Why Are People Quitting? Burnout’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg

As the world struggles with a virus that continues to adapt, business leaders are navigating an equally complicated and evolving workplace.

The conversation has shifted from remote work to hybrid work. Health isn’t just about physical ailments but also emotional and psychological ones. Perhaps more than anything, people want stability–and, increasingly, they’re leaving their jobs behind to find it.

In the “2021 People Management Report,” the Predictive Index surveyed nearly 2,000 employees across more than 15 industries. According to the study, 48 percent of employees have thought about changing careers in the past 12 months. A staggering 63 percent of those with a bad manager are thinking of leaving in the next year.

What’s driving people to quit? Here are three report findings key to understanding “the Great Resignation” and combating churn:

1. Burnout is contagious.

People are all too familiar with the deadliness of Covid-19. As the Delta variant surges, the virus is only picking up speed, according to the CDC.

It’s a lot for anyone to worry about, let alone those caring for children, parents, or a spouse. And yet, for those in the workplace, the stress is amplified by a different type of contagion: burnout.

The study asked employees whether their manager seems burned out on the job. Of those with a burned-out manager, 73 percent said “many” of their team members also seem burned out. Of those without a burned-out manager, only 22 percent said the same.

As leaders look to motivate their people, they may kick themselves into overdrive to do so. Unfortunately, fighting burnout with burnout will only make matters worse. Instead, leaders should do the opposite. Be sensitive to burnout, take time off for yourself, and you’ll set a positive example that can be emulated throughout the team.

2. Employees lack choice.

Though the pandemic forced people into their homes, it also brought many of those homes closer. Parents spent time with their children. Couples dialed into conference calls from the same kitchen table. Dogs and cats became a welcome sight on Zoom calls and Slack threads.

While some may be itching to return to an office environment (and ditch the kids), others have acclimated to the feel and cadence of remote work. They don’t necessarily want to return to normal. Yet many don’t have a say in the matter–and it’s causing friction.

According to the report, 60 percent of employees work almost entirely onsite or in an office, yet only 49 percent actually want to. By contrast, only 16 percent of employees currently split time between the office and remote work, even though 26 percent would prefer to.

Today’s talent is won and lost with flexibility. Leaders who grant their people the autonomy to decide how, when, and where to work will have a massive competitive advantage over those who do not.

3. Managers must communicate.

Any effective leader knows the value of communication. There’s nothing less productive than team members who talk past one another, miss key information, and drop critical handoffs.

In a hybrid world, though, communication has skyrocketed in value. According to the report, it’s the number one skill employees feel their manager lacks–up from just number five in 2019. Also consider that communication is the top skill employees value in their manager, second only to confidence, and the need for alignment is clear.

When teams can have candid conversations about their strengths and weaknesses, they can identify how best to bridge their gaps and achieve their goals. But that openness only happens when managers take the time to build that environment of safety and trust.

Talent optimization is the art of championing self-awareness in your organization–so your people feel empowered to bring their best selves to work. Turnover won’t slow overnight, but by demonstrating your commitment to your people each day, you’ll surely see the momentum shift.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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