Are Your Employees Coasting at Work? Resenteeism Explained

There is a new workplace trend emerging this year—resenteeism. Though similar to other recent trends, this one is unique and largely defined by employees who are resentful, disengaged, and coasting at work. Think of an employee who is tired of their job, doesn’t feel valued, and is checked out at work. They’re slowly going to withdraw from their coworkers and do the bare minimum just to get by.

As you can probably tell, that can quickly kill productivity and company culture. Resentful and disengaged employees aren’t going to be productive, and their negative attitudes can drag down those around them. Today, we’re going to take a close look at resenteeism, its signs and symptoms, the impact it has, and how to prevent it in your workplace.

What is Resenteeism?

First, let’s focus on what it is. The root word is resentment, with resenteeism meaning chronic resentment with work that affects attitudes, behaviors, productivity, and more. Employees who suffer from resentment typically put their heads down and do the bare minimum to get through the day.

These employees aren’t quitting due to their dissatisfaction. Instead, they are keeping their job and powering through whatever resentment or other negative feelings they have towards it. It is similar in many ways to boreout, which is when employees are bored and disengaged at work.

Resentment at work is most common with Gen Z and millennial employees who emphasize work-life balance, and a poor balance can result in resentment. While it’s easy to blame them for not being able to “deal with it,” remember that a good work-life balance is good for employees and businesses.

Resenteeism vs. Presenteeism

Before moving on, it’s important to distinguish between resenteeism and presenteeism. While these words sound similar, they are opposites in many ways.

As explained above, resenteeism is about work resentment. These employees resent their job and work but stick with it, and those negative feelings impact their attitudes, behaviors, productivity, and more.

Presenteeism on the other hand comes from the word present. These employees are too present at work, always willing to go the extra mile—even when it comes at the cost of their own physical or mental health. For example, employees experiencing presenteeism will show up to work even when they are sick or need a mental break. They “suck it up” and push through it. While that might sound admirable, it also has negative effects.

These employees often sacrifice their own wellbeing and end up burnt out. It can also negatively affect the culture, as other employees feel they need to do the same. This can lead to more conflicts, increased turnover, decreased productivity, and more. Even though these two may have similar consequences in the end, they have different causes and will require different solutions and prevention methods.

Signs and Symptoms of Resenteeism

Now, let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms of the job trend resenteeism to help you identify resentment in employees and effectively deal with it.

Behavioral Indicators

There are numerous behavioral indicators of resentment. Disruptive behaviors for example, such as absenteeism or insubordination can be a sign/symptom. However, most of the signs are less obvious.

Resentful employees are more likely to be quiet, not talk much, and stay in their own bubble than they are to get into fights or bully others. The main thing to look out for is employees who are withdrawn and not actively involved in the workplace.

Performance Indicators

Performance indicators of resenteeism are a bit easier to identify. When employees don’t have meaningful work and feel resentful, their productivity and work quality will go down. Things like decreased productivity, employees doing the absolute minimum required for tasks, and failing to meet deadlines can all be indicators. If you notice any of these, it may be a sign of resentment in the workplace.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that resentment, absenteeism, burnout, and boreout can all have similar symptoms. Once you identify signs and symptoms, you’ll have to dig deeper to discover the root cause of the issue.

Emotional Indicators

Lastly are the emotional indicators. These tend to be the most unique signs and symptoms, so they can be very helpful for identifying employees suffering from resenteeism.

Resentful employees are likely to withdraw. This means they may be distant, reluctant to talk, and isolated from those around them. Overall, you’ll get the feeling that they just aren’t there emotionally at work. Anxiety, stress, and depression can also be symptoms. Not all mental health issues are work-related, and you shouldn’t just assume a worker is resentful because you notice stress or anxiety, but it may be an indicator to look deeper.

The Impact of Resenteeism in the Workplace

With the signs and symptoms covered, let’s look at the impact resenteeism can have in the workplace.

Team Dynamics & Culture

One of the biggest and most immediate impacts is on group dynamics and culture. The dynamic of a team relies heavily on the attitudes of team members, and a negative or withdrawn team member can have a big impact on the team as a whole.

One team member doing the bare minimum and not socializing can create tension between the other team members, and it can even drag some of them down too. It puts more pressure on everyone, which harms the team dynamic. And the same applies to culture as a whole. If a couple of employees are barely working, don’t socialize, and are generally negative, it can harm the company culture.

Productivity & Innovation

This of course has an impact on productivity and innovation as well. Teams are most productive when everyone is engaged and working together, but resentful employees aren’t giving it their all and supporting their team members.

That directly results in decreased productivity and lowered innovation. When talented team members aren’t putting their ideas forward, you have less to work with and are ultimately less creative and innovative.

Absenteeism & Turnover

Resentment in employees can also increase absenteeism and turnover. As other employees see what’s going on, they may start to mentally check out as well. This can lead to growing resentment among all employees.

In turn, that creates a more negative work environment. As these negative effects start to pile up, turnover can increase from resentful and non-resentful employees alike.

How to Prevent Work Resentment

Just like quiet quitting, there are lots of ways to prevent resentment at work. Here are some effective strategies you can use in the workplace.

Encourage Communication

Like nearly any workplace issue, communication is key. Encouraging open communication can allow employees to voice their concerns, helping prevent future resentment and opening up a path to deal with any current resentment.

Team building events, such as Virtual Team Connections, can help increase communication and open dialogues that can squash resentment and encouraging understanding.

Virtual Team Connections

Recognize & Reward Employees

Since feeling undervalued is a big contributor to resentment in the workplace, recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts can be an effective way to prevent and deal with resentment.

Whether you do this through rewards for achieving goals or a fun outing like the Mystery Bus, just make sure your employees feel valued and appreciated.

Conduct Leadership Training

Leadership also plays a role in all of this. Good leaders know how to avoid resentment through communication, recognition, a good employee experience, and prioritizing wellbeing. Leaders set an example, so it’s important to have knowledgeable and capable leaders.

Programs like Team and Leadership DNA are a great way to conduct leadership training and help your leaders get the tools they need to lead by example and create an inclusive culture.

Improve Your Employee Experience

Last but not least, improving the employee experience (EX) can also help address resentment. When employees have a positive experience and something to work toward, they are much more likely to be engaged and driven at work.

Providing career advancement opportunities is one of many ways to improve the employee experience. You can also consider team building activities that prioritize wellbeing, such as Team Wellbeing and Laughter Yoga.

Laughter Yoga

Boost Engagement to Beat Resenteeism

Resenteeism is a quiet but damaging attitude that can negatively impact employees, teams, and a business’s bottom line. If left unchecked, it can result in increased turnover, a negative environment, decreased productivity, and more.

However, it’s possible to prevent and beat resentment through prioritizing employee wellness, recognition, and team building. By supporting employees and creating a better environment, you can beat resentment and build even stronger teams.

Dealing with resentment at work can be hard, but TeamBonding is ready to help facilitate your team building and employee engagement activities, taking the pressure off you. So take a look at our events that can help bring teams together and improve their wellness, and get in touch with us to start boosting engagement today.

Camille VanBuskirk

Team Contributor


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