All the stupidest ideas of the world have been tried and tested to make employees happy, because everybody knows nothing can be worse for an organization than the downward spiral of workforce fluctuation. One disgruntled employee makes two, two make three, then the first letter of resignation is submitted, followed by another and we’re waist deep in trouble. Eye-wateringly expensive training programmes, junior employees everywhere with their disastrously low price/value ratio. Nothing can be worse than that.

But of course, it can. They say you’re not supposed to start a sentence with but, and we were all wrong about that, too. What happens this year is clear evidence that something could truly be worse
for an organization than an extremely high workforce fluctuation. 

If there’s no fluctuation at all.

Unemployment is not nearly where it was forecasted to be. The trend has started, but the end is nowhere in sight yet. However, if you look at the storm clouds, they seem ominous enough for
employees, no matter how unwell they feel, to cling to their seat instead of leaving. Rightfully so. But they feel unwell, nonetheless. They really do. Just like the executive and therefore the whole
organization does. 

Every organizational culture was shaken to its very core over the last six months. It was neither the home office nor COVID. It was the millions of little lies that followed it. Most of these lies
were not even malevolent. In the spring, everybody was screaming they felt unwell, this lockdown office thing is a disaster, we can’t work, the kids are at home, we are tired of Zoom, we hate Teams, etc., etc. Then in early to mid summer, companies began to return to the office. 

Some did it democratically, some autocratically.

And they had to come to the realization that they can’t catch any anyone who is willing to sit in an office. Even though they made all kinds of promises, (” Shoes, socks, a hundred million dollars. Just the usual stuff.”). All in vain. Those who used to cry about having to stay at home started crying about having to stay in the office. However, this kind of complaint is hardly credible going up, since your boss will not take any whining from you if it’s the exact opposite of what you said before. So, instead of complaining vertically, people started something I call horizontal whining. Let me copyright this term! As a manager, I can see you nodding because you know what I’m talking about. So, I whine to my peers, but when it comes to the messages going up... 

I will come up with something just so I don’t have to go in the office. Well? Oh, so you call it a lie. But it’s just a fib. Well, these fibs can poison even the best company culture in no time. They can
and they do. Meanwhile, the leaders are a) not stupid (even yours) and b) someone else’s employees and, as such, they are prone to horizontal whining, too. As a result, the levels started to drift apart from each other.

Just so they didn’t hear each other whining. 

Although these six months are too short to bring the problem to the surface in most workplaces (and kudos to the organizations which detected the alarming signs and already started working on their
culture when the house is not on fire yet, but some individuals are throwing matches around), but long enough to make a permanent mark on the organizations. 

And these organizations are already experiencing the next wave of pressure, too. Companies see more and more positive tests coming every minute, their employees are texting that the nursery, kindergarten or school was closed, and they can’t come to work the next day. Questions pop up everywhere: who should be quarantined, who shouldn’t, who can get sick pay and who can’t, shall I send home the whole section or just this office, who pays for the tests, etc.

If the company has a policy, the people don’t like it. If it doesn’t, the people don’t like that it doesn’t. If there’s a policy and the people like it, they use it. If there’s no policy, they come up with something.
They come up with excuses, fibs, reasons, call it what you will. And they keep poisoning the company culture that has already been under massive attacks for six months. 

Employees are in no position to decide, because if the kindergarten is closed, they have to stay home with the kids. If you have a plan what they can do legally under these circumstances,
they will follow it. If you don’t, they will fib. And so will you when it’s your turn. Because your organization, just like every other, is controlled by individual decision-making mechanisms.

What you can do as a leader is to try and understand your own decision-making mechanisms. Once you’re done with that, you can start focusing on those you are responsible for. And if you come across a lie, don’t cover it with the company blanket. Instead, discuss it with the person and find out what led here, why it was necessary. Find out what you and your team can do to reduce the number of cases in the future.

This period will be to long for any leader, including you, to stay sane with so many disgruntled employees and so low fluctuation. And the pressure will just be higher and higher, so don’t hope for an influx of new employees and carte blanches.


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