The labor market seems almost resigned to its fate brought about by The Great Resignation. Qualified, experienced professionals have been leaving in hordes since early 2021, with no signs of abating.
The numbers tell it all. In the United States, a record 4.5 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in March. Globally, this trend is manifesting in the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. Last December, a survey by job portal Indeed revealed that nearly a quarter of Singaporean workers were planning to call it quits in the first half of 2022, signaling that Singapore could face the same ‘Great Resignation’ trend that is raging in the United States and Europe. Almost half of the 1,002 respondents surveyed were unsure if they would remain in their current jobs over the next six months. 49 percent of workers cited the pandemic as a major push in their decision to quit as it made them realize that they didn’t like their current jobs. A substantial number attributed their unhappiness to increased stress levels, heavier workloads, burnout, and isolation.
It is far too easy to blame the pandemic for this mass exodus phenomenon. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has redefined workers' needs and their demands for more work flexibility. Employees are re-evaluating life priorities after having had a taste of working from home and embracing career downsizing over a deskbound corporate life.
Before the pandemic, people have been quitting for a myriad of reasons. Better pay, better benefits, better opportunities. When Covid-19 swept the world, everyone held on fiercely to their jobs to guard against economic uncertainty. While staying put in their jobs and juggling work from home with no means of traveling to unwind; people began experiencing burnout. They started to question the value of work and life’s purposes, even as their savings grew. And after two years of remote work, a torrent of employee backlash erupted when employers started demanding employees back in the office. Employees are quitting rather than giving up work from home.
Is the reason as simple as wanting more flexibility and work-life balance?
Turns out, the biggest quit reason driving The Great Resignation is actually a toxic work culture, according to a recent FlexJobs survey. This echoed similar findings from MIT Sloan Management Review which found that a toxic corporate culture is 10 times more powerful than pay in predicting employee turnover. A poll commissioned by Prudential Singapore to explore the impact of The Great Resignation on retirement and financial planning amongst Singaporeans (who had resigned or have the intention to quit) generated similar sentiments: 34 percent wanted to leave a toxic work environment and another 34 percent needed a mental health break.
Employees complain about a lot of things. A trivial misgiving can easily escalate into a mountain of amplified negativity at work. But is that enough to warrant a work culture as toxic? How do you define the level of toxicity versus mere feelings of irritation?
Unfair work practices or non-inclusive culture that discriminates against gender, age, race, disability, or sexual orientation. When employees are not being seen, heard, welcomed, or valued at work, and are excluded from key decisions or subjected to unfair treatment; a toxic workplace is at play.
Narcissistic leadership When autocratic bosses cannot be questioned by subordinates and demand 100% agreement, it’s time to pack up.
Abusive management Workplace bullying cannot be condoned. If there are signs of harassment, hostility, and disrespectful behavior that lacks dignity for others, walk away.
Tolerance of racist/ sexist jokes shows no consideration for employees in the workplace.
High employee turnover/ High employee sickness rate is an indication that something isn’t right in the workplace. Toxic environments create high levels of stress, illnesses, and burnout.
No work-life balance If you find yourself constantly working late nights and weekends, and are expected to be “always-on” by micro-managing bosses, this is a sure-fire sign to get out for your health’s sake.
Unmotivated co-workers who go through the motion with no work passion tell of an unhappy culture. Misery loves company and all that negativity is unlikely to dissipate overnight.
Gossip, rumors, and drama are rife, affecting employee morale and creating distrust, anxiety, and depression among employees. Don’t ignore these signs of psychological effects.
Lack of psychological safety When employees don’t feel secure in making mistakes or have a constant fear of failure, it means that the environment does not make them feel safe at all.
Lack of communication When no one is clear on their roles and gets no help or information to perform their jobs, it breeds confusion and displays a lack of responsibility from the company.
When do you decide to leave? The clearest tell-tale signs are when any of these negativities start showing up in the form of physical symptoms that affects our personal life, physical health, and mental state. Our wise bodies have in-built intel that raises red flags whenever we are threatened. If you are experiencing sleeping disorders, persistent headaches or other ailments, or finding yourself too stressed to eat properly (or overeat), chances are that you are reacting to a toxic work environment. Worse, if you find yourself dreading going to work each day, it’s high time to do something about it.
Most of us procrastinate. But when a toxic situation is affecting your physical and mental health, do something about it. Giving yourself a timeline not only makes you accountable for your decision but also motivates you to take that action to regain your health and have a chance at your next career.
Adopting a “wait and see” approach in a toxic situation is akin to staying in an abusive relationship. Don’t try to rationalize and give reasons for toxicity. If nothing has changed despite actions taken, nothing will change. Ramp up your job search efforts. There is always another worthy employer looking for a talent like you.
You might be interested to know: If The Future Is Remote, Will Work-Life Balance Thrive Or Suffer?
It’s about rethinking traditional employment archetypes. Can we progress from an economy built on full time employment habitually enslaved by unemployment fears, to one where individuals have greater autonomy and are self motivated to do work that inspires them? And as a result, benefit the economy as a whole?
You can’t own full time employees. But you can build a winning team with talent management companies. As businesses demand more, external talents are emerging as the sure forerunners of an agile workforce. At Chance Upon, we partner businesses to get a head start over competition by creating collaborative work between companies and the right talents.