Don’t ask how your employees are doing; Ask this instead.

More … than 47 million Americans quit their jobs last yearand the trend known as the Great Resignation appears to be continuing as near record number of people continue to quit smoking. Beyond headaches for hiring managers and those left behind to pick up the slack, the statistics should give leaders pause to think about what organizations should be doing differently.

Corporate culture has long revolved around one question: “How can we get the best out of people?” As a result, we have exhausted our organizations and pushed people to the brink.

A clear message from the pandemic and the great resignation is that we need to become more resilient. We need to help our organizations and our people become change-proof.

Resilience in the face of change involves developing habits and structures that help us recover from burnout and exhaustion. But the most important thing is this: we must practice and perform these rituals of resilience before we become so exhausted that we wear ourselves out.

In ongoing research, we have interviewed more than 3,000 professionals across a mix of industries and types of organizations in our Resilient Leader Assessment (resiliencerank.com).

The survey is designed to measure physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resilience. Among our discoveries:

  • About 6% scored high on the Resilience to Change attributes.
  • Almost two-thirds of all respondents scored intermediate – mostly resilient but with room for improvement.
  • More than a third, 34%, had scores indicating that chronic stress had made them vulnerable to acute events.

The average score was 64.2 out of a possible 100 on the resilience scale. This indicates that, on average, many respondents are precariously close to burnout. Yet it also indicates that greater resilience is at hand – if people make course corrections, many of which are small and gradual, to avoid burnout.

What will it take to stem the tide of exhaustion that contributed to the Great Resignation? It will take organizational commitment, including challenging the norms that brought us here. It starts with admitting that Burnout is an organizational rather than an individual problem. We have to accept the fact that we have not taken care of our employees. Once we recognize this reality, we can make changes to help our people and our organizations become change-proof.

What does it look like? To get an idea, we can draw some lessons from the online dating app Bumblebee. Last year, the company decided to offer all its workers a range of benefits, including two weeks of paid vacation per year as well as paid and unpaid time off for various personal circumstances. In April last year, LinkedIn gave 16,000 employees a week of PTO after workforce surveys indicated many were suffering from burnout.

At Bumble, the company first tried giving people unlimited time off, but found that many people were still working. They found that people with unlimited PTO took less time than people who got a good two weeks off. The company then changed its policy to give all employees a week’s paid vacation twice a year.

When it comes to helping our people avoid and recover from burnout and burnout, Bumble’s experience holds a wealth of lessons for leaders who want to operationalize resilience:

  1. Provide employees with tangible benefits, not just storefronts like juice bars and foosball tables.
  2. Be willing to fail to find out what works. There needs to be a constant iteration of ideas based on feedback in order to find something that works.
  3. Ask questions and truly listen to what employees need. You have to care enough to ask the questions and not be satisfied with the answers you get and keep digging and digging and digging to find out what people need.

If you ask someone how they’re doing, the answer you’ll most likely get is “good” or “well.” Instead, try asking questions such as: what are you doing for your mental well-being? What are you doing for your physical well-being? What are you doing for your emotional well-being? And what are you doing for your spiritual well-being?

Asking questions like these shows that you care enough to go beyond superficial requests and really want to know what your employees need. Instead of a ‘watch your back’ culture, we’re going to create a ‘you’ve got your back’ culture. In this type of organization, people grow personally and professionally, which makes them more loyal, happy and productive.


Written by Adam Markel.
Did you read?
Why Every Good Leader Needs a Coach by Joe Hart.
When CEOs Say It’s Your Mistake by Dr. Manoj Joshi.
A 4-Day Work Week: Is It Productive or Just Counterintuitive by Olga Artemenko.
The Simplest Life Lesson Of All – Just Say “Yes” by Kate Christie.

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