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‘The Great Discontent’: Can You Afford It?

Do you have discontented workers?

After discovering that nearly half of America’s workforce is job searching or keeping an eye out for new opportunities, researchers from Gallup concluded that “the great resignation is really the great discontent.” Rather than being an issue with pay or industry, the researchers said: “The pandemic changed the way people work and how they view work. … Reversing the tide in an organization requires managers who care, who engage, and who give workers a sense of purpose.” Forbes, Sept. 2, 2021

When you have employees who come from an environment of daily instability, one that has been that way for their entire life, decisions are made by taking relationships into account. As an employer, you already know that attendance, tardiness, transportation, and childcare are the biggest issues you are experiencing. First and foremost, if I live in daily instability, I will take care of my immediate family and those that take care of me before I take care of work.

In stability, I call AAA when the car breaks down. When I live in daily instability and don’t have an AAA policy, people are my only insurance policy; I call Uncle Ray. If Uncle Ray’s children need childcare tomorrow, I will likely take care of those children and not go to work. It is a job, not a career, and I can find another job just like I found the one I had. In the environment of daily instability, decisions are made quickly and for the day; making decisions for tomorrow are not in the picture, as I am busy meeting needs for today. Management and executives, on the other hand, are thinking about the future and making decisions for the future based on achievement.

What about the other engagement drivers? When relationships of mutual respect are created and employees know you respect and care for them, their belief in you as a manager will improve. If you have my back, I’ve got your back. Does the entry-level employee feel like they are part of the family? When interpersonal relationships grow because of increased respect, the employee will take more pride in the company.

The energy that motivates our employees from daily instability—our entry-level and low-wage employees—is relationships. It is how people make decisions about what they will and will not do for you. If I like you, I will work for you. If I don’t like you, I will not work for you and will tell all my coworker friends to do the same. As a supervisor, you are the person who can make a difference in the success of these employees.

When you take the time to cultivate relationships, take the time to learn about your employees’ lives, and communicate employee value, you are creating relationships of mutual respect that, in the end, motivate entry-level, low-wage employees into being productive, motivated, and retained employees.

To grow your employees’ performance and motivation, check out the book Workplace Stability by Ruth Weirich.

About the Author: Ruth K. Weirich, MBA is an author, trainer, and management professional experienced in business operations efficiency and profitability. She is also a past president of aha! Process, an education and training company specializing in economic class issues. Contact:

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