If you think workers have been quitting their jobs in hordes, just ask the boss.

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If you think workers have been quitting their jobs in hordes, just ask the boss.

New numbers reveal one in four senior leaders are considering resigning, according to research from LifeWorks and Deloitte Canada released this week. Meantime, a separate report from RBC Economics suggests the COVID-19​ pandemic saw both the number of retirements and those quitting jobs due to dissatisfaction drop significantly.

It’s a problem that’s beginning to heat up, as managers and employers have been working themselves to the bone to get employees back to the office. And surveys indicate a bruised and battered state of mental well-being is mostly to blame.

"In the short term, this increased pressure could lead to behavioural change among senior leadership that trickles down and ultimately causes employee burnout at lower levels," said Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research at LifeWorks, in a statement. "In the longer term, we anticipate seeing a risk of turnover among senior leaders."

Managers and employers have gone through a long period of feeling "exponential pressure to deliver, while dealing with personal disruption from the pandemic and extraordinary business disruption," Allen added.

The data agree. At least 82 per cent of senior leaders finish work feeling mentally or physically exhausted; 59 per cent are unable to relax or pause activity; and 49 per cent have difficulties sleeping.

On top of that, just over half (51 per cent) of respondents have considering leaving, retiring or downshifting from their current organization or position.

Those figures are representative of all private and public sector companies, with about 1,200 employees one or two levels below the chief executive officer or equivalent, polled since early April.

Figures this summer are a far cry from the uncertainty over the economy last year that forced people to stay at their jobs in significant numbers, even if they were unhappy, said senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz in his report for the Royal Bank of Canada this week.

Retirements had diminished by 20 per cent and quitting due to job dissatisfaction plunged by 40 per cent during that time because of COVID-19, the RBC Economics report stated.

All that is beginning to change now, said Agopsowicz, "among the clearest signs that confidence in the labour market recovery is firming."

Almost 17,000 non-employed people left their positions in June due to dissatisfaction — nearly triple the level in June of 2020, according to RBC. And at 65.2 per cent, Canada’s current labour force participation rate is hovering near lows not seen since the mid-’90s (excluding pandemic lows last spring).

Zabeen Hirji, executive adviser at Deloitte, said that’s why it is key to protect the mental health of senior executives by providing them with ongoing supports.

Because if top staff do indeed quit and seek new employment, it would create a wider whirlpool of labour crunch that many industries are already facing, he said.

Agopsowicz expects a dire situation, should things remain unresolved. "Coupled with a rise in demand where job vacancies are back at pre-crisis levels," he said, "we expect this increase in voluntary job turnover to exacerbate post-pandemic labour shortages."


Twitter: @temurdur

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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