Great Resignation or Tech-layoffs: An Organisation Culture Question

Dr. Madana, PhD is a Servant Leadership Evangelist. He helps organisations challenge the traditional leadership paradigms and build a culture where Results and Relationships are beautifully balanced. He consults for several corporates through

At the peak of the pandemic the business world saw peculiar phenomena and they called it the Great resignation. The businesses saw people quitting their jobs in hordes. Tech companies and Healthcare sector were the major sufferers of the phenomena. Studies highlighted various factors that contributed to this. One of the major finding was that a Toxic culture contributed significantly to the Great Resignation. It is not as if companies with toxic culture did not exist before the pandemic. The pandemic gave a whole new perspective on life to people and they decided that they need not tolerate toxic culture anymore and they quit. Further investigations revealed that the burn out was one of the reasons for the great resignation.

Fast forward to 2023 and we are seeing the table completely turned. Big Tech firms are realizing that they hired indiscriminately to offset the great resignation and to meet the spurt in business during the Pandemic. The business growth is not as expected. The spurt turned out to be temporary. They suddenly are faced with extra people on their rolls. Elon Musk, in his own toxic style initiated the layoffs, and many of the other so called ‘employer friendly’ companies followed suit. The reason everyone gave is more or less the same. The tone and the approach differed, but the end result was the same. Innocent employees got fired for decisions where they had no part, decisions that the top leadership took, and the top leadership alone was responsible for.

Building a culture that values employees as human beings is important this can be achieved through implementation of Servant Leadership which invests in the holistic development of their people, and not just in the monetizable skills

Some leaders took the responsibility for the bad decisions they made. But no leader was willing to actually share the pain, other than through words. Google announced that the leaders will get significantly less bonuses, but the quantum of that, or whether that will really result in a ‘salary cut’ for the top leadership is still unclear.

What is at the bottom of this approach?
It is the belief that People are ‘resources’ who are to be used for achieving organisational objectives. All these companies think that the people pipeline is an ‘on-demand’ tap that you can open when you need more people and close when you don’t want them. This is where the culture of the organisation comes in. Any organisation that continues to look at people as ‘resources’ and invests in them only for monetizable skills, will face both the great resignation and the layoff scenarios. Instead, if companies develop a culture where employees are valued as a human being (as against a human resource), the impact of phenomena like the great resignation will be minimal, and layoffs will be unheard of. Bob Chapman who is quoted by Simon Sinek in his book Leaders Eat Last, says that companies should stop the concept of head count and shift to heart count instead.

This is exactly what Servant Leadership does. Servant Leaders invest in the wholistic development of their people, and not just in the monetizable skills. Servant Leaders VALUE people.

So, Great Resignation or Tech Layoffs, the ultimate answer is in building a culture that values employees as human beings. This can be achieved through implementation of Servant Leadership as the overarching Leadership philosophy of the organisation.