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We’ve been hearing much talk about the “Great Resignation” – specifically, between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American employees left their jobs, an all-time record1. While the same hasn’t yet been seen in Canada, experts speculate that this may just be delayed.
Many have chalked the resignations up to people seeking higher wages, and certainly there are industries (law being one) where firms are having to offer significantly higher compensation to combat retention. However, new data suggests it isn’t all about money. Some recent research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that employees are quitting their jobs in droves because of toxic workplace culture, not low pay. In fact, the report says toxic workplace culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to an employee quitting. Three specific elements of a toxic culture were identified in the data:
- Failure to promote diversity, equity and inclusion
- Workers feeling disrespected
- Unethical behavior
Even if the Great Resignation doesn’t catch up with us in Canada to the same degree, we know that Canadians’ mental health has been deeply impacted by the pandemic. This is evident in our own investigation practice where we see people acting out with their co-workers, even virtually from the safety and comfort of their homes. When we add to this the anxiety that Canadians are feeling about the prospect of returning to work2, we see the risk of bad behaviour at work escalating in the coming months.
There may be so many other things to be doing/worrying about in connection with bringing people back to the office, but the fact is that Respect at Work Training should be on every organization’s list in the near future. In many workplaces, people haven’t interacted in person with co-workers for months, and in some cases years. Remembering how to behave respectfully with co-workers will take some time when many of us have been able to worry only about ourselves and our loved ones for so long. In addition, there are many polarizing issues on the top of people’s minds right now (wearing masks, vaccines, removing restrictions). Without some guidance on how to navigate discussion in the workplace about these issues, the risk of conflict remains high.
Respect at Work Training is not the same as training on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Many organizations have offered EDI-related training and courses in the wake of the social justice movement of 2020. These are valuable and encouraged; they may fall under the overall umbrella of “Respect at Work,” but they are not the same. Respect at Work Training involves reminding employees about the standards of behaviour in your workplace, and ensuring that this training is tailored to how your specific employees work. It should be updated to address behaviour in the virtual world if your employees will continue to work in a hybrid fashion in the future. It should also provide strategies for employees to address unwelcome or inappropriate behaviour. Ideally, this should focus on informal forms of conflict resolution, given that much of what we expect to see in the near future is disrespect and lack of consideration, not necessarily behaviour which meets policy definitions of harassment and discrimination.
Cultivating and maintaining a respectful workplace culture requires organizations to invest time and resources, not just once but regularly. Even if your organization has conducted Respect at Work Training in the past, this is a good time for a “refresher.” With so much else on your employee’s minds right now, there is a high likelihood that you won’t see respect in your workplace unless you remind people right now what that looks like.
1 “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed Dec. 6, 2021, www.bls.gov.
2 “A third of Canadians report moderate to severe anxiety over return to pre-pandemic routines,” Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, July 28, 2021, https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/a-third-of-canadians-report-anxiety–over-return-to-pre-pandemic-routines.
Respectful Workplace Training
Empower your employees with the knowledge they need to contribute to a healthy and respectful workplace.
Learn more about our Respectful Workplace Training here.