A Behavioral Scientist’s Antidote to Resenteeism

Digital coaching is one of the antidotes to resenteeism, and it positively impacts both employees and organizations.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but the reality is many Americans are unhappy at work. In fact, almost half of surveyed Americans wouldn’t wish their job on their worst enemy. As a result, resenteeism has begun to spread among workers. But what is resenteeism? When employees feel unsatisfied with their job and reluctantly remain in their positions because of a perceived lack of better options, they are well on their way to experiencing resenteeism.

What makes resenteeism a major problem for organizations is that workers experiencing resenteeism are not subtle with their unhappiness. It is an outward display of dissatisfaction that runs the risk of rubbing off on other employees and collapsing ambition and attitudes in the workplace.

As a behavioral scientist, I’ve found the antidote to resenteeism is consistent support, and one proven strategy to provide that support is digital coaching.

Resenteeism Origins and Outcomes

In recent years, many factors have exacerbated employee dissatisfaction at work. 2020 was the onset of the pandemic, and the subsequent shutdowns resulted in millions of people being laid off or furloughed. Then in 2021, we saw 47 million people voluntarily leave their jobs during the Great Resignation, leaving the employees who remained feeling overworked and undervalued. Quiet quitting, also known as “doing the bare minimum at your job,” trended in 2022. And then in 2023, we saw the rise of resenteeism.

The first step to solving the resenteeism problem is identifying it in your workforce. So what should leaders look out for? Resenteeism may manifest as a negative shift in attitude or behavior, a decline in enthusiasm for the job, diminished emotional investment and/or noticeably lower standards in work quality. All of these will be noticeable by others as resenteeism is distinguished by outward disgruntlement. Ultimately, employees suffering from resenteeism feel disengaged and demotivated, which results in negative consequences for the organization such as increased absenteeism and decreased productivity by many.

The Antidote to Resenteeism

An employee experiencing resenteeism may feel hopelessly confined in their role, but digital coaching can offer an escape through support personalized to each employee’s needs. Workers want to do jobs that make them feel fulfilled and supported, and they crave feedback that includes actionable ways to improve. Digital coaching can help with all of those things. One-on-one digital coaching is individualized for each employee, so each person has the opportunity to address their specific challenges with their coach.

If someone experiencing resenteeism’s biggest issue is feeling disengaged from their job, a coach can help them determine meaningful goals that motivate them to re-engage. Additionally, a coach will align an employee’s goals with the organization’s goals, both for the good of the organization and to revitalize the employee’s sense of purpose by seeing how their work fits with the big-picture plan.

Digital coaching can further combat resenteeism by identifying ways to improve an employee’s overall well-being. A coach can help an employee leverage their strengths and develop their soft skills such as resilience and stress management so they are able to forge ahead when things get tough. A coach may do this by role-playing a stressful situation with their coachee and then encouraging them to self-reflect on ways they could improve their performance in that situation. Coaching sets up an employee for success—in fact, one study found that 70 percent of coached employees showed improved performance. Empowering employees with the tools to do well in their roles increases their well-being at work, leaving employees feeling happier with their jobs and their organization.

Digital coaching is one of the antidotes to resenteeism, and it positively impacts both employees and organizations. The consistent support employees receive through coaching can increase their well-being, engagement, and job satisfaction, resulting in happier, more productive employees and preventing resenteeism from worming its way through the workforce.

Laurel McKenzie
Laurel McKenzie is a senior behavioral scientist and team lead at CoachHub, a digital platform for professional coaching. She has eight-plus years of specialized experience in cognitive performance, coaching, and applications of psychological principles that enhance employee performance and leadership development. She holds an M.A. degree in clinical and counseling psychology from William Paterson University, and is currently a Ph.D. student in industrial/organizational psychology at Liberty University. She excels at discovering ways to use her knowledge and experience to improve human performance and contribute to high level business goals by producing human-centric insights for stakeholders and their employee population.