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What leaders can learn from P&O Ferries and the Great Resignation

The layoffs at P&O Ferries are just the latest example of what happens when leaders fail to prioritize and live respect as a cultural value. You can do better.

3 min read


What leaders must learn from P&O Ferries and the Great Resignation


In this week’s episode of “Bosses Behaving Badly,” we learn that P&O Ferries, a leading ferry operator in the UK, recently fired 800 staff members via a three-minute pre-recorded Zoom call. Less expensive agency employees were hired to replace the fired officers and crew.

Security officers reportedly met the ferries at the docks to remove the fired staff and then facilitate the replacement crew taking over.

There are a thousand ways to communicate a difficult message like this one. Few of those ways are as demeaning, discounting and dismissive of those officers and crew members’ efforts and contributions over the years as an impersonal video recording and security officers on hand for the “transition.”

Whether P&O Ferries continues to operate remains to be seen, and the layoff itself could have been illegal.

These workers didn’t quit, but many, many workers have. 48 million US workers voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. Another 4.3 million quit their jobs in January 2022.

A new Pew Research Center study found that the top three reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year were low pay (cited as a major reason by 63% of respondents), no opportunities for advancement (cited by 63%), and feeling disrespected at work (cited by 57%).

All three of these reasons are different shades of disrespect. If leaders want to retain talented players and attract talented players, they must heed the need to create a workplace where respect is as important as results.

In our new Amazon bestseller, “Good Comes First,” Mark Babbitt and I outline how leaders can build and sustain uncompromising work cultures founded on respect — which, in turn, drives results. Our clients consistently enjoy gains in employee engagement (40%), customer service (40%), and results and profits (35%) within 18 months of implementing our proven culture process.

This effort requires senior leaders to define their desired culture, then align and refine their desired culture by modeling, celebrating, measuring, coaching and mentoring respect in every interaction.

It’s hard work, yet nothing is more gratifying for business leaders when they see respect drive results every day.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author and executive consultant with The Purposeful Culture Group, where he is founder and CEO. He has authored or co-authored seven books, including “The Culture Engine.” His latest book, “Good Comes First,” recently published and was co-authored with Mark Babbitt. Edmonds’ videos, posts and podcasts are available at Follow Edmonds on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple Podcasts.

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