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Resenteeism: How to Prevent it and Avoid Contagion

Résentéisme Travail RCGT

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Updated on February 23, 2024

There is nothing worse than employees who let their work frustrations fester without talking about it with their managers. “Resenteeism” can be damaging.

Resenteeism is a new term describing employees who show resentment towards their employer but don’t dare talk about it openly—except with their colleagues. This phenomenon can become contagious and quickly undermine the work climate. That’s why employers must be mindful about resenteeism and find ways to identify and address it before it’s too late.

Presenteeism and resenteeism, how to distinguish them?

Presenteeism leads to a loss of productivity because employees show up to work physically but not mentally. Resenteeism however can cause employees to check out more permanently if an employer fails to spot it. That’s because resentful employees can remain productive for some time even while continually blaming their employer and sharing their bad moods with colleagues.

In a labour shortage context, it’s especially important to understand what may be displeasing employees and try to redress the situation to leverage their skills in the best possible conditions. As well, maintaining a healthy and pleasant work climate is essential for retaining the finest talent in your business.

How do you recognize that something’s amiss?

With the rise of telework and remote management, resenteeism can be even more difficult to identify as it is not always visually perceptible. The key is communication. It’s important to encourage manager-employee exchanges in groups and individually:

  • Listen, take an interest in what employees experience on a daily basis;
  • Stay open and take time to receive suggestions and comments from everyone;
  • Set aside time during the week to speak with employees, one-on-one and in groups, and give them a space to talk about their life and work issues.

You probably know the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The time you take to listen and discuss with your teams is an investment that will save you significant costs in the medium and long run.

This aspect of the employer-manager-employee relationship should even be covered under your occupational health and safety strategy. Just as you maintain your business’s equipment and tools, it is essential that you look after your employees’ physical and mental health.

What are the solutions to help solve the problem?

Once you identify a resenteeism problem in your team, you must determine its root causes and then propose solutions best suited to the context and needs. If the dissatisfaction expressed by employees is directly tied to their professional life, you can be flexible in improving the situation, just as you are with presenteeism. For example, you could:

  • change certain tasks while factoring in the impact this will have on the team’s productivity or work climate;
  • get employees to commit to correcting the situation by guiding them towards available resources;
  • follow up with employees, encourage them and formally recognize their progress;
  • provide employees with opportunities for job development by encouraging them to update and develop their skills.

If the cause of resenteeism stems from an employee’s personal life, you can consider alternative solutions, such as more flexible working conditions for a better work-life balance, or prescribed preventive leave to avert a longer absence.

What are the benefits of considering resentment?

Prolonged or pervasive, resenteeism adds to a toxic work climate. In the medium and long run, it will undermine your employees’ retention and productivity.

Recognizing employee resenteeism will help you circumscribe it and find solutions faster to eradicate it. This way, you will contribute to:

  • employee cohesion and collaboration;
  • better intra-team productivity;
  • a higher rate of employee retention and commitment.

Don’t remain passive before this phenomenon, which tends to spread. As a manager and employer, getting ahead of the problem will allow you to have an easier time correcting any resenteeism and thereby avoid major collateral damage.

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