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What is ‘resenteeism’ and how can you reduce it?

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Spotting the signs of ‘resenteeism’ and how to lessen its effects

From quiet quitting to rage applying, new terms are hitting the workplace all the time. The newest workplace trend employers may not be familiar with is ‘resenteeism’.

The term resenteeism has been called the moody successor to quiet quitting, but it is anything but quiet. It was coined by the business software company RotaCloud, and refers to dissatisfied employees who stay in a job they actively resent due to a lack of better options.

Much like quiet quitting, resenteeism is a result of workplace dissatisfaction. However, unlike quiet quitting, resenteeism expresses these frustrations. Quiet quitters may have been happy to do the bare minimum, but ‘resentees’ may be more likely to make their dissatisfaction known.

Resenteeism is not the fault of human resources (HR) teams. It can affect organisations in any industry of any size and is symptomatic of economic times. However, recognising instances of resenteeism within an organisation is an excellent opportunity for HR teams to take steps to improve employee engagement long-term.

This blog will explore the causes of resenteeism and provide tips to lessen its effects.

The causes of resenteeism

According to RotaCloud, resenteeism may be a response to the Great Resignation. After millions of employees left organisations for greener pastures, the remaining employees were left to pick up the slack.

The combination of existing stress and new stressors has caused frustrations to come to a boil. New stressors include economic uncertainty, the rising cost of living, and job uncertainty across industries experiencing mass layoffs (such as the tech industry). These stressors compounding over time likely result in burnout.

There are great incentives for organisations to boost employee engagement. Gallup research found that organisations with engaged workers have 23% more profit than those with unhappy employees. The research also stated that engagement reduces staff attrition and absenteeism whilst increasing customer loyalty.

How to recognise resenteeism

Recognising the signs of resenteeism is the first step to reducing it, but this can be difficult. While ‘presenteeism’ refers to employees who are ‘present’ (i.e. ‘online’ on Slack or Microsoft Teams) but are unproductive (perhaps because they are sick), resentees may have satisfactory performance levels despite being disengaged.

Some signs of resenteeism to look out for are:

  • A change in behaviour or attitude
  • A consistent low mood
  • A lack of motivation and enthusiasm
  • A decline in the quality of work and productivity
  • An unwillingness to go above and beyond
Xref branded graphic with 5 tips to reduce Resenteeism from below

5 tips to reduce resenteeism

If left unchecked, resenteeism can become contagious. Dissatisfaction and frustration can spread among employees, as it’s human nature to air grievances freely with peers. The effect of this can be detrimental to organisations in multiple ways:

  • Low morale: Resentees can negatively affect the workplace atmosphere, which can be unpleasant for other employees.
  • Decreased productivity: Resentees may do what is asked of them (albeit begrudgingly), but they do not go above and beyond when necessary. This affects not only their productivity but the productivity of their team and the wider business.
  • Reduced business performance: Low productivity reduces business outputs – a big organisational problem.

Effective management is the first step to addressing underlying frustrations. Direct managers and HR professionals can help prevent employees from becoming more frustrated or disillusioned in several ways. Below are five tips.

1. Encourage communication to increase openness and transparency 

Creating open lines of communication with employees helps identify problems that need to be rectified to increase work satisfaction. It can also keep employees in the loop regarding company updates, which shows respect.

Two communication channels are:

  • Instant communication through platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Workplace by Facebook.
  • Regular one-to-one meetings with direct managers and HR.

Utilising these two communication channels will show employees that you care about their opinions and you value openness and transparency. Transparency is important to Millennials, especially. 

A study by The Org found that 80% of Millennials said their work-life would be better if the company they worked for was transparent, and 74% want their company to be more transparent. Since the Millennial generation is set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, striving for transparency is crucial.

2. Ask for feedback

If there’s something bothering employees that is causing them to resent their work, you should endeavour to find out what that is.

Surveying employees is an easy way to gain insight into how employees perceive different aspects of your organisation, from salary and benefits offered, to leadership, to career progression.

Using pulse surveys (short questionnaires, frequently) rather than engagement surveys (long questionnaires, typically annually) enables organisations to gain feedback in real-time so they can action it promptly. 

Xref’s new product Pulse Surveys automates the survey administration and collection process so HR teams can focus on analysing and benchmarking the feedback to improve employee engagement.

3. Take steps to alleviate stress and burnout 

Your employees are the lifeblood of your organisation, so looking after their wellbeing is paramount.

HR can help employees better manage employee stress and reduce the risk of burnout in several ways:

  • Encourage employees to take time off: Talk about the importance of taking leave, and show employees how to request leave (whether through an internal program or by talking to their direct manager).
  • Be flexible with working arrangements to improve work-life balance: If your employees prefer to work in a hybrid environment, but your organisation doesn’t offer work-from-home, the lack of compromise could make them unhappy.
  • Contract an Employee Assistance Program (EAP): An EAP offering can help employees work through stress, burnout, and poor mental health with external professionals.
  • Review employees’ workloads: Burnout could simply result from employees having too much on their plates and being unable to enjoy any of it. HR and line managers should assess how much responsibility employees have.
4. Show appreciation

Showing employees that you appreciate their efforts, tenure, and wellbeing is paramount to cultivating a happy work environment.

Organise celebratory events throughout the year so that employees can be rewarded for their achievements, as this will increase motivation and boost morale.

Celebration ideas:

  • End of financial year (EOFY) party
  • Seasonal parties
  • Quarterly team lunches/dinners or drinks
  • Team days out
  • Presents/vouchers for work anniversaries or birthdays

Team celebrations allow employees to bond and feel part of a team. However, Forbes points out that appreciation is not one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to recognise and reward your best performers differently (e.g. through salary and benefits).

5. Offer career coaching

Job dissatisfaction can stem from several factors, one being a lack of career development. 

When employees feel stuck in their roles or can’t visualise their career path, they may lose motivation and find it difficult to connect with their organisation’s purpose. This may be more common post-pandemic as people reassess their prospects.

Offering career coaching – whether internal or external – could help unhappy employees get to the bottom of their resentment towards their jobs and uncover quick solutions – for example, a transfer to a different team.

Career coaching can help to increase engagement and, therefore, retention. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report found 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if offered opportunities to learn and grow. 

If, after being exposed to coaching, a resentful employee decides they should leave the organisation, this would be the healthy outcome. Ask for feedback from departing employees to identify organisational strengths and weaknesses, which can be done using Xref Exit Surveys. Xref Exit Surveys automates the feedback process and enables employers to collect, analyse and measure that feedback to reduce attrition and improve retention.

Final thoughts

Dealing with and alleviating employee frustrations is crucial for any HR team. While resenteeism may be a new challenge, these solutions are tried and true. Effective communication, outreach and engagement can help employees feel valued, identify pain points that need to be rectified and reduce workplace dissatisfaction.

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