What if the “great resignation” is entitled BS?

What if the “great resignation” is entitled BS?

Who’s missing from the chat?

The Great Resignation (GR from now on), is the phenomena of fashion right now. Essentially the idea that we’ve all sat patiently through the pandemic biding our time, and now we’re all going to leave to go and work for Unicorn Inc, where they have a better culture, colleagues, flexibility, teamwork, values, social causes, and free air fryers. And you can’t disagree with the stat’s around a spike in resignations, but I think we’re being a weeeee bit convenient with our interpretation and analysis.

So who is missing from this chat? Well, Beyonce is. You see, a few years back, the Queen of Pop (undisputed) made the conjecture “who runs the world? Girls”, and I think most of us either hoped or believed that to be true. At least one day soon. Or maybe we just slept easier thinking that we were at least making progress?

But the conversation around the GR is missing a number of important stakeholders. It’s potentially silent to those who are in some level of financial strife and who feel lucky to have a job. Maybe it doesn’t hear from those minority groups who are distracted by their pursuit of equality, fairness, equity, and basic human rights.

And if the data is true, then the GR might be missing the voice of 50% of our population. In fact, maybe the GR is an ailment only suffered by middle aged white guys. No irony here, given I firmly identify as a middle aged white guy.

You see, if you take insights from The Guardian in Australia, and CNBC in the US, the pandemic has seen a significant regression in female participation in the workforce. Earlier in 2021, CNBC reported that 100% of job losses in the month of December were made up of women.

And in Australia, over a 4 month period, women accounted for over 2/3rds of job losses in the economy.

This feels less about a ‘top of the funnel’ attraction problem, and much more of a retention problem? Was it lack of flexibility? Or did the demands of home schooling naturally fall to women? Or was it a trade off decision on salaries…in Australia the average women earns 86c for every $1 a man gets paid in the gender pay gap. So maybe it was financially driven?

Either way, we need these people back in the workforce. Not to make our stat’s look better, but because it’s the right thing to do. From Government policy, employee value propositions, fair pay, equality, flexible work arrangements and more inclusive work environments.

Why not try…

– I’ve been experimenting with a few folks on the idea of Design Your Week. How you plan your synchronous time and asynchronous time, to allow for flexibility away from the traditional 9-5 Monday to Friday.

– With colleagues (of any gender) who are home schooling, we’ve put on additional resources to help. Story time. Reduced hours. Flexible working conditions.

– Run the Work Life Impact Play  with your colleagues to build empathy and understanding for every team members unique situation. Use this empathy to adapt how you work together.

What can we do to get a diverse mix of people (back) into the workforce

A question every leader should be asking

Fix it where you are

Back in the day of in person events, I’d talk a fair bit about culture transformation, being a “people organization” and generally about transformations, whether they be agile, digital, cultural, or other. In the Q&A or networking afterwards, someone would normally approach me and the conversation would go something like this:

  • THEM: “I want to leave my company because the culture is shit…etc”
  • ME: “Oh really. What’s it like and how long have you been there?”
  • THEM: “Oh, it’s terrible and I’ve been there forever!”
  • ME: “That’s cool. How much of that culture is your doing?”
  • ME: “Who’s to blame?”
  • THEM: “Management!”
  • ME: “And what’s your role?”
  • THEM: “I’m a senior manager…”

My point is, that if you are disillusioned where you are, then I’d really encourage you to find ways of affecting change where you are first. WHY? Well you have great relationships, human capital, a personal brand, and institutional knowledge where you are. I mean, ring fence it by all means. I’m not suggesting you stay where you are if you truly hate it. But the BEST chance and place for you to experiment for free, is right where you are now. Throw caution to the wind and start trying new stuff.

Get your team to run a Team Health Monitor to see how well you’re working together, agree on ONE area to improve, and drive that improvement. Maybe pick a ritual that improves the culture of your team…maybe a bi-weekly celebration, a monthly ‘sharing is caring’ get together, or rollout My User Manual with your team mates to build more team cohesion.

Best case scenario, you affect the change where you are and build the culture you want, and you get the added feather in your cap, that you helped make that change. You’ll build a name and brand for yourself as being a positive change agent. You’ll experiment and explore more, and be renowned as someone who makes stuff happen in a pragmatic way.

Worst case scenario, you’ll get to practice a lot of stuff for free, and either get fired or leave, which you were planning to do anyway. At least when you interview for your next job and they ask “can you talk about a time you tried to impact a change and what happened”, you can pass them a cuppa tea and a box of popcorn and fill them in on what you’ve tried.


Leaders lead by example

I’ve talked for years about the superpower most leaders need to develop, being role modelling. Instead of instilling change on others, or trying to pen inspirational blogs about what others should do, just do it yourself and others with copy.

The GR seems like another great time to try on that super hero cape. So I’m calling all leaders. And I don’t just mean those with leader in their title or VP’s. I mean anyone who is leading in the true sense. You could be leading a team, or an initiative. Or leading the charge.

Instead of standing by and watching the GR unfold, we can start to take action now that builds a culture that we all want to be a part of.

Step 1: Run the Ritual Reset play with your team, and encourage them to challenge the rituals and meetings that make up the vast majority of their working week. Find the ones to keep but tweak, overhaul, get rid of, and make room to add in new rituals that OTHERS suggest.

Step 2: Tell everyone (peers, colleagues, bosses etc) how it went. Write a blog. Tell the story of your experience both good and bad.

Step 3: Experiment with a new way of working. Add in a new ritual. You can make one up, or borrow one from any of Atlassian, Google, DropBox etc ways of working that they all share.

Step 4: Tell everyone (peers, colleagues, bosses etc) how it went. Write a blog. Tell the story of your experience both good and bad.

Step 5: Write on a post it note and put it on your screen, “Argue like you’re right, and listen like you’re wrong”, and read it before every meeting for a month. Turn up and be present, and share your ideas with passion, but then close your mouth, open your ears and listen for the respectful dissent. Listen for challenge. Listen for conjecture. Not to correct the person, but to understand differences of opinion. Purposefully build an inclusive culture where people feel heard, where they feel belonging, and where they feel like they can have impact.

Step 6: Tell everyone (peers, colleagues, bosses etc) how it went. Write a blog. Tell the story of your experience both good and bad.

Our job as leaders is to support and amplify those around us, and be a catalyst in our teams and organisation. If we want to avoid, rather than accept the GR, then we should start experimenting and exploring RIGHT NOW, to build a better work environment, culture, and ways of working that we love, and others love. And we’ll end up feeling like we can do the best work of our lives, by role modelling the behaviour we want and expect to see from others…by going first.


Design your culture

We have an amazing opportunity post-pandemic. We can choose to challenge the norms around 9-5 and Monday to Friday, around synchronous work, around the office, around our fetish for weird measures like productivity, and around the role of work as part of life.

Now is a great time to design the cultures (yes, there are multiple) you want in your organisation, and to do it on purpose and not by accident. It’s a chance to attract and retain the best people in terms of values, skills, and impact. It’s an opportunity to have an outsized impact on your company, people, customers, and society as a whole. It’s a chance to get things right around diversity and inclusion.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do morally, but because it makes PERFECT sense from a business standpoint;

Diverse enterprises outperform their competitors

  • Generate 2.3X higher cash flow / employee
  • Outperform their peers by 25% (gender) to 36% (race/ethnicity)
  • Create 19% more revenue from innovation

Change is hard, but it builds resilience. Diverse companies adapt 1.8X faster to opportunities and challenges.


Atlassian has kicked of our version of this mission in our announcement of Team Anywhere. How we think about WHERE, WHEN and HOW we work, in a more distributed fashion.

Don’t wait for the exodus. Start your evolution now. Or resign 😉