After any significant life event, it’s normal to gain a new perspective and make major life changes. What’s unique about this year is the world went through that significant life event together as we battled a global pandemic. As the workforce enters into a new version of normal, more and more individuals are pursuing career changes as they reflect on the past year. In the past 2 weeks, three of my friends have submitted their resignations. Each of these individuals are successful, mid-career professionals who were relatively happy with their employer/career before the pandemic.
In most organizations, the plan to “return to normal” looks nothing like our pre-pandemic version of “normal.” While some organizations have chosen to stay remote, most have engaged a hybrid model for their return to work plans. Hybrid teams allow flexibility to adapt to various employee needs while reducing the number of employees who are on-site on any given day. From the employee perspective, this is a great compromise and acknowledges that each person’s work style preferences are unique. From a leadership perspective, frontline leaders will now experience unique challenges that test their soft skills more than ever before.
Unemployment rates have been declining in recent months, but the headline dominating the news is the Great Labor Shortage of 2021. Companies that struggled to keep the lights on during the pandemic are now struggling for entirely different reasons. It’s not the stay-at-home orders affecting business this time; it’s the lack of applications for open positions. And while that’s certainly a substantial problem, there is a more significant threat on the horizon.
It’s time to brace for the Great Resignation.
Many people don’t enjoy conflict. We often undervalue the positive role that healthy conflict can contribute to the workplace. Workplace disagreements don’t have to result in hurt feelings, anger, or anxiety. When properly facilitated, healthy conflict can create opportunities for innovation, better decision making, and more robust strategic thinking.
The first thing to recognize is that at the heart of disagreement is passion. Individuals who don’t care deeply about the success of a project, future of the organization, or organizational values won’t devote any energy to engaging in conflict. Disagreement means your team members are engaged enough to care about the outcome, and that is an important element to be harnessed when possible. It can also be one way to establish common ground when facilitating positive conflict. When everyone remembers that they share a common goal, it creates an opportunity for parties to recognize that conflict isn’t always a zero-sum game.
People-watching has long been one of my favorite hobbies. I enjoy watching people’s behavior, body language, and facial expressions, especially when they believe no one is watching. I enjoy making hypotheses about what the person will do next and imagine backstories for each person I encounter. While people-watching is a fun way to pass the time (and reduce time spent doom scrolling), building the skill of people watching, even online, can be particularly effective in the workplace.
In early 2015, Dan Price (CEO of Gravity Payments) made headlines with his ground-breaking decision to cut his own wages from $1.1M down to $70,000 per year. At the same time, he instituted a new organization-wide minimum wage of $70,000 for all positions. The announcement was met with both praise and skepticism. Some analysts feared the decision would be detrimental to the organization’s profits. They speculated that the increased wages would create conflict between more skilled workers who were already making near $70,000 based on their career growth and unique skill-set. The decision to increase workers’ wages and take a more socially-conscious approach to compensation was expected to be a Business School case study for years to come. Today, if you type “Gravity Payments” into Google, the first suggested search phrase is “Is Gravity Payments still in business?”