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Leaders Are Out of Touch With Employees and Need a Wake-Up Call

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Employees have been telling me for years their leaders just don’t get it. They’re so removed from the day-to-day operations, and what employees experience, that they really don’t get what employees need to not only thrive, but to survive. The pandemic, and the shift to remote work, has put a spotlight on this, but it seems leaders are still out of touch.

Microsoft recently undertook a wide-scale survey of more than 30,000 employees around the globe. What they found is that leaders are “out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call”.

According to survey findings, 61% of leaders say they’re thriving right now. They report stronger relationships with colleagues, earn higher incomes, and take all, or more, of their vacation days. Contrast this with what their workers report. The data is clear—workers are struggling. Thirty-seven percent say their companies are demanding too much from them.

No doubt the reason for leadership’s happiness is the high productivity they’re enjoying from their workforce. But this comes at a cost:

  • 20% say their employer doesn’t care about them

  • 54% feel overworked

  • 39% feel exhausted

Workers are feeling the pressure and are struggling to keep up.

In the top two needs expressed by workers is the desire for an employer who cares about their well-being. The survey points out that workers are overloaded and need some care and concern for their welfare from their employer.

Digital overload is real, and it’s getting way worse.


When Microsoft compared trends in Microsoft 365 over the last year, this is what they found:

  • Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally and, aside from a holiday dip in December, continues to climb.

  • The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes.

  • The average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per week and 42 % more chats per person after hours, with chats per week still on the rise.

  • The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers in February, when compared to the same month last year, is up by 40.6 billion.

  • And there's been a 66% increase in the number of people working on documents.

The desire to prove they’re working and being productive has workers responding to most chats within five minutes or less. The workday is intense, and ad hoc meetings and unscheduled phone calls and chats are increasing the intensity of the workday. What is expected of employees during this time has increased greatly and is crushing them.


Research shows that 41% of the global workforce intends to leave their current jobs within the next year. Now consider your team. Four out of ten of them are looking for work right now. Employees are re-evaluating their priorities, and their lives. They now have never-before-seen opportunities to work remotely, and they are likely to take advantage of it.

41% of employees are considering leaving their current jobs.
46% say they’re likely to move because they can now work remotely.
74% of workers would quit their jobs if offered more flexibility elsewhere.


Leaders, the struggle your employees are feeling is real. You need a plan to address this before half your workforce walks out the (virtual) door. It starts with answering these critical questions:

  • How are your employees doing?

  • What do they need?

  • How can you empower flexibility and the ability to continue to work remotely?

It’s time for leaders (including you!) to do some management by walking around, albeit virtually, and learn what employees in their companies are facing. And once they know, create a plan and make investments to make things better. Digital exhaustion needs to be addressed from the top, and must be a priority for leaders, as is creating a culture of encouragement and respect.


Laura Sukorokoff is the Founder and Chief People Maximizer at C-Change Learning and Development.

You can reach her at, or connect with her on LinkedIn at Laura Sukorokoff | LinkedIn

(cover photo courtesy of Jacob Lund for The Noun Project.)


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