The Era of Blood, Sweat and Tears that Triggered The Great Resignation
We inherited a culture of work that was toxic. A culture of work where success, productivity and living the dream leveraged the bottom line at the expense of people’s lives, at the cost of their health and the people they cared for most. A bitter pill to swallow yet, for generations, this meant we lived our lives with ideals and standards that greatly glamorised overwork and underserved human needs. Whether you were a leader or follower, it became the metric accepted on spotting “the rising star” — the ones who could endure the most with the least. The doers, movers and shakers. Or at least until they no longer could keep up the pace. Work hard, play harder, overdriven and sleepless became the anthem for what it meant to be ambitious, ‘a shark.’ The polarised lifestyle of overwork bliss, neatly packaged with the last stop to burnout.
It was how we were rewarded or thought we could or should be rewarded. A sort of badge of honour to wear with sweat, blood and tears, hard gruelling, never-ending, soul-sacrificing kind of work. The type of sacrifice that meant we planned our lives around our work calendar. Our family, friends, birthdays, school plays, doctor visits and yes, ourselves, were a thing to be put second, third or never. Our work came first and became the reason for our existence. It became how we valued and how we were valued.
In the fast-track of getting the job done, many employers regrettably spared no opportunity to squeeze the reservoir of human resources with little to no consideration for the real lives of their people outside of the nine to five. Outside of profits, product and development. Life was as good as it got, and everyone was in a race for a piece. Willing to make the sacrifice for the promise of something better, riddled in constant consumption but never enough.
Over the last twelve months, growing headlines will tell you a story of over 40% of the world’s population considering leaving their jobs. 95% of Americans are in this thought process, as 4.3 million have done so already. In Germany, 1/3 of the companies are short of skilled workers. Data collected from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that in 38 member countries, at least 20 million workers have not returned to work since COVID-19 struck. In India, the attrition rate in the tech sector is up 23%. In Vietnam, many low paid government workers have not returned to factories. In the Caribbean, one in six workers aged 18 to 29 has left the workforce. In China, there’s a shortage of workers in the tech sector.
Today we are in the midst of the great resignation, a term coined by Anthony Klotz, an organisational psychologist at Texas A&M University, calling the trend a pandemic epiphany. At the heart of the matter, employees are tired of a world overworked and a life under-lived. People no longer want their lives to revolve around their jobs. Instead, they want their jobs to fit into the kind of life they want to live.
Yet, as uncertainty grows, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how we live and work in creating a better world. We have a chance to learn from the past and prepare for the future. A future where overwork, burnout, mental exhaustion, crippling anxiety and emotional sacrifice are not synonymous with productivity, profits and success. We have an opportunity to do better than the culture we inherited.
If history has taught us anything, it’s this: every significant event in history has affected our economic decisions. During World War One, when men went into the battlefields, women entered factories to keep them running for the first time. After the Great Depression, people clung to their jobs. In the mid-’90s, people were switching jobs again. After the Great Recession, the trend of sticking to jobs was back because people wanted a safety net. Then came the pandemic of 2020. This gave people yet again another reality check on life. Those who survived the virus valued their lives way too much to continue compromising.
The bottom line is, not all people who left a job over the last twenty-four months did so because they hated their job. On the contrary, many have left because they’ve had a change of heart.
What We’ve Learned
We’ve learned this far into the great resignation that employers are severely out of touch with how their employees feel. As well as what they need. Statistics from the 2021 Work Trend Index found, 37% of the global workforce says their companies are asking too much of them. 54% feel overwhelmed, while 39% feel exhausted.
When the pandemic broke into a worldwide shutdown, lives were scattered. As work went into remote mode with offices closed, the expectations to live up to unprecedented demands not only continued but increased. Many employees were cheered for an incredible job done during the most arduous months of their lives only to find many of their benefits, perks, and salaries slashed had they chosen not to play ball and come into an office once restrictions eased.
The ‘highway or my way mentality,’ masked by political lingo, clearly backfired as employers who took this unsavoury route now stand to lose their best people, many of whom have. Some of the world’s biggest tech and innovation companies are among the lot. Many billionaire corporations in the hospitality and travel industry explained away rapid cost-cutting at the expense of their people to preserve the company’s longevity. Yet, as we clearly see, the longevity of any business is built on the backs of its people. Perhaps we didn’t see it in the first twelve months of the World Health Organisation (WHO) sounding the alarm to a global pandemic, but we certainly see it now.
Read ‘’Part Two — The Future of Work on ‘’The Era of Blood, Sweat and Tears that Triggered The Great Resignation.’’
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— Bio, Nerissa J. Persaud
From Global Hospitality Recruiter to leading a conversation on rising above burnout. Nerissa J. Persaud is a Guyanese-Canadian Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Ignite The Human Spark. She is the Podcast Host of Mindset Bootcamp, Editor-In-Chief of M.O.C.A and Author of the upcoming book ‘Rise Above Burnout.’ Her work entails strategic workforce planning and helping people globally live and work better through her signature coaching program High Powered Mindset™
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