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Angry quitting

Written by Editor

May 10, 2023

By Nelly Mohale, Head of Decusatio Human Capital Solutions

In the 1996 sports-comedy drama Jerry Maguire, actor Tom Cruise takes a principled stand that ultimately gets him fired from one of the largest sports agencies in the US. While the film is best remembered for the famous line – “Show me the money” – he romanticises the idea of going out with a bang… the reality is that this is a scenario that plays out daily in South African businesses but with far worse consequences.

In March 2022, Dr Frank Magwege, a Corporate Wellness executive for one of the largest financial services groups in South Africa estimated that the South African economy loses over R200-bn per year due to mental health related issues in the workplace. This was manifesting in a variety of different ways including absenteeism, presenteeism, spikes in drug and alcohol abuse and people acting out at work.

While each specific issue could be an article on its own, it’s worth contextualising why these issues are on the rise and causing employees to quit in rage.

The first issue we cannot ignore is that the average South African is under financial stress at the moment with rising interest rates hitting cash-strapped consumers. Consulting firm Deloitte released a “State of the South African Consumer” report and the March figures showed that 62% of people surveyed were concerned about the state of their personal financial situation and 40% were worried about their employment prospects.

With COVID-19 lockdowns still fresh in many people’s memories, many South Africans are painfully aware how their financial well-being can be turned on its head through factors beyond their control.

The above are further compounded by worries about daily issues such as security, loadshedding and the increased political rhetoric ahead of the 2024 elections – which are expected to be one of the most hotly contested in South African history.

Below are some suggestions that might reduce the phenomenon of “rage quitting” which has a negative impact on staff, suppliers and other key stakeholders in the business:

  1. Decide your staff are Human Capital

Depending on the nature of the business you are in, staff costs will make up somewhere between 35% and 50% of your business costs each month. Despite this, employees are still often viewed as cost centres rather than a contribution to the capital base of the business. While it may be easy to say that you can easily replace an employee, have you considered how much that actual replacement will cost and how it impacts the rest of your organisation and suppliers?

The team from RemChannel recently conducted research on 82 businesses in South Africa and they discovered that 40 000 people had quit their jobs in the last 12 months and the costs associated with replacing them was a mind-blowing R24-billion.

  1. Communicate the rules

While many organisations are often criticised for not communicating “strategy” efficiently to their workforce, we would argue that it is more about communicating the rules and enforcing them equitably.

Many ethics classes at universities or business schools pose a variation of a question which asks: “If the janitor takes home some extra toilet paper, it is theft; but if the CEO does it, is it a perk?”

With organisations having to grapple with balancing remote work and the return to the office, many of these kinds of questions are being brought up and organisations need to be able to put in place rules and systems which are applied fairly across the workforce.

  1. Communicate operational challenges early

Whether you are a political party or a private sector enterprise, the economic challenges have meant that organisations are struggling to pay salaries on time. This has an enormous knock-on effect to the employee who wakes up on pay-day to find they haven’t received their salaries.

Communicate early and allow employees the chance to make alternative arrangements rather than wait until they are past the point of no return that could lead them to quitting.

  1. Practice kindness and empowerment

One of the consequences of the enforced lockdowns was that organisations very quickly moved to remote work. Staff members could no longer go into the canteen to unwind over a cup of coffee or be recognised in the staff meeting for a job well done.

While “kindness” and “corporate wellness” are often seen as soft elements for organisations, the American Psychological Association published a paper which looked at 3 500 business units and 50 000 staff members. The study showed that organisations who practised gratitude and kindness delivered enhanced productivity and efficiency while delivering lower staff churn.

“Rage quitting” may be romanticised in books and movies but in South Africa, it is a very real issue for organisations and it has very real costs – to the business as well as the employee quitting. Smart organisations are putting in place strategies to mitigate these costs so that when needed, a situation can be remedied before reaching the breaking point.

Nelly Mohale is Head of Decusatio Human Capital, a Rosebank based consulting business assisting businesses to develop high-performance teams. She can be reached on Nelly@decusatio.co.za

Read some tips on improving employee experience in the 2nd edition of Top HR Leaders

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