At the height of the Great Resignation last year, it didn’t take much for most workers to quit their jobs for greener pastures. Whether or not they regretted it, things look much different today.
In a shakier economy—replete with layoffs across sectors and recession fears—more people are staying put, even if they’re unhappy. That phenomenon has led to the coining of yet another new workplace buzzword: resenteeism.
Dubbed “the natural successor to quiet quitting” by Glamour UK’s Bianca London, resenteeism describes the act of staying in an unsatisfying job due to a perceived lack of better options or fear of job insecurity. A worker in those circumstances begins to actively resent their current workplace and often doesn’t do a great job of hiding it.
“Employees that feel undervalued, underappreciated, and worried about their futures are never going to be happy in their jobs, and the rise in resenteeism, while worrying, isn’t unexpected,” Pam Hinds, head of people at SaaS company RotaCloud, explained to Glamour last month. (Glamour credits RotaCloud with coining the term.)
It’s closely related to quiet quitting, which rose to prominence via TikTok in the latter half of 2022 to describe doing the bare minimum at work, eschewing the pressure to go above and beyond. It was a rejection of hustle culture, which many workers—especially younger ones—came to develop during the pandemic.
Many felt their bosses didn’t care about them as people, but just as workers. On a broader level, the pandemic led swaths of people to reevaluate their priorities and what matters most to them in life—which happened not to be their places of employment.
Resenteeism is a spin on “presenteeism,” which describes employees showing up—or logging on to Slack or Teams—just for the sake of appearing to be doing work. In the case of resenteeism, workers are less subtle about their apathy or outright frustration, and that attitude is likely to spread around the office just as much as presenteeism could. Such low morale can decrease productivity and create more conflict.
Roots of discontent
Resenteeism should come as no surprise. More than half (57%) of Gen Z workers and 66% of millennials are satisfied at their jobs, per a 2022 MetLife survey. And in a November 2022 study from software firm UKG, nearly half of American workers said they hate their job so much they wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy.
The aftershocks of the Great Resignation might be at least partly to blame for resenteeism catching fire. Consider a workplace that has been gutted by a string of quits and is now operating a skeleton crew. “Those who stayed in their role may have ended up feeling undervalued or unfairly treated, which can lead to a spreading sense of resentment and a lack of motivation within a workforce,” London wrote.
Also making matters worse: an impending global recession paired with the skyrocketing costs of living and consumer goods. Most people are already living paycheck to paycheck and thousands of companies are trimming costs, instituting hiring freezes, or relying exclusively on quiet hiring, making quitting seem like a precarious move. However, the economy isn’t quite as doom and gloom as it seems: Unemployment has hit a record low, and layoffs are actually down from their pandemic peak.
Hinds recommends employees who find themselves deeply resenting their current workplace communicate their concerns or needs to HR, identify what they’d need from their job to feel more fulfilled and motivated, and keep perspective—the grass is always greener. But, she added, there’s nothing to lose by keeping your eyes peeled for new opportunities. (Many resenteeism participants would probably advocate for rage applying.)
On the manager side, Hinds encourages fostering open communication with workers, insisting everyone take time off, and offering opportunities for professional development wherever possible. After all, at any workplace, raises and promotions go significantly further than employee appreciation days.
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