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The Great Resignation is Surfacing Bad Leadership

Leadership and great resignation

It is time to stop making excuses for intolerant jerks who use threats and intimidation to get work completed for your organization.  You were able to hide your bad supervisors and managers in the past. No longer!  The great resignation is now surfacing bad leadership because employees have choices.  Overlay the dominant millennial generation and the emergence of Gen Z on the current corporate landscape, and bad leadership is the root of all your current talent problems.

In the past, baby boomers (1946-1963) tolerated bad leadership because their parents lived through the great depression and reminded them of the importance of staying loyal to one company.  They had pensions to earn in the hopes of permanent income and stability.  This generation would tolerate lousy leadership as a trade-off for permanent financial security.

In 2015, millennials (1981-2000) eclipsed the boomers as the top demographic in today’s workplace.  Leadership as a retention strategy was gaining momentum slowly as more boomers retired and millennials emerged as leaders.  Enter the pandemic of 2020, and the suspension of most non-essential workers upended the entire proposition of work for pay.  Work from home (WFH) was the new norm rather than the exception for many jobs.  This shift in worker mindset, created by the pandemic, made people rethink and, more importantly, redesign the workplace paradigm.  Everything we know about work looks different suddenly.

As the pandemic eases and companies seek a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, workers have new expectations.  These expectations surfaced the problem.  Companies may have changed how people work.  However, they have not changed who people work for on the job.  The bad supervisor of 2019 is not acceptable in 2021.  If you are experiencing talent retention problems, supervisors are the core of your challenge.

According to Inc. magazine, 40% of people are quitting their jobs because of burnout.  Burnout occurs when someone is highly challenged and underappreciated at work.  People quitting jobs in 2021 hit an all-time high in August after growing in each of the five preceding months.  There are no signs of this slowing down.  Limeade completed a study of 1000 workers who recently quit jobs.  They are leaving jobs as opposed to being attracted to something better.  The genesis for the great resignation is a negative perception of the current leadership.

Inc. also stated that inflexibility on the current job led them to seek more opportunities.  A leadership team that will not embrace flexibility when possible is doomed to lose top talent.  If you do not change orthodoxy regarding work scheduling and expectations, you will be surprised when a key performer gives notice.  Give your employees credit for being intelligent.  They could be productive remotely while working when they wanted to or needed to meet business needs.  Asking them to give that up will not work.  Take immediate action to develop long-term, flexible working options for your company.  Simple shift substitution strategies for inflexible work schedules are adequate to maintain options.  Announce these new policies soon to mitigate pending resignations on your team.  Do not delay!

Finally, people are quitting for different cultures that care about them.  Transactional work for pay is no longer desirable because the face of your culture is the frontline supervisor.  Conversations in the boardroom are irrelevant if supervisors and managers are not modeling behavior on the frontlines.  Organizational mission, vision, and value retreats are a waste of time and money when frontline leadership does not behave to support those values.  Managers must learn how to lead company values by defining and modeling the behavior on the job.

AS you can see, the great resignation is a reaction to inadequate leadership and antiquated policies.  The response to the pandemic amplified the innate desires of a new generation of workers.  The current environment is a  headwind or a tailwind for talent, and teaching your supervisors and managers can be a competitive advantage for talent attraction and retention.  You can attract talent from organizations with ignorant (they do not know better) frontline leadership, or you can repel your best people toward better organizations with leaders who understand what is going on with today’s workforce.  It is a choice at this point.

Investing in supervisor leadership training on this topic is the most important strategic opportunity for your business.  People do not quit companies.  They quit bosses.  However, bosses must be equipped with the knowledge and authority to implement a different approach for work.  Asking them to do better without changing is the definition of insanity.  You cannot improve without changing.

The great resignation is a gift to some organizations and a curse to many others.  Take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to redefine your culture.  You can blame the pandemic for the changes you needed to make before 2020 occurred.  This training imperative is no longer a luxury to happen when you can afford it.  It is necessary to prevent other, better-trained organizations with capable leadership from stealing your best people.  Get it done!