50% of Americans Won’t Show Up to Work Tomorrow

And It’s Not Quit Your Job Day, Or Is It?

More than half of U.S. employees say they are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings, according to the recent “State of the American Workplace” study by Gallup.

For many people, that’s alarming. But it’s a fact. So, rather than fighting it, let’s discuss how to deal with this reality.

First, let’s start by understanding the why behind this behavior.

Why Your Team Wants to Quit Tomorrow

“Most people don’t quit their job, their quit their boss.” — Facebook response to Gallup results

(lack of) Career growth opportunities: just 3 in 10 employees strongly agree there is someone at work who encourages their development. It’s not that they don’t have opportunities but rather than no one is helping them identify new paths or what to do about them.

Ineffective coaching: only 21% of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. Or in, other words, more than 3/4 of the workforce believes their bosses don’t motivate the team to unleash their true potential.

Mindfulness: employees care about the benefits and perks that offer greater flexibility, autonomy and the ability to lead a better life. They don’t just need rewards, they want to regain control of their time and freedom.

Sense of belonging: A culture of engagement is no longer a need, it’s a must, says the Gallup study. People want to work in a place where they feel they belong and can actively contribute to building that culture.

Not being challenged enough: 60% of respondents said their ability to do their best in their role is “very important” to them. They want to be challenged to deliver their best work. Coaching and mentoring seem to be trending topics in social media, but not at the real workplace.

Though these seem very obvious and straightforward causes, there’s a bigger reason. The reality of work is not what it used to be.

Fighting Misconceptions at Work

Let’s challenge our perspective of the workplace. Here are some new paradigms that are redefining how the future of work might look like.

  • Realize that job hopping is the new reality. Prepare your employees to leave, prepare your organization for when your employees leave. Stop seeing people who quit as quitters. Be okay with your organization being a stop, not the final destination.
  • Culture is no longer static. Forget the notion that organizational cultural is something that can be controlled. Open-up to your employees influencing your culture, not just being influenced by your culture. As I wrote on this piece, hire for cultural fitness, not just for cultural fit.
  • Stop being directive. The workplace is full of rules that, not only limit people’s ability to do great work, but also treat them as kids. If you don’t show trust, how can you expect your team to trust you? Or, even worse, why would they give their best work to a company that doesn’t give them the most valuable thing any relationships is based on: trust.
  • Encourage tensions. I received a lot of pushback when I encouraged companies to promote tensions at work. And that’s because tensions have a bad reputation. My take is that friction creates energy and energy fuels creativity. Tensions and frictions don’t mean that people have to fight or be disrespectful. It’s always better to have a culture of outspoken people who addresses tensions face to face than one full of passive-aggressive backstabbers.

Feedback on my reco to embrace tensions at work on my previous piece
  • Life Matters: People don’t live to work, they work to live. If you are frustrated at work, it will negatively influence your personal life which will also affect your mood at work. It will turn into a vicious cycle.
  • Let go of control. Authority is about enabling your team by providing a safe space, the right push and whatever they need to do their best work possible. Authority is no longer about limiting. Having the power is about making things happen so your team can thrive. The more a boss can say Yes instead of No, the more powerful she/he actually is.
  • Provide transparency and safety: Google -one of the most obsessively data-driven companies- spent a huge amount of time trying to understand what makes the perfect team. The conclusion was astonishing yet simple: “psychological safety”. Basically, the ability to speak up at the workplace, to share thoughts and ideas, without fearing rejection. A culture of transparency -where people can speak up and leadership can share real issues with the team- rather than sugar coated fantasies, promotes safety and open dialogue.

If You Treat Employees Like Kids, You’d Better Be a Good Parent

“Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.” -Glennon Doyle Melton.

Parenting has provided me with lots of leadership lessons. And the other way around.

Families, like organizations, also have an organizational culture.

In a family, they are written and unspoken values, that define the kind of behaviors that are acceptable or not. The behaviors that are rewarded or punished define the culture.

I’ve learned that I cannot tell my kids all the time what they can or can’t do. As a father, my role is to train them how to think for themselves. To seed some values, encourage soul searching to realize the kind of person they want to become. And that means, providing an open and safe space for experimentation. That doesn’t come free of trouble though.

Being too directional just creates resistance, not learning.

Personal growth requires to stretch beyond our comfort zone. And that applies to parents/ bosses same as it applies to daughters sons/employees. Allow room for mistakes. The best lessons in life comes from personal experience. Not by rehashing rules or best (past) practices or the things that worked for you.

Each person is on his/her own journey. Respecting individualism is what makes every culture stronger regardless if it’s a family, a team or the broader organization.

Why Worry About Tomorrow?

“There should be laughter after pain. So why worry now?” — Dire Straits

Probably, 50% of your employees won’t be leaving your organization tomorrow. But they may soon. Don’t fight that. Be ready for that.

Hope you prepare them so well that they’ll do great in their new gig. Hope they leave your company because they want to, not because they have too. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Referrals are always the best way to recruit the best talent.

As I always tell my kids, focus on doing the right things. The rest will take care of itself.

So why worry now?