We don’t need TikTok’s “Quit-Tok” videos to know that the Great Resignation is upon us. You don’t have to look further than your office, classroom, or boardroom to know people are exhausted and frustrated. A recent survey by the National Association of Secondary School Principals indicated that job satisfaction is at an ultimate low with almost 4 out of 10 principals (38%) expecting to leave the profession in the next three years.
- 68% of principals report being concerned about the teacher shortage in the 2021-22 school year, with 41% reporting they are “extremely concerned.”
- Similarly, 68% are concerned about educator burnout, with 44% reporting they are “extremely concerned.”
How can we address these issues to reduce the effects of staff shortages, resignations, and burnout? As we move forward through these turbulent times, we need to continually assess and ask ourselves these questions:
How are we caring for those who are still here?
Most employees have not left – but they are definitely bearing the brunt of the vacancies – be they daily absences or resignations. It’s so easy to get so focused on who’s leaving and where there are shortages, that we forget to take care of those who have stayed. How can we better embrace the folks that are still here and let them know they matter? Communication, a clear sense of direction, empathy and appreciation are universal needs of all staff and can provide the support that they need to thrive and grow.
How are we handling that which we can control?
Teachers and principals cite “lack of administrative support” as the #1 reason they leave. We have no control over COVID, mandates, market conditions, etc. – but we do have control over the department/school/district culture and environment we create. Why give people additional reasons to go? We need to create a culture that people don’t want to leave. A positive, supportive culture and community makes it harder to say goodbye.
Are people overworked in some ways and underutilized in other important ways?
By far the most overlooked and underutilized resource is the thinking power of our people. Just 27% of Principals “strongly agree” that their district appropriately consulted them about how to use COVID-relief financial aid for their school. By engaging people in addressing problems and decisions, schools and districts have access to better solutions. When organizations fail to do this, they “leave silver in the mine” (as Ben Franklin would say). Ken Blanchard, organization and leadership expert once said, “Remember, all the brains are not at the top of the organization.” Although no leader would ever disagree – sometimes their practices do not reflect this belief. Let’s harness that brain power for important the important decisions and problem solving ahead.
Are we avoiding avoidable problems?
So much that has happened over the past 2 years could not have been anticipated. It can feel like a never-ending stream of new, emerging, and repeated challenges. But we don’t need to make it worse with ill-conceived decisions or poorly implemented solutions. In the midst of turbulent times, the last thing we need or can afford is to compound our problems.
Actions that can prevent problems, like reducing workloads, increasing autonomy or increasing mentorships discussed in this recent article, 5 Ways for School Leaders to Reduce Teacher Burnout, can go a long way in reducing teacher OR leadership burnout. These strategies which can be strategically planned for using Potential Problem Analysis can work for all staff members.
If we have learned anything from the last two years, it is that there are no easy answers or magic bullets. However, we have also learned how incredibly capable, resilient, adaptable, and ingenious people can be. Asking the right questions can help you find ways to give people the tools and support that they need to cultivate those capabilities to prevent burnout and future resignations.