Jun 22, 2022 - Economy

Even your boss wants to quit

Illustration of a nameplate that reads "buh bye"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Great Resignation is seeping into the corner office, with 70% of C-level executives telling Deloitte pollsters that they seriously might resign for a job that better supports their well-being.

Why it matters: If the boss who sets the rules is feeling burned out, it's no surprise that many of the rank and file are also restive.

  • 57% of employees in the Deloitte survey said they were fed up enough to quit too.

Driving the news: A report released today by Deloitte and market research firm Workplace Intelligence found that C-suite executives feel as frazzled and depressed as the workers who report to them. In a poll conducted in February...

  • 76% of higher-ups said the pandemic has negatively affected their overall health.
  • 81% said improving their own equilibrium is more important than advancing their career right now.

Some execs are pushing for changes. 83% said they'll expand their company's well-being benefits over the next 1-2 years, while 77% said companies should be required to publicly report "workforce well-being metrics."

Asked if they'd taken any steps to help staffers mellow out, 20% of C-suiters said they'd banned after-hours emailing, and 35% said they make employees take breaks during the day.

  • 35% send notes coaxing employees to take time off and disconnect — and 29% say they're trying to set an example by doing this themselves.

Yes, but: There's a big disconnect between how the higher-ups perceive their efforts and what workers say.

  • 84% of C-suite execs said they thought their workers were thriving from a mental health perspective — but only 59% of employees rated their own mental health as "excellent" or "good."
  • 91% of the honchos said they saw themselves as caring leaders — but just 56% of workers thought their bosses cared about their well-being.

"What we found was that the majority [of C-suite executives] want to do something about it, but they just haven't done something about it," Dan Schawbel, the founder of Workplace Intelligence, told Axios. "So it's been more talk and less action."

  • The answer isn't just to tack on more mental health benefits but to reassess everything about how the workplace operates — including child care and remote work options, Schawbel said.

Between the lines: The Deloitte findings ring true to executive recruiters. "What we see is that people are resigning to try to find a better place, a better work-life balance, a better culture," Shawn Cole, founder of Cowen Partners, tells Axios. "That's the 'great reshuffle,' as we see it."

  • Women executives have been hit particularly hard with job overload during the pandemic, and a disproportionate number are job-hunting — or stepping aside.
  • A recent LinkedIn survey found that mid-level managers and directors want a four-day workweek even more than their reports.

But the "C-suite is an island" where corporate wellness policies — like unplugging and ignoring email — don't necessarily apply, Cole said.

  • "To some extent, that's what they're paid for," he noted.
  • "They really need to set boundaries for themselves" to stay happy and focused, Cole said.
  • Finding a new job isn't always the answer: "The grass is not greener," particularly for a CEO.

What's next: C-suite burnout could potentially translate to more enlightened workplace benefits and policies — or not, as an economic downturn puts more focus on the bottom line.

Methodology: The Deloitte survey, conducted by email from Feb. 8-21, involved 1,050 C-suite executives in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia and an equal number of staff employees. Respondents were "provided with a small monetary incentive" for participating.

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