hand squeezing an egg with a painful face drawn on it

Give Up Control to Thrive During the Great Resignation

November 29, 2021 Employee Experience
Lance Haun
By Lance Haun

How much control does a manager have over their employees?

It’s not a trick question. I worked in employee relations with a high number of front-line employees and when an issue came up, one of the first questions to a manager was, “Where were you when this happened?” The implicit meaning behind this question is that the manager’s presence could have been important for controlling the situation. 

The illusion of control is strong in the traditional management and leadership training world, and that idea has also spilled over into how HR helps organizations manage employees as well. The idea that employees need to be supervised or they’ll take advantage of the situation is a tough mindset to break. 

But as more research is coming in on pandemic-era working conditions, it’s clear that control is one of the key things organizations will have to give up if they want to actually solve some of the challenges posed by the Great Resignation.

Zoom Fatigue Is Bigger Than Meeting Fatigue

“Cameras on, everyone!” While a leader may not hear the collective groans of their employees, the feeling of Zoom fatigue is real. 

It’s not just “death by meeting” recast into a modern context, as some have suggested. While some research has been done on the impact of being on camera, it hasn’t been fully explored until recently. 

Harvard Business Review published an article from the authors of a study on this exact topic. This choice quote captures the findings well:

"Our results — recently published in Journal of Applied Psychology — were quite clear: Using the camera was positively correlated to daily feelings of fatigue; the number of hours that employees spent in virtual meetings were not. This indicates that keeping the camera consistently on during meetings is at the heart of the fatigue problem."

Not only did they find it produced fatigue, the authors noted it also reduced their voice in meetings and how engaged they were in the conversation. 

Related Article: Zoom Fatigue Is Killing Productivity

Hybrid Work Is More Stressful Than Remote

As employers pat themselves on the back for being flexible through the pandemic, a gap between fully remote versus hybrid work is coming into sharper relief. 

TinyPulse’s Q3 State of Employee Engagement report found a split between HR and employees. HR leaders believe that hybrid work and remote work were nearly equally emotionally exhausting. Employees see big differences between remote and hybrid work environments.

They said hybrid work was nearly twice as emotionally exhausting as remote work. Hybrid workers, often forced to come in on a pre-set schedule, are feeling stress levels more similar to those going into the office every day.

This comes as companies are also weighing reduced pay for remote employees if they choose to live somewhere with a lower cost of living. Unfortunately for those organizations, many companies are offering nationally consistent pay scales for their remote workers rather than trying to set it based on cost of living. 

Trying to keep people in a particular geography, coming to the office on a particular schedule is just control with a different look and feel. 

Related Article: Can Hybrid Work Be Fair to All?

Give Up and Embrace the Change

In a time of unprecedented talent competitiveness, these all seem like unforced errors. The shift to remote work showed that people are more than happy to step up and perform under new circumstances. But they also discovered they can find jobs that give them control over how, when and where they work.

The answer to the challenge doesn't lie with employees. It lies with leaders. How leaders inspire their employees to stay when there are a variety of options available isn’t through a different mode of control.

In reality, organizations do have control of the situation. They can let go of trying to exert this level of tight control over employees. The results could be a gain for manager and employee alike.

About the Author

Lance Haun lives life at the intersection of people, work and technology. He's currently a practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy and a contributor for Reworked and ERE.net.


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