Resenteeism is the new black

by | Apr 19, 2024

Resenteeism is the latest workplace term our media has latched onto to decode the mystery of the modern workplace. Funnily enough it was invented by a tech company’s marketing department. It describes the resentment of the modern worker who hates their job but doesn’t leave for fear or out of necessity. It is the cousin of quiet quitting.  

First, you may know I’m an etymology nerd so let’s start with the origin of the world resentment. Re – comes from the word again, and Sentir – comes from the word feel. So resentment is to “refeel.” We are feeling again something that we’ve felt before and it’s making us mad. That feeling is anger due to the shift back from employee-first cultures to a society of mass layoffs and AI investments.  

In our daily lives, all of us are burdened with various stresses and emotional baggage shaped by global uncertainties, economic pressures, and societal shifts. This accumulation of stress not only affects our personal lives but also spills over into our workplaces, creating a more stressed environment overall. This palpable stress is directly linked to the rise of Resenteeism, as employees grapple with these pressures while continuing to engage in jobs where they feel undervalued or misaligned with their core values. 

John Frehse (tag) of Ankura (tag) has a great keynote about this called “Will We Ever Learn?” and his first slide has animation that pops up with a big fat “No.” During downturns, companies often scramble to hoard talent, invest in training and development and increase perks and benefits. Employees feel safe and prosperous. But when the economy rebounds, the focus shifts and employees find themselves feeling disposable and undervalued. This leads to resentment because employees feel their efforts are not being recognized… again. 

It’s apparent to everyone that wage disparities continue to tarnish the workplace landscape. Despite advancements in some areas, significant wage gaps remain and this fuels a workplace culture where not all employees are seen as equally valuable, undermining team cohesion and morale. 

According to findings in the World Happiness Report, job satisfaction is heavily dependent on strong community ties and robust interpersonal relationships. However, these are becoming scarce as people disconnect and communicate less. The resulting isolation is a key component of Resenteeism, as it fundamentally changes how employees interact and connect with one another. 

There’s a pressing need for businesses to reevaluate their approach to employee relations. Promoting open dialogue and fostering genuine connections within the workplace are crucial.  

Resenteeism is not just an individual or corporate issue; it’s a broader social challenge that threatens to undermine community cohesion and the holistic American Dream. Without addressing these underlying issues, the promise of what America stands for could become increasingly unattainable. 

Addressing Resenteeism is essential not only for enhancing workplace environments but also for preserving the integrity of our social fabric. It’s time for a concerted effort to transform not just how we work, but how we live and interact as a society. 

Elsewhere In Culture

Some Tesla factory workers realized they were laid off when security scanned their badges and sent them back on shuttles, sources say

The recent layoffs at Tesla, where some employees only learned of their termination when their access badges failed to grant them entry, underscore a significant issue in corporate communication and culture. Such an impersonal method of informing staff about their job status not only strips the dignity from the process but also reflects poorly on the company’s organizational culture. This approach can breed mistrust and damage morale among the remaining employees, potentially affecting productivity and engagement negatively. For a company under the leadership of Elon Musk, known for innovation and pushing the boundaries of technology, the cold mechanization of its layoff process seems particularly jarring. This incident serves as a crucial lesson for all organizations: the importance of transparent and respectful communication in maintaining a positive workplace environment, especially during the challenging times of workforce reduction. 

The way a company conducts layoffs speaks volumes about its corporate culture and its values. For Tesla, a company that has been at the forefront of technological innovation, the impersonal and abrupt nature of these layoffs might not only affect employee morale but could also tarnish its public image. This situation exemplifies the broader implications of how businesses manage change and communicate in times of organizational restructuring. For businesses aiming to foster a culture of respect and integrity, it’s crucial to handle such transitions smoothly and with clear communication. Engaging with employees directly and providing them with support during these changes can prevent the erosion of trust and ensure that the company’s culture remains strong even in the face of difficult business decisions. This incident could prompt other companies to reevaluate their own approaches to ensure they align more closely with values that support employee dignity and trust. 


Social Activism in the Workplace 

Social activism is really shaking things up in today’s workplaces, turning them into the new battlegrounds for ethical and political debates. Take Google’s Project Nimbus for instance—it’s a clear sign that companies are now the main stages for these tough conversations. Our latest research shows that as employees become more politically divided, tensions rise, which really messes with teamwork and productivity. Google and other businesses are learning the hard way that not aligning their operations with their employees’ values can lead to major drama and a hit to morale. 

When business practices clash with what employees stand for, it doesn’t just look bad, it can seriously disrupt work life and cut into productivity. These days, figuring out how to handle activism in the workplace and stick to ethical practices isn’t just smart; it’s essential for survival. Getting this balance right is becoming more than a strategy, it’s a necessity for companies that want to keep up in a world where social values are front and center. 

If you want people to genuinely care, you need to change their beliefs, not only their actions.

I’ve been approached by countless CEOs and leaders, all expressing a shared frustration: despite reminding, urging, and implementing perks and benefits, they face a stark lack of genuine engagement.

This is precisely what we refer to as the “Action Trap.” The Action Trap occurs when leaders find themselves in a continuous cycle of implementing new processes and systems (taking new actions) to change results, rather than addressing the underlying experiences that lead to those results. Our beliefs stem from our experiences.

So, if you want to instill a new belief, you need to create a new experience.

That’s the key to making people care.

Can an organization actually impact the planet? 
In this week’s Culture Leaders podcast, I had the pleasure of sitting down with John Bissell, co-CEO of Origin Materials to discuss how everyone on the team is bought into the organization’s purpose. 
Origin Materials is shifting to a more sustainable approach that turns biomass into carbon-negative materials. 
In our open conversation, John shared with me what happens behind the scenes in his role, as well as the strategies he employs to create meaningful experiences for his employees that lead to a vibrant, mission-driven workplace culture. 
Want to discover how innovation and leadership can change the world for the better? Tune in to this week’s episode here: 
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