Leadership & HR

Why leading with compassion could be your silver bullet in the era of The Great Resignation. By Julia Marchionda.

New year, new job. That’s how the saying goes… right?

If it feels like 97.3% of the posts you’re seeing on LinkedIn are departure announcements, you’re not wrong. People have been leaving their jobs in record-high numbers for months. 4.1 million Americans quit in October of 2021 alone. Resignation rates were higher among those who worked in fields that experienced significant increases in demand due to the pandemic like service, hospitality, and healthcare which likely led to heavier workloads and burnout.

But that’s not all. 48% of working Americans across all sectors are actively job hunting or keeping an eye out for new opportunities, which means that a lot more people could be leaving their jobs in the near future.

The Great Resignation is here — don’t hold your breath for its departure announcement.

An investigation from Limeade, a company dedicated to improving the employee experience, found 28% of employees left their job without having another lined up. This number jumped to 56% for those working in foodservice and hospitality.

People aren’t leaving their jobs for sh*ts and giggles. Unsurprisingly, burnout continues to be a key motivator for those leaving their jobs with 4 out of 10 citing it as their top factor. The additional strain of more work can also lead to employees becoming actively disengaged; those employees have the highest quit rates, according to a July 2021 Gallup poll. Workers that left their jobs without having another lined up were 1.7x more likely to cite workplace mental health impact as their main reason for leaving.

Combatting workplace issues with compassionate leadership

A recent survey conducted by Joblist identified some of the top reasons workers made the decision to quit; these reasons included: quitting to pursue a passion, dissatisfaction with how their employer treated them during the pandemic, low pay or lack of benefits, and lack of work-life balance.

The bad news is that the workplace is the common denominator in this list. But that’s also the good news; employers have an opportunity to approach how they do things in a new way. Attempting to attract and retain talent using the same outdated tactics simply won’t do. Eric Termuende, the author of Rethink Work and an expert on the future of work, believes that building a community of people that share the same values and have a similar way of working is more meaningful to employees than simply building a “team”. With more millennials and Gen Zs entering the workforce, it is important for organizations to step back and evaluate their current talent management and retention strategies. A study conducted by Dr. Linda Duxbury found that organizations that do not consider the implications of generational change will likely experience inner turmoil and increased voluntary turnover.

Approaching leadership from a place of compassion, empathy, and awareness has to come from the top, which means equipping upper and mid-level managers with the necessary skills to be compassionate leaders. Awareness, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion are key qualities for business leaders, especially in the aftermath of a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Empathy and emotional intelligence have not traditionally been revered or required skills in a leader, but the tide is turning. Dr. Jody Carrington frequently discusses how a lack of compassion, emotional exhaustion, and experiencing futility can have a serious impact on teams of all kinds. Studies have shown that compassionate leadership can improve collaboration, raise levels of trust, and can enhance loyalty. Additionally, compassionate leaders are perceived to be stronger and more competent.

In times as uncertain as to the ones we’re currently living in, honesty, vulnerability, and genuine care for people are just as admirable of leadership qualities as decisiveness and confidence, according to Hilary Corna. By providing a safe space (physically, virtually, or emotionally) for employees to feel their feelings, leaders have the opportunity to learn more about how they can better support their teams. Feeling as if your employer cares about you can make a big impact on one’s job satisfaction. According to research from Limeade, job-changers reported a 22% increase in feeling cared for as an individual at their new company.

Simply, compassionate leadership means treating your people like… well, people. People make your business run, and when they’re treated like humans, they make your business thrive.

Interested in having one of the experts from this article work with your organization?

Related Content:

Want to learn more about burnout and resilience from our experts? Read this!