Resenteeism Is The New Workplace Trend Defining A Generation Of Unfulfilled Workers

Forget quiet quitting, resenteeism is the new workplace phenomenon that speaks to unhappy and unfulfilled workers deeply frustrated by their current situation.

First it was December and we were all willing ourselves to the finish line, even if we had to crawl, just to see 2022 shuffle off its mortal coil. But after what seems like the longest month, the brief holiday break (for those who were fortunate to have one) is all but a distant memory. Only a month into the year, it seems that for many those grievances of the past have once again reared their heads in the workplace and are a lot harder to shake off even despite the blank page of the calendar. 

For those who found themselves dragging their feet with the return to the office, you’re not alone. It’s this feeling of resignation and unhappiness that has seen a new workplace phenomenon take over the trends of yesteryear – yes, quiet quitting, we’re looking at you. Now, ‘resenteeism’ is the trend du jour, referring to workers who are feeling unfulfilled with their current working situation, yet still show up and put the hours in regardless. 

If resentment is the over-arching feeling workers are expressing in 2023, it’s one that’s come to replace apathy. When quiet quitting was all the rage, workers expressed apathy towards their jobs as they arrived simply to do the bare minimum at their job. This was preceded by the 2022 trend to “let it rot”, which originated in China and has been described as “leaning into self-indulgence and open decay and away from life expectations that seem neither meaningful nor attainable.”

The term was coined by staff management software provider, RotaCloud, to describe someone who is still working but harbours great resentment and is growing more and more frustrated with their situation. And perhaps most alarmingly, RotaCloud suggests that resenteeism as a general mood in the office can be infectious, leading many to question their role, career progression and even career choices. 

According to award winning transformational career coach, Brooke Taylor, the rise in resenteeism is a result of the Great Resignation experienced during the pandemic, with many feeling “trapped without a way out.” As Taylor explains, “There’s also a greater expectation placed on work by Millenials and Gen Z’s, who comprise the majority of the workforce, who desire more than a pay check: they want purpose, meaning, and belonging. Most employers don’t know how to provide this, so employees become dissatisfied at best and resentful at worst.”

“Because this is happening within the context of a softening market, layoffs, and a recession, people are clinging to the security of their job they feel disengaged from, which compounds the resentment. It’s like being in a bad relationship and being forced to stay for security purposes.”

While it’s safe to say that most of us will grapple with work frustrations at some point over the course of the year, what distinguishes resenteeism from a mere bad day at the office is its persistent feeling. When it comes to why an employee could feel resentment, reasons range from job insecurity or lack of new opportunities within their current role, to low salary and limited workplace benefits. 

According to RotaCloud, the feeling is generally one caused by the “great resignation,” something sparked by the global pandemic that saw a staggering number of workers leave their jobs en masse. After decades where work came to define our lives and served as an extension of our identity as we wore the phrase “I’m too busy” like a badge of honour, the pandemic made us question not just what we were doing with our lives but how we were living them. Did we want to spend days at a desk in an office, or did we want to be outdoors surrounded by nature? Was a salary a driving factor behind our job choices or was personal satisfaction and passion? And perhaps most importantly, was there a way to marry the two and turn our passion into monetised work? 

But while many left their jobs to pursue other ventures, those that stayed now feel overworked, shouldering greater responsibilities while suffering from lack of resources and an unsustainable workload. Compounding the issue is the threat of recession that seems to hover like a grey cloud across the country, and the worsening cost of living crisis that means many are too afraid to leave or move jobs even despite not feeling happy. 

It might be the current trend defining the workplace in 2023, but it’s a trend no-one wants to subscribe to. If you’re feeling resentment about your current working conditions, there are some things you can do to alleviate it.

Brooke Taylor’s Top Tips for Overcoming Resneteeism at Work

For those experiencing resenteeism, what can they do to manage such feelings?

First, recognise your part in this resentment. What unstated expectations, needs, or feedback have you not been addressing? What triggers and emotions do you need to work through with a coach or therapist? 

Second, identify the exact elements of the job that are contributing to your lack of job satisfaction. Be specific. 

Third, remember that you are not trapped and you have choices. You can give feedback to a lacklustre colleague, advocate for new responsibilities, have a conversation with your manager about how you’re feeling. Finally, we experience the world as we perceive it.  Start a daily gratitude practice to focus on all the lessons, security, and growth that this job is providing you with. This is proven to boost morale, improve anxiety, and create a more positive outlook.  

How can workers have a constructive conversation about resenteeism with their employers?

The worst thing you can do is let resentment fester. That leads to burnout, total disengagement, balls dropping, and depression. Approach your manager with your unmet needs, mismatched expectations, or challenges and come with solutions and ideas. Collaborative language like “I’d really love to work together to find a solution because I know there’s a lot to be learned here” can put the problem in front of you rather than between you. 

Are there any risks associated with resenteeism when it comes to colleagues or the broader workplace? 

Resenteeism is contagious and can infect a culture causing low morale, and disengagement, which can cost your bottomline millions. Managers and leaders can address it with curiosity and compassion with their individual reports and within the larger organisation. In one-on-ones, managers can understand what motivates their reports and how to connect that motivation to the business’ vision. On an organisational level, leaders can remind employees of the larger vision and what they’re working towards to infuse meaning and purpose into the workforce. They can also share stories of tangible impact their teams are making to show how their work matters. 

What are your top tips when it comes to tackling feelings of resenteeism?

Resenteeism is the combination of feeling wronged, undervalued, and trapped. It’s tempting to blame your job or your company for your unhappiness, when often it is our own lack of career direction and purpose that causes the seed of resentment. Do the work to understand the bigger picture of what you want in your career and what gives you meaning at work. This clarity of vision is often the key motivator to free yourself from the mental trap that resenteeism can create. 

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