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The Great Resignation: Resting Your Mind and Avoiding Toxic Cultures?

culture meaningful work people teams turnover Feb 15, 2022

Understanding The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation can be challenging to understand. Questions abound. Who is leaving? Why are employees leaving their jobs? Where are they going? What can leaders learn from this unprecedented time of transition? These are good questions, and the quest to understand has spurred articles, conversations, and a great deal of research. While reading through some research on The Great Resignation, one statement caught my attention well before I began to dig into the data. Most people were thinking about leaving their jobs before they left.

Sure, plenty of people make quick decisions in anger or frustration. Some quit because of a single precipitating event, or they reach that moment when stress levels reach the proverbial boiling point. However, I am convinced that I paused when I read the statement because I had seen the evidence. Most employees think about leaving before they do. Exploring these thoughts sounds like risky business. Do you really want to offer a penny for the thoughts of someone who seems disengaged?

The relative health or toxicity of your culture contributes to the thinking patterns of your team and whether employees are considering their efforts and exit. Leaders lean into opportunities to learn and transform culture.

It's time to think of resignation as more of a process than an event. Some employees resign long before they leave. Some employees quit without any intention of leaving. Although typical, employee stress is not easily understood. It may be tempting to distance yourself from the complexity of "people problems." There is a better way forward. Here are four things that will help you respond when you begin to recognize the signs of resignation.

Have a respectful conversation. 

Under the surface, your team members share a desire to be valued. A respectful discussion provides a way to communicate respect. Use your voice and actions to communicate three messages. I value you as a person. I see you. I hear you.

Are you avoiding conversations with team members who seem disengaged?

Resist the temptation to personalize what they hear. 

Most of us have felt the sting of loss. When a team member is dissatisfied, it's easy to feel rejected. It's natural to translate thoughts about resignation as a message of personal rejection. Be proactive. Establish a respectful tone and lower defensiveness.

When is your next opportunity to practice listening without defensiveness?

Communicate positive intent.

Whether an employee chooses to stay or leave may be beyond your control, but one thing is in your control. Your behavior. The best leadership can be boiled down to a couple of differentiators: solving problems and making decisions. The best leaders have learned to recognize and overcome the obstacles that thwart reactionary decision-making processes. Positive intent is the glue that connects people with solutions and better decisions.

Are you able to redirect your attention away from snap judgments and toward solutions?

Reaffirm the value of purpose. 

Tough conversations about resignation provide a remarkable practice field for wise and compassionate leadership. Model the way. Other team members are watching and learning from your example. Resignation is a decision. Purpose provides a helpful lens for viewing big life-altering choices. What would happen if you asked a team member whether the decision to resign is aligned with a deeper sense of purpose for your life?

What are the thoughtful questions you are not asking?

Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

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