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“The reward for a job well done is the opportunity to do more,” offered Jonas Salk. I was too young for the polio scare of the ‘50s, but perhaps in great part because Dr. Salk liked his job! Keep this in mind as we journey together in this column.
“Isn’t it just like our media to always; I mean always, portray in the most negative of light? Yes, there are supply chain issues and labor shortages, and inflation, and war, and, basically all of which are in effect this thing called life. In this great country of ours, it seems many need to be reminded that the life we bitch about is the same life that others dream about. Yet, you have seen the headlines and the ever-escalating social media posts proudly exclaiming, “I quit my job today.” Often conveyed as some punctuation of pride. If you excuse the historical reference, it is the modern-day version of Johnny Paycheck’s song: “Take This Job and Shove It.” Seems we are in the midst of reframing the classic David vs. Goliath. Yep, give “the man” the finger, but when you wake up tomorrow you still have bills and dreams that require money.
There were 4.5 million who quit in just November alone, followed by another 4.3 million in December. In 2021, 42 million, or so the headlines proclaim, with absolute irrefutable certainty, quit their jobs. Add layoffs, and terminations, and we’re at 68 million! Before I go further, let me observe that never before have I seen such a broad range of “metrics.” I mean the delta between high and low on this particular subject is, in some cases, multiples. Borrowing from apparently what is a Texas colloquialism, I guess you can put cheese on it and choke it down, as can’t we swallow anything with cheese. But let’s hit the “pause for cause” button, and stop for a moment. Do these numbers even make sense? Did millions of people just stop working and quit life? Of course not! Don’t most have mortgages, car payments, and the never-ending living expenses? Then how can people just leave their job never to work again? The headline needs to portray a more accurate descriptor that simply says I quit or CHANGED MY JOB TODAY. Yes, a number have elected to tap out and simply recalibrate their lives, but they are in the very small minority. Here is the bottom line, although a departure from my own value system or that of my generation: loyalty appears to now be obsolete. Further, there are those that reset careers as they were bored, tired, or looking for a new challenge. So it’s more than the job jumpers seeking greater pay or flexibility, but tens of millions didn’t quit jobs to stay home. Simply consider this stat that never hits the headlines. In 2021, if you include layoffs and terminations to the “quits,” actually 68.9 million left their jobs, but in that very same year, which never gets reported, 75 million started new jobs. Hmm…so much for probative journalism. Many elected to finally pursue the entrepreneurial dream and others leveraged the supply/demand labor dynamic to jump across the street for a couple of bucks more.
A recent survey showed that 20 percent of those that quit/changed their jobs now regret the move. Human nature is that few want to own their mistakes or short-sightedness, especially after boasting and posting their empowered departure. So, the “fudge factor” implies it’s more like 40 percent. It is a well-accepted truism that to be happy, one needs three things: someone to love, something to hope for, and something to “do.” What we “do” is our job. We spend a significant part of our very lives “doing” our job. It often defines not only what we do, but to a great extent, who we are.
In my perception, loyalty is a two-way street centered around a fundamental quid pro quo. Employees posting about the absence of loyalty from, in some cases, their sixth employer is rather ironic, is it not? They don’t seem to have the ability to look in the mirror for some personal introspection. Of course, there are also those employers who indiscriminately ramp up and ramp down employment levels seeing the “teammates” as disposable, dispensable commodities. Have we all not encountered those employees that arrive each day as a coiled spring just waiting to be wronged. The most current waterloo moment for some employees is the preferred preference for remote work. Here is how it went for our company, and I am not suggesting it is the only way or the right way for everyone. We remoted the office during the COVID danger, and once the coast was clear or safely clearer, we returned live to the office. As Churchill proclaimed, “We didn’t win World War II from a foxhole.” Ours is a collaborative business centered around an in-person sharing of knowledge. Our temporarily remoted worked well because those who were “remoted” had worked together in person for decades. Therefore, while remoting, they drew from their many years of relationship equity with one another. If the remote structure is permanent going forward, what happens when the veterans attrition out and the new wave of talent that never worked in-person with others launches? Finally, I don’t know about you, but some of the most beneficial meetings of my career were not those formally scheduled but rather those impromptu by chance: “Hey, you got a minute?”
So, in the end, let us not be too quick to denounce “work” and castigate employers as if one is being held captive in involuntary servitude. Much good comes from this thing called work. It’s good for employers, it’s good for employees, it’s good for you and me. There is a reason that with just 3 percent of the world’s population and only 246 years of age, we produce 25 percent of the world’s entire output. We are the most powerful, free, generous, successful place in the Galactica. While many reasons for such exist, at the very foundation of our nation’s success is that …we work!
“To be successful, the first thing you do is fall in love with your work.” — Sister Mary Lauretta