We have also written in Decision about this phenomenon, which sparked a major debate in professional circles at the end of 2020. Predictions of changes in workers’ attachment to their jobs have divided the profession and readers alike. Last year’s prediction of a “sneaking turnover” phenomenon warned business leaders that workers would leave their jobs much more easily, even though neither the profession nor employers themselves considered this prediction to be realistic.
Understanding a pandemic from a society’s mental perspective is complicated. Especially because sociology and social research are mostly concerned with evaluating events that have already happened and summarising the lessons learned. But in business, managers have to plan ahead, so they have to have the data beforehand, not understand what went wrong and where. If there was one area where the experts got it horribly wrong, it was definitely the issue of employee “loyalty” and the mechanism for changing it in the shadow of the pandemic. Most business leaders believed that the most important task in 2021 would be to ensure that top decision-makers psychologically survived the crisis and had the energy to come up with a new business strategy for the changed market conditions. This is true, because it was indeed an important task. But it was wrong to conclude that once a strategy was in place, workers hungry to keep their jobs would immediately set about implementing it. A huge mistake! Indeed, the mental crisis of workers has been forgotten by many in decision-making positions. Many have shut themselves away, trying to lick their wounds or even rebuild themselves, but most workers have felt ignored or orphaned in the meantime. In the most difficult situations, very few managers could be a real support to them. In addition, their private lives had to be protected and reinterpreted, and employers were not involved, providing neither moral nor financial support. It was already apparent that the number of applicants on the recruitment market who had a specific job — i.e. who were not in the desperate job-seeker category — had increased dramatically. And this trend was a perfect predictor that employers, where management had failed or simply not performed well during the pandemic, would be in for a big surprise. Meanwhile, loyalty has also changed, with a significant proportion of workers throwing away socially imposed rules. Loyalty became much more objective and honest during this period. Of course, some employers were positively affected and some were negatively affected, and there is little middle ground between the two. What is clear is that 2021 has shown that there is a need to take care of employees at a higher level. But to do that, like it or not, we need to get to know those who work for us. As managers, we need to be more open and empathetic, and this is where the traditional self-serving managerial mindset is unpopular and simply unacceptable. Of course, this is bringing about major changes in the entire labour market, as managers who are careerists, who put their own goals first, and only want to align them with company goals for a temporary period are starting to find themselves out of work. Knowing and really caring about people will be critical in 2022. And in this, superficial solutions will no longer be acceptable.