The Great Resignation: What we know now

a picture of a person that looks scribbled with anxiety

Are you seeing increased turnover at your org, and other people being asked to pick up the slack with no increase in pay? Do you wish you could work remote forever? Are you tired of people pretending that COVID is over when it really isn’t? Well, neither is the Great Resignation!

The Great Resignation first came onto the scene in 2021, but why did it start to happen?

According to an MIT study of 34 million workers, people left for these 5 reasons:

  1. 1. Toxic Corporate Culture, aka worker exploitation. Have you ever looked up a nonprofit you’re about to apply to on GlassDoor? If not, you really should. You’ll find out all sorts of interesting things that way. If they aren’t on there, see who in your network knows someone there. Ask what the culture is like. I’ve got 6 questions that can help you determine the culture of a workplace, before you ever work there.

  1. 2. Employment Insecurity aka worker exploitation- You might see people being laid off in front of you, and wonder, am I next? What if we don’t get that grant? Or what if I say something that pisses someone off? At-will working environments lead to employment insecurity, and it definitely leads to lack of trust and burnout.

  1. 3. Too much innovation, which, it turns out, is extremely stressful for employees.

  1. 4. Ignoring Performance aka worker exploitation. Yeah, that’s right. When you raise $300K+ in your first year and they don’t give you a raise? That stings! Being asked to take on the work of people who left without an increase in pay? ALSO a bummer! But even in programs, not having merit based pay increases- is really demotivating! Why should anyone work harder, if you all get paid the same anyway, and the only reward for good work is more work?

  1. 5. Bad response to the pandemic aka exploiting workers – Based on trauma research, we are all still going through pandemic trauma, grief from cancelled plans, losing loved ones, even becoming sick ourselves. And when we don’t deal with that trauma

You might have some leaders who bluster and say, well, that person was just a bad fit! We’re gonna do better with the next round of hiring! But that’s not the whole story. Here’s why this answer isn’t satisfactory.

“That person was just a “bad fit/snowflake”

Don’t point the finger at the individual in your organization!

If you are scratching your head about why people at your org are making careless mistakes, leaving, or just not showing up to work, it’s time to point that finger back at yourself and your systems. This capitalist system enables us to exploit workers. And making your offices look live living rooms is not going to bring people joyfully back to the office.

Bosses are designing resimercial offices that look like your living room to get you back at your desk - fortune magazine. What kind of wiley e coyote ass painted tunnel on the wall scheme is this? capitalism has no bottom, the nap ministry

Laura Hamill, CEO of Limeade, says, It’s an “organizational problem and not a personal problem” when the entire staff is disenchanted and disengaged.”

Her study of 1,000 workers found that when your good people leave, they are going to your competitors, who offer:

  1. 1. Ability to work remotely according to personal preference: 40%
  2. 2. Better compensation: 37%
  3. 3. Better management: 31%
  4. 4. Better company reputation: 29%
  5. 5. Better work-life balance: 26%
  6. 6. Flexible work schedule: ​​24%

How to stem the tide of the Great Resignation:

1. Pay people more

Recently I was working with a client, who, in the last 2 years, has had a tremendous amount of turnover in the organization, which has left other staff picking up the programmatic pieces, so to speak. And it has made it harder for them to fundraise! They haven’t made the progress they wanted in some key areas. So naturally, I advised them to pay people more. They said they couldn’t.

You really can. Check out this interview with Executive Director Sean Goode of Choose180, and how paying employees $70,000 each has made his nonprofit stronger, and enabled staff to be able to actually consider buying a house in Seattle.

According to Carlos Carrillo-Tudela on The Conversation, if you didn’t change your job in 2021, you could be stuck with a lower salary than you deserve. People who left got higher salaries! And chances are, you deserve one right now.

When your wages have been suppressed since the 1970s, rent, utilities and food costs are rising, and you still have student loans to pay, you do everything you can to make more money just to get ahead a bit.

Do you wish for a bigger salary, not just to keep up with the cost of inflation (which is at a 13 year high), but enough to actually save for retirement?

Behavioral scientist Lindsay Kohler on Forbes says,

“Those at the top need to take a hard look at their compensation structures. Are they fair? Can you support your people during a cost-of-living crisis, either through increased wages or subsidized payments? And, if you can’t, are you transparent about why?

We’ve already transformed how and where we work over the last two years. Perhaps the next changes will be for who and how much. This is an opportunity to disrupt the status quo and create conditions where we’re all collectively a little bit better off.

If done right, “The Great Rebellion” can be a force of change that will benefit all.

This is how much profit per employee public companies make. And here’s how much of a raise these companies could give people, while still making tremendous profits.

2. Remote work, Less work, fewer hours

Since everyone is still in trauma with the pandemic, try a little compassion. Try not requiring them to do 3 peoples jobs, or be up to pre-pandemic levels of productivity. Let people do less. Tell everyone it’s ok if they want to work from home. Don’t force them to get on planes, or come into the office. Give people more vacation and more sick days. Try offering less work, and increasing your check-ins, to see how you can be a better manager. Ask how you can deliberately build trust with your employees.

Acknowledge that the previous system wasn’t working, for anyone. That also means acknowledging that this system is built on worker exploitation. And do better.

The 61 British companies that decided to let people try a trial 4 day work week have reported a resounding success of the experiment. People were less burned out. 92% say they want to continue a 4 day work week. Ask yourself, why are we not doing this yet?

3. Consider Unionizing

The recent union drives have not stopped, they’re still going, and they’re incredibly successful. It’s the right moment to think about collective power in our nonprofit workplaces. Who else can you talk with about unionizing? It’s not just restaurant workers quitting, or John Deere workers unionizing. John Deere workers could all get a $20/hr raise, Apple could raise ALL employee wages by $140/hr! What about nonprofits? We have the Nonprofit Employees Union now, and people are signing up in RECORD numbers. If you want more power at your work, consider what you want to ask for. More time off? Let the wins of the CBPP Worker’s Union below inspire you about what to ask for.

What are union members winning? Well, the Center on Budget and Policy employees got these wins:

we're excited to announce that we have ratifed our new union contract! This contract contains significant wins on members top priorities, including: 

Improving the hybrid and remote work policies, increasing wages, provisions to improve member-manager relationships, and gives members a greater voice in their career at Center on Budget. It also lays strong foundations for even greater strides in future contracts.

How does the great resignation affect executives?

It’s lonely at the top, and getting lonelier. It doesn’t have to be this way. People do really want to have stable secure jobs. And you don’t have to keep wasting so much time and money in hiring people. Did you know, that according to Cygnet Research Group, it costs 110% of a fundraisers salary, every time one leaves? It’s a startling statistic, and it applies to program staff as well. It’s enough to make an executive director want to pull their hair out.

According to this Deloitte survey of 2100 C-suite executives, 70% of CEOs are considering quitting as well.

When even Forbes is telling you that you have a rebellion on your hands, maybe it’s time to listen.

Here are some related articles and resources that will help you:

Why Resisting Work Works

Asking for More Mastermind

You Deserve a Raise Today Webinar

Asking for More Exercises for Women (see below)

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