Most discussions about the “great resignation,” including our own, have focused on the “demographic drought,” with job openings growing and participation in the work force declining, particularly in the younger generations. But a recent study by Deloitte found that 70% of C-level executives reported that they seriously might resign from a job due to issues of well-being.

The Deloitte report found that C-suite executives feel as stressed out and depressed as the workers who report to them. The poll, conducted in February of 2021, reported that:

  • 76% of higher-ups said the pandemic has negatively affected their overall health.
  • 81% said improving their own equilibrium is more important than advancing their career right now.

83% of those polled said they intended to expand their company’s benefits to include mental wellness over the next one to two years, and 77% said companies should be required to publicly report “workforce well-being metrics.”

There is a significant divide between how the top of organizations perceive the effectiveness of these efforts and what workers say. While 84% of C-level executives said they thought their workers were thriving in terms of mental health, only 59% of employees rated their mental health as good or excellent. The disconnect seems to be between sincere intention and action.

The source of the disconnect may lie in part with the fact that while C-level executives are genuinely concerned about their workforce’s well-being, they are feeling burnt out themselves. Traditionally, the C-suite has been an island where the corporate wellness policies that are recommended or even required for employees do not necessarily apply, and executives do not set a boundary between work and time off.

In May of 2019, the World Health Organization classified burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

These “symptoms” are consistent with what C-level executives reported in the Deloitte report. If we view the C-suite as setting the tone for the organization and combine that with the relative lack of action on mental health issues, the results of the poll are not surprising.

  1. C-level executives are themselves feeling burnt out.
  2. Even if they improve conditions for the rest of the organization, they are not likely to improve them for themselves.
  3. Add in the feelings of negativism and cynicism that accompany burnout

And the result is a recipe for inaction or ineffective action – not because anyone is ill-intended, but because everyone is suffering from the same malady. In recruiting executives, particularly for the C-suite, it is critical to find those who, in addition to all the other requirements of the job, will carry a commitment to well-being for themselves, for those around them, and for the whole organization.

Locating and recruiting executives with this important set of commitments and abilities can be a difficult process. Outsourcing the search for and vetting of candidates is likely to produce the best results. An effective recruiting partner will know how to identify the right combination of skill and experience to find the top candidates and to convey to them what is needed by the hiring company.

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