Peculiar year for American workers

The appropriately named Johnny Paycheck

It’s been a fascinating year for American workers. Job opportunities are coming back after being devastated by the pandemic. Yet it is clear that organizational leaders who expect the workplace to get back to “normal” are surprised.

Employees are quitting in masses. “Nearly 3.6 million Americans resigned in May [2021] alone. But it’s not an issue that’s specific to a certain industry, role, or even salary — it’s a workplace issue.

“A new Gallup analysis finds that 48% of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. Businesses are facing a staggeringly high quit rate… and a record-high number of unfilled positions. And Gallup discovered that workers in all job categories, from customer-facing service roles to highly professional positions, are actively or passively job hunting at roughly the same rate.”

Take this job and shove it 

From The Atlantic: “Why the sudden burst of quitting? One general theory is that we’re living through a fundamental shift in the relationship between employees and bosses that could have profound implications for the future of work. Up and down the income ladder, workers have new reasons to tell their boss to shove it.

“Lower-wage workers who benefited from enhanced unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic may have returned to the job and realized they’re not being paid enough.” The poor pay has been true for decades, BTW.

“Now they’re putting their foot down, forcing restaurants and clothing stores to fork over a higher wage to keep people on staff.” This means that some workers are getting close to, or exceeding, the $15 per hour wage so many have demanded for several years.

“Meanwhile, white-collar workers say they feel overworked or generally burned out after a grueling pandemic year, and they’re marching to the corner office with new demands… Gallup finds that it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.”

Daily stress

There is a global workplace survey commissioned by Gallup. In the United States and Canada, workers there “reported the highest rate of daily stress in the world during 2020.” Working women, younger workers were more stressed than their counterparts. “Only about one in three U.S. employees and one in five Canadian employees are engaged at work. Burnout prevention requires both high engagement and high employee wellbeing.”

It’s not just MORE money workers desire. Americans Are Willing to Take Pay Cuts to Never Go Into the Office Again. “A new survey shows 65% of workers who said their jobs could be done entirely remotely were willing to take a 5% reduction to stay at home.” But NOT a 20% reduction.

It could be worse

From Newsweek: In June, “The Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit that claimed the Minneapolis-based Cargill and the American arm of Switzerland-based Nestle ‘aided and abetted’ slavery by knowingly buying cocoa beans from farms that used child labor.

“Six African men brought the lawsuit, claiming that they were trafficked from Mali as children and forced to work long hours, then locked up at night, at cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, the world’s leading producer of cocoa. The group sought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of themselves, as well as who they say are thousands of other former child slaves.

“But justices ruled 8-1 that an appeals court improperly let the lawsuit against the food companies go forward in the U.S. as the respondents’ injuries ‘occurred entirely overseas’, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a majority opinion for the court.

A 2020 report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the cocoa industry in West Africa was exploiting 1.6 million child laborers and that the use of child labor has risen despite industry promises to reduce it.

True? Fiction?

The American Dream. The Forgotten Employee.

40 Years Ago: Giving Up (for the nonce)

I remember wandering through the Campus Center on December 4, 1974, the day the drop-course forms were approved, with such a sense of release, that this unmanageable burden had been lifted.

never-give-upAlmost a year ago, I read this in Mark Evanier’s blog:

One of those folks who didn’t want me to post their name wrote…

Your comment intrigued me. Don’t you think there’s a value in not giving up? My folks taught me there was no such thing as a lost cause. My father used to say, “A man who won’t be defeated can’t be defeated.” If you believe in something enough, whether it’s a political cause or a dream you have, shouldn’t you pursue it with every breath you have left in you? If you give up on something, doesn’t that mean you never really believed in it in the first place?

Sounds like Man of La Mancha.

Mark replied: “I have found that for me, it’s healthier to be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish and to cut your losses on the latter.” I totally agree with that, but had I been asked, I would have just quoted The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, as I often do: “You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them.”

Every December 4, I remember the tremendous relief I experienced when I was able to drop two college courses in 1974. The Okie, to whom I was married, was moving from New Paltz to Philadelphia for unstated reasons at the end of November. I couldn’t afford to live in our apartment on my own, and I had to move elsewhere, as it turned out, for a month. Unsurprisingly, I had difficulty concentrating on my classwork.

But I knew it was past the mid-semester point when I could drop courses without academic penalty. Someone in the dean’s office said the only exception was if I could get a note from a doctor or psychologist or another professional stating that I was having physical or emotional distress.

As a member of the student government, I had had opportunities to talk to the campus minister, Paul Walley, not about my situation, but general campus issues. Still, I went to see him, asking if he could sign the form waiving the drop-course deadline. And, to my great relief, he did.

I dumped the courses and ended up getting A’s and B’s in the remaining three. I remember wandering through the Campus Center on the evening of December 4, the day the drop-course forms were approved – there was some party going on – with such a sense of release, that this unmanageable burden had been lifted, that I cried with happiness. (Heck, I cry just thinking about it, four decades later.)

Sometimes, you just have to give up.

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