What's Resenteeism In The Working World?

If 2021 went down in history as the year of Great Reshuffle as employees voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2022 was known as the year of "quiet quitting." The soaring popularity of the phrase made it sound like it was a newly discovered phenomenon, but those who have been in the workforce before know it isn't.

In practice, quiet-quitting is when people are still hanging onto the security blanket of having a job but refusing to put in more time, effort, or enthusiasm than the minimum. Low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work count among the top reasons why employees quiet-quit at the workplace, a Pew Research Center survey finds. According to a survey by Gallup, half of the U.S. workforce are quiet quitters.

If you think "quiet quitting" is the only label for those feeling unfulfilled and disheartened in the workplace, you're in for a surprise. Resenteeism — a new twist on quiet quitting — is poised to become a cultural phenomenon that motivates people to reevaluate their approach to work this year. Resenteeism also refers to the act of striking without looking like you're striking — but not in an oh-so-quiet way as quiet quitting. Here's what to know about resenteeism — a potentially viral label that may call to mind someone you know.

Definition of resenteeism

Resenteeism is said to be first coined by online software provider RotaCloud. The term refers to those who continue working in a job they're not happy about while unreservedly resenting it. This sense of dissatisfaction can spread within the workforce, sap team morale, and slash productivity. "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," explains Pam Hinds, head of people at RotaCloud (via Glamour).

Former Microsoft (MSFT) – Get Free Report worker Alun Jones shares an example of resenteeism on his Twitter: "Resenteeism: when you're in the office because you've been told to be in the office, despite knowing you'd be getting more work done if you were working from home." Some of the biggest stressors in life stem from the workplace, where we've learned to handle small annoyances and unfairness by simply biting the bullet. But when workers confront bigger problems — say stagnant wages and skyrocketing living expenses in addition to a growing workload and an unsympathetic boss — they can feel overwhelmed and descend into the "If I'm going down, I'm taking you down with me" mode. Since leaving the job is not an easy option, many who stay make their frustrations manifest in negative ways such as defiance, rudeness, lack of effort, and physical hostility. Unlike quiet quitting, resenteeism is an unhealthy coping mechanism that negatively affects the whole team instead of the individual alone.

The correlation between burnout and resenteeism

Before "quiet quitting" took 2022 by storm, "burnout" was the buzzword of 2021. According to Mental Health UK, burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion, resulting from long-term stress in your job. Many people are led to believe that burnout results from overworking, but businesswoman and investor Marissa Mayer argues that the real cause of burnout is resentment. "It's about knowing what matters to you so much that if you don't get it that you're resentful," Mayer tells CNBC.

When you constantly feel like you're giving it your best but you're not getting any closer to your goals and nobody is showing you the support you need, little by little, your resentments can grow into full-blown job burnout. So, when you identify resenteeism in your workplace, chances are your employee must have been experiencing burnout for some time. For instance, your employee might be acting irritable and impatient with colleagues or clients, lack energy and drive, or struggle with concentration. Learning how to identify resenteeism will help you take the necessary steps to avoid it.

Resenteeism vs. presenteeism vs. absenteeism

One can hardly look at resenteeism and not think about presenteeism or absenteeism — two older phenomena concerning workplace productivity that affect big and small companies alike. Presenteeism refers to employees who show up to work without actually working because they feel under the weather, which can lower individual productivity by one-third or more, according to Harvard Business Review. The rationale behind this behavior is that presenteeism workers don't want to lose a sick day or create the impression that they are not serious about their job.

Meanwhile, absenteeism is when an employee consistently doesn't appear for work at their scheduled time due to either illness or burnout, which also hinders their work performance and contributes to a loss in productivity, per Score. Compared to presenteeism and absenteeism, resenteeism is much more apparent and detrimental to the overall working environment and productivity in the long run. Absenteeism can be resolved by a strong absence policy and attendance tracking and presenteeism with strong management and more focus on employee well-being. Meanwhile, resenteeism may necessitate more drastic measures, such as deep-level communication and policy reforms.

How to avoid resenteeism

It's normal to resent one's job every once in a while, but going to work with a resentful attitude and not having the guts to quit it is super exhausting — and not fair for the company. It's not easy to snap yourself out of resenteeism instantly, but you can kickstart your problem-solving process by asking yourself why you hate your job. For instance, you resent your job because you don't get along with your colleagues, your line manager always undermines you, or you've been waiting forever for a promotion. Knowing the reason helps make your current job more bearable.

Psychologist Tunteeya Yamaoka tells Everyday, "You might go through problem-solving by talking to your manager or supervisor and letting them know, for example, about some of the skills you have that you'd like to exercise." If something has been sitting on your chest for a long time and it's affecting your performance and your relationship with your team, talk about it — either to your manager or an HR professional. Your management doesn't read minds. Not every supervisor is thoughtful and tactful enough to figure out what upsets you, so you'll have to let them know — through calm and open communication. If you can't bear to leave your job but you're feeling overwhelmed, career growth coach Derrick Bass (via Forbes) suggests taking a timeout to give yourself time and space to process your intense emotions, acknowledge your disappointing experiences, and gain more insights.

How to deal with resenteeism at workplace as an employer

A resentful employee is bad news for a business owner, but there are ways to resolve the situation if you're willing to get to the heart of the matter. Pointing out that favoritism and unfair treatment are the most common causes of workplace resentment, Emergency Support Network advises management to always make merit-based decisions and treat workers fairly, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or appearance. While challenging your employees to do better is crucial for productivity, pushing them unfairly and mercilessly will turn them away.

If their performances are below par, make sure your honest and non-judgemental feedback targets their work — not the person. As a leader, it's important you assume good intentions whenever possible to make it easier for everyone to have a constructive conversation, says Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi (via The Collaborative Way). If your employee is venting their frustration on everyone on the team, talk to the person in private and discuss solutions together. The person could be struggling with burnout or there's something about their working arrangements that troubles them. If you're willing to listen, you'll realize that what many employees want is pretty simple: to be seen, heard, and understood. At the same time, gently remind them of how their actions affect everyone on the team, even though they might not be aware of this. They might stop behaving the way they do if you help them understand the problem.