studies show that it may take up to 22 months to recover physically and emotionally from a toxic boss. While the idea of quitting may seem scary, the reality of staying in a job with a toxic boss can be even scarier.

I can’t say this enough, the way we lead impacts the way people live. And the consequences of poor leadership are becoming more and more obvious in our world today.

For instance, there’s currently a lot of coverage in the news about the “Great Resignation” occurring right now in the U.S. According to a recent report by National Public Radio, a record 4.3 million workers in this country quit their jobs in August.

Why this “Great Resignation” is happening is the subject of much debate. The NPR article went on to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made workers reevaluate what they are actually getting out of their jobs, but also that:

Employers are also having to rethink what their employees really need.
NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with Laszlo Bock, co-founder and CEO of the human resources company Humu, about the basic human need for respect.
"You know, in the pandemic, people have talked a lot about essential workers, but we actually treat them as essential jobs," said Bock. "We treat the workers as quite replaceable."

When you treat people as if they are replaceable, you are saying they do not matter. For too long, many business leaders have thought that people should be grateful and happy simply because they have a job.

So, just maybe, part of this “Great Resignation” is that people are tired of being “quite replaceable.” Maybe they’re tired of being considered a function, rather than a person.

Maybe they’re tired of the toxic leadership described in the statistics above that is lessening their quality of life and stripping them of their dignity.

Maybe one of the biggest causes of the “Great Resignation” is poor leadership.

Maybe it’s not them, it’s you.

Every one of us, no matter what our job or where we live, simply want to know that who we are and what we do matters. As leaders in business, we have the awesome responsibility to let people know that they do.

When so many people go home each night not feeling valued, it is no surprise that they finally break and decide that they need to figure out something better for their life. Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic was the tipping point.

Workers are looking for a “New Deal” that is not just about money and benefits. It’s about work that is fulfilling with leaders who take seriously their responsibility to recognize the inherent dignity in our people and honor it, not break it.

If businesses are spending $15 billion yearly on “managerial and leadership development,” yet we still see statistics like those listed in the HBR article, things are not getting any better.

Here’s some advice—unless they are teaching your people how to care, save that money. Teaching them to change their mindset and start seeing those within their span of care as someone’s precious child, not a replaceable function. Teaching them how to empathically listen. Teaching them how to recognize and celebrate their team.

And if you think that is a simplistic way to look at things, let me tell you this: the ROI for caring is much greater than you could ever measure in KPIs.

The ROI of Caring is having teammates who are healthier because they feel valued and understood by their leaders and teammates. It’s the opposite of the toxicity described in the statistics above. And because those people feel fulfilled by the time they’re spending away from their homes and families, they are inspired and energized instead of stressed. And when they go home to their loved ones, they share that joy and fulfillment instead of the stress and bitterness of feeling unappreciated and insignificant.

Doesn’t that sound like a “New Deal” that could solve the “Great Resignation?” It’s certainly different than what we have seen for a while in a majority of workplaces, across every industry, around the world.

This is my fireside chat with you, leaders. It’s not them, it’s you. Let’s start taking our responsibility to those within our span of care seriously. Workers can get the “Old Deal” anywhere. It’s up to you to offer them something more.

Related Posts

Need help in applying principles of Truly Human Leadership in your organization? Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute is Barry-Wehmiller's leadership consulting firm that partners with other companies to create strategic visions, engage employees, improve corporate culture and develop outstanding leaders through leadership training, assessments and workshops.

Find out more at ccoleadership.com