Readers of Cornerstone’s 2022 National Outlook of Countries will note that the global aftershocks of the Great Resignation continue to rumble through our work lives. The Australian Outlook quotes a Gartner Institute finding that 25 percent of people surveyed in late 2021 planned to change jobs in 2022.
Employees in many countries can relate to the reasons for quitting:
- Burn-out (lack of work/life balance)
- Poor leader/manager behaviour
- Organisational culture (not feeling valued or respected at work)
An article in the Harvard Business Review contends that employee unrest often springs from a deeper cause: moral injury.
In “Employees are Sick of Being Asked to Make Moral Compromises,” authors Ron Carucci and Ludmila Praslova point out that moral injury occurs when people are asked to behave in ways or submit to situations that violate their innate – “hardwired” – sense of justice.
“People may be leaving companies (in some cases ‘rage quitting’) because of more than just feeling burned out or wanting more flexible work arrangements. Many may be leaving because their conscience has been wounded and their innate sense of justice violated…. The mass exodus from our workplaces is, in part, a proclamation that people can’t – and won’t – tolerate mistreatment, injustice, and incompetence from their leaders anymore, particularly at the expense of their dignity and values.”
The authors note that while moral injury is not the same as the PTSD suffered by battlefield soldiers, “both can be understood as psychological trauma with biological markers and consequences. PTSD is associated with a threat to our mortality and damages our sense of safety; moral injury wounds our morality and sense of trust.”
The Australian National Outlook of Countries highlighted an egregious example of moral injury perpetrated by a company operating on a global scale. A review “found that sexism, bullying and racism ran rampant within the business. Among the 10,000 employees surveyed of (the company’s) 45,000-strong workforce, 25 percent of women stated they had experienced sexual harassment and almost 50 percent of the workforce had been bullied.”
The company’s CEO expressed shock at the scope of the wrongdoing at his firm. He vowed to rectify the situation.
Luckily, the employees of most firms have not experienced this level of abuse, and most companies have not seen their dirty laundry exposed so publicly.
Nevertheless, many companies are faced with shocking revelations and vow to mend their ways. But how do the good intentions expressed in PR handouts get implemented? Taking advantage of the expertise of coaches is one proven method.
Laurie O’Donnell is the Practice Leader of Coaching at Cornerstone International Group. She believes that change begins with the most senior executive of an organization. A coach can help this leader examine personal perspectives and values. The next step is to meet with the executive team to explore their range of views and values. Then the decision-makers must develop an implementable path forward, get it in writing, and commit to sticking to it. Team coaching can help in this delicate process.
Moral injury is a state of mind. But injuries inflicted on minds can heal, especially with the help of trained and skilled coaches. In addition, the International Coaching Federation notes that “the coaching process often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”
All Cornerstone International Group coaches are members of the International Coaching Federation.
Carucci, Ron and Ludmila Praslova, “Employees are Sick of Being Asked to Make Moral Compromises”. Harvard Business Review
Cornerstone International Group, Coaching: The Key to Retention and Performance