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From ‘Great’ to ‘Ghoulish’: Surviving as Resignations Get Even Scarier


This might be the scariest Halloween that organizations and leaders have ever faced. Grim year-end forecasts. Ongoing supply chain(saw) massacres plaguing nearly every industry. Offices that look like graveyards. And spookiest of all is the specter of unwanted and uncontrollable turnover.

This season, many leaders are experiencing a lot more tricks than treats. Approximately 65% of employees are looking for a new job right now (according to an August poll of 1,007 full- and part-time U.S. workers conducted by PwC.)

Stories like the one reported earlier this month on CNN highlight a range of motivations driving employees to change. The pandemic has caused many to re-evaluate their lives, shift priorities, and invest more energy in family and friends. Others have become aware of a deep yearning to find greater purpose and meaning in their work. Some crave new challenges, opportunities, and novel ways to use their talents. And many are looking for growth and development.

Here’s the haunting truth: Most leaders have the power to take action that will help stem this tide of resignations. Much of what employees are quitting to find can frequently be found within their current organizations. Leaders who take the time to connect with workers, listen deeply to their wants and needs, understand their shifting priorities, and plan focused action can dramatically reduce their number of dearly departed team members.

Leaders who are surviving the gruesome effects of the great resignation tend to embody three characteristics that create an attractive, attrition-resistant environment: curiosity, care, and a focus on career development.


Curiosity is fuel, propelling conversations, relationships, and trust to new levels. Really understanding how people’s needs and wants are changing demands entering into dialogue without old notions or judgements about who you think they are. It demands becoming aware of biases and assumptions that only serve to obscure clarity. It demands asking thoughtful and respectful questions that create the space for others to reflect and share their thinking to whatever level feels safe. And, most importantly, it demands listening deeply to what’s said and what’s not said to gain a comprehensive understanding of what others need to remain engaged, satisfied, and even thriving in their current role or organization.


While it’s not a word that’s used frequently in business, ‘care’ is undoubtedly a characteristic and set of behaviors that have the power to forge an unbeatable (and un-leavable) culture. Demonstrating benevolent concern for employees inspires a visceral reaction in others. People can feel it when you genuinely understand and prioritize their needs. When you have their backs. When you’re looking out for their best interest (even sometimes at the expense of your own.) They feel cared for when you really see them and their contributions. When you offer meaningful, heartfelt recognition and appreciation as well as specific and helpful feedback. And let’s face it. It would take a pretty extraordinary opportunity for someone to walk away from this kind of caring employee experience.

Career Development

Career development may be one of the most significant tools leaders have to minimize the grim effects of current resignation trends. According to Gallup, 87% of millennials say professional growth and career development are very important. 76% of employees are looking for opportunities to expand their careers. And 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development according to last year’s LinkedIn Learning Report.

While specific positions and promotions may not be available, effective leaders understand that development takes a variety of forms that are meaningful and engaging to others. Check out this short video that outlines eight different ways (that don’t rely on position or moves) to help people grow.

Put these three elements together, and you have countless ways to respond to employees and craft strategies to ensure that you retain top talent. For instance…

If the past 20 months have inspired your employee to… Consider this…
Require more work-life balance Understand what specifically this means for the person to determine the extent you may be able to offer greater flexibility around the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of the job. Employees you know – working a little differently than before – are likely a better bet than starting from scratch with new, unseasoned, and untested workers.
Derive greater meaning from work Explore their values and deeper sense of purpose; find ways to connect that to the mission of the organization; identify mission-driven activities within the organization that they may be able to contribute to; encourage them to take on the pet project that will feed their souls while contributing to the work at hand.
Crave new challenges Offer the opportunity to step up to novel, interesting experiences that will stretch their capacity. The good news is that most organizations are grappling with countless issues and challenges that need energy and attention. Find a void, customer pinch point, process break-down, or cross-functional project that will offer the challenge employees want – that will also engage and retain them.
Want to grow Make learning available. If formal classes and workshops aren’t available (or aren’t in the budget), there are plenty of no-cost options available. Job-shadowing, ride-alongs, coaching, mentoring, action learning projects, and more can offer rich, contextual learning that will help the individual perform better today and prepare for the skills they’ll need tomorrow. And this investment in development sends a signal that the employee is valued which may inspire that retention you need.

The ‘great’ resignation has become quite gruesome for many organizations. And yet, leaders are not powerless when it comes to combatting today’s frightening employment conditions. Demonstrating curiosity, care, and a commitment to career development can turn attrition tricks into retention treats… this Halloween and all year-long.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.


  1. Very creative and engaging writing with useful information!

    Nice Job as always!

  2. Julie,

    Timely and useful. I am re-reading one of my favorite leadership books, Leading Change by James O’Toole. Written in the mid 90’s it identifies principles and effectiveness as the key to leaders who can lead change

    The characteristics of how they interact with employees are curiosity, respect, and the willingness and encouragement to learn from their experience. Truths like these are timeless–operating according to them is hard and sometimes it takes a crisis for leaders to pay attention and change mindsets and behaviors. Let’s hope leaders don’t let this crisis go to waste.


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