First there was “quiet quitting,” (1) which describes when disgruntled employees decide to perform their duties — and only their duties. Basically, they fulfil their employment agreement, but they do not commit to their jobs.
Now, a new phenomenon is making its way across the business landscape that could make quiet quitting seem like a walk in the park: “resenteeism.”
Resenteeism refers to a scenario in which unhappy employees remain in an unsatisfying job, because they do not perceive better options elsewhere, or they fear job insecurity. Yes, so far this sounds a lot like quiet quitting. But here is the twist: employees with a case of resenteeism do not dole out their unhappiness behind the scenes or under the radar through various acts of passive aggression. On the contrary, they regularly go out of their way to express their frustration and foster a toxic work environment. Asking these people “how are you?” is never a good idea.
What’s behind the rise of resenteeism? Some observers (2) say that this is the inevitable consequence of the “Great Resignation”(3) and the “Great Retirement,” (4) which have both contributed to ongoing staff shortages in many organizations; especially in sectors like retail (5) and healthcare (6). Some employees who remained in their roles during the pandemic — often taking on additional tasks and responsibilities to pick up the slack — now feel undervalued and unfairly treated, which is triggering their anger and draining their motivation.
What’s more, skyrocketing inflation and an impending recession are amplifying financial anxieties. Even with a near record-low unemployment rate (7) and an economy that is demonstrating remarkable resilience (8), many resentful employees feel that staying put is their only viable option.
What can employers do to extinguish (or at the very least, douse) the flames of resenteeism across their workforce? Pam Hinds, an HR executive credited with coining the term resenteeism in early 2023 (9) — urges managers to consider the following:
- Encourage open communication: Create an environment where employees feel safe voicing concerns and opinions.
- Be supportive of time off: If your team needs to take some extra annual leave, don’t just allow it — encourage it.
- Provide support: Offer resources like mental health support to help struggling staff.
- Promote professional development: Invest in employees and ensure they have clear paths for career advancement.
- Focus on employee engagement: Listen to your team, act on their feedback, and prioritize their needs.
- Show appreciation: Create a culture of positivity, celebrate team success, and reward staff for their efforts.
Hinds also has some advice for employees who are suffering from resenteeism:
- Communicate your concerns: Speak with your manager or HR department about your frustration. Give specific examples of what’s causing your dissatisfaction.
- Identify potential solutions: Clearly express what you need from your job to feel fulfilled and motivated. Discuss with your manager what you’re looking for in terms of career growth, work-life balance, and job satisfaction.
- Take care of yourself: Don’t let resentment consume you. Take care of your physical and mental health. Take time off when needed.
- Look for other opportunities: Explore opportunities for professional development and growth within the company. If this doesn’t help, then start looking for a new job that aligns with your values and career goals — even if it’s in a completely new field.
- Keep perspective: Remember that your job is not the only part of your life. It is OK for a job to just be a job.
(1) Employee Disengagement and “Quiet Quitting”: A Growing Trend – Pivotal Solutions
(3) The “Great Resignation” a.k.a “Turnover Tsunami” continues… on both sides of the border – Pivotal Solutions
(4) Canada’s Answer to the Great Resignation? Behold the Great Retirement – Pivotal Solutions
(5) Staffing Shortages Remains a Significant Challenge for Retailers in Canada – Retail Insider
(7) Labour Force Survey, January 2023 – Statistics Canada
(8) International Monetary Fund report confirms resilience of Canadian economy – Department of Finance Canada