Individually, employees can be given a paid week off, penalized for cashing out their vacation time and provided access to wellness apps. Still, efforts at tackling burnout will remain superficial if we don’t combine them with greater organizational changes. Along with overwhelming workloads and a lack of resources, burnout stems from insufficient rewards that aren’t equitable. J. Stacy Adams, a workplace and behavioral psychologist, first developed the equity theory in the 1960s. She believed that employees seek to maintain equity between the inputs they bring to a job and the outcomes they receive against the perceived inputs and outcomes of others.
According to a Journal of Organizational Behavior article by burnout theorists Maslach and Leiter, burnout is a psychological continuum between the negative experience of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy) and the positive experience of engagement (energy, involvement and efficacy).
Being overworked and underpaid or knowing that your work isn’t valued in the same way as others doing your job is a surefire way to bring about cynicism and detachment.
Yes, women’s pay has increased by 60% since the 1980s, and 82.3% of women earned the same as men in 2020. But the gap is still there, and it’s wider for women of color, immigrants, and women with children and in higher-paying industries and roles. As I am a woman of color, a mother, and a British expat, this, of course, hits me hard on a personal level.
Due to the pay gap, the average woman misses out on more than $400,000 during her career. I’ve coached some exceptionally high achievers this year, and when I look at the qualitative data trends over the years, the pay gap continues to highlight new frustrations and career needs. According to an SHRM study, 66% of employees facing discrimination at work are hampered in their engagement, morale, motivation, commitment, and desire to advance in the organization.
Furthermore, according to Lean In, almost 75% of Americans think the gender pay gap is unfair when they know it exists, and only 16% think companies are doing enough to close it. The same survey showed that gender pay transparency improves corporate image and stakeholder relationships, with 66% of Americans being less likely to buy a product from a company that does not pay women fairly.
As I continue to reflect on the qualitative data from one-on-one coaching sessions with high-performers and, more specifically, our new world of work post-pandemic, here’s what employees want you to do to help close the gap:
1. Give everyone equal access to career development in a personalized, meaningful way that supports their personal brands and professional goals. Be mindful, though, that there are key fundamental steps before this, and many companies miss them out before offering resources.
2. Encourage and support advocacy among women in all stages of the employee experience cycle.
3. Equip women with negotiation skills even when they exit.
4. In his book, Life’s Great Questions, Tom Rath, multiple author, researcher, and #1 New York Times bestseller, talks about how organizations are held responsible for financial results and not yet well-being; that needs to change, and we can start by conducting performance and salary audits in a holistic manner.
5. Reduce bias across hiring, promotions, and performance reviews. Even if you offer generous maternal leave policies, signaling you’re a family-friendly company, many women I’ve recently coached are still petrified about how motherhood may affect a promotion or annual performance-related raises.
Let’s not cast aside a significant cause of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy (burnout): the inequitable pay gap. In 2019, WHO estimated that depression and anxiety cost the global economy nearly $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Moreover, a McKinsey study showed that 62% of workers say mental health issues are a challenge in the workplace right now, with higher rates for members of marginalized communities. We need to invest and get things right in terms of what high performers can do to prevent and overcome burnout and what can be done organizationally. Are you doing enough to support your people with preventing and overcoming burnout?
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