"It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much." - Yogi Berra (maybe)
When exactly did our society become so obsessed with labeling? My recollection goes back to Watergate, and for me, that was acceptable, for the events that brought down President Nixon happened at the Watergate hotel. Flash forward to post Y2K, and every scandal has to end in “Gate” - Wikipedia listed over 150 scandals or controversies that end in “Gate”, with no slice of life left out. We know the usual suspects from Arts and Sports - “NippleGate” and “DeflateGate” - but did you know there was actually a “GateGate”? Apparently some British politician called a police officer a “Pleb” after the officer refused to open a gate for him - You wicked Pleb!
Disclaimer - I have been fortunate in my business career to have hired and employed approximately 30 highly skilled and hard working professionals in the Information Technology sector.
One of the interesting side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was the transformation of the work dynamic in our society. Employers were forced to social distance, which for most employers, was a tremendous burden to their company’s productivity. As our society always does, when faced with a challenge, we came up with a solution through technology - allowing employees to work from home using email, text messages, online meetings, etc. These technological advances appeared to save the day - what was once a luxury in rare circumstances proved to be a solution for the masses.
I’ll take words that start with R for $800, Alex.
Alex: This event created by the Covid-19 pandemic wherein vast numbers of workers left the workforce, often preceded by the word Great. Contestant: What is Resignation, Alex? Alex: Correct, but we would have also accepted Reset, Realization, Reshuffle, Recognition, Realignment…oh, for crying out loud, make a selection!
It seems that the experts can’t come to a consensus on the reason for the job departures over the last two years. Although the experts are exhausting all the R words, trying to differentiate themselves form the crowd, they all seem to be saying the same thing. And, of course, they are backing their theories with a myriad of statistics, but as our friend Yogi said - “take it with a GRIN of salt”. I include a couple examples, one a poll chock full of statistics and the other an article chock full of opinion. Pew Research (Pew Research asks why) attempted to find out why the folks are quitting, breaking it down into all the typical demographics we are used to. The second article (Aggie perspective - don't care!) attempts to explain the theory behind a prediction the author made prior to the pandemic. These articles, as well as countless others, seem to be looking for some sort of movement, one where there is a romantic angle full of virtue and nobility. As I read these articles, I can’t help but think that every employee leaving their job is Truman Burbank, standing on the top step, arms wide open, gazing out over the rest of us.
Seeking more information on the Great “Phenomenon”, I came across an article from the perspective of the employer (https://www.inc.com/bernard-coleman/how-to-avoid-buyers-remorse-in-great-resignation.html). Although the article focused on how employers could deal with the reasons behind their employee losses, it was a portion of the headline that got me thinking - it read “Here's how to help your company manage the 'Big Quit.'“ I instantly remembered a conversation I had with a close friend who runs his own law firm. As we both have been in the position to hire employees, he asked if I ever had problems with hiring. Aside from the usual issues like availability, qualifications, experience, I said nothing really out of the ordinary. He told me he was interviewing a young lawyer recently, and when it came time for the “what questions do you have for me” part, the young lawyer’s first question was “what is the work/life balance”? I’m nor exactly sure, but I think my friend responded “for you, 0/100, thanks for coming by”.
Alex forgot one!
Right before final jeopardy, Alex reluctantly announced that there was another possible answer to a previous question. The judges would have also accepted the word Reckoning. Perhaps this is the most appropriate word to describe what is happening with some in our workforce today. Instead of Truman Burbank, is it possible that they are more aligned with Scarface from “Half Baked”? Disillusioned with what appears to be a marketplace not quite ready or suited to conform to their vision of work, they all blurt out…well, you know!
Perhaps, just perhaps, we are seeing what happens when fantasy meets reality. Perhaps many of these employees were given a vision of the future filled with wonderful things like work/life balance, zero responsibility, zero stress - all with a big fat paycheck. What comes next is one person’s opinion, and I reserve the right to be full of crap.
The Reckoning I cited may be due to the infantilization of our society over the last two decades. A society that was comfortable with participation trophies, yes a little trophy just for showing up. I was fortunate to finish my parental coaching career just as these little “awards” were being mass produced. For the record, one of my most treasured possessions is a very small baseball trophy from my youth.
I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better. -Yogi Berra
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to tell your kids that they may in fact not be good enough to play in the Major Leagues. It is a very fine line to walk, one that depends on age, circumstance, lessons to be learned, etc. Full disclosure, I stepped over the line once, and my wife (and daughter) are still a little salty about it to this day. My youngest daughter lined up her first 3-point attempt in middle school - it fell a little short. Next time she touched the ball, “Air Ball, Air Ball” could be heard from the crowd. Ok, not my finest moment! What do the kids say, “Keeping it 100”?
Having lived through the dark days before technology, where speaking to others was considered a form of communication, I had a field day with the early days of Facebook and Instagram. Perhaps I was a little jealous, but I had to explain to my children that 100 likes does not mean that 100 people like you, and friend requests don’t mean you are looking for a “real” friend. My go-to now is to tell my daughters that I am an “influencer”, to which they ask exactly what influence do I have? Bingo.
My children’s formative years were filled with one cliche after another, featuring early birds, worms, laughing last and loudest, inequality between winners and quitters, yada, yada, yada. But the most appropriate cliche is the one that says, as parents, we’re not raising children, we’re raising adults. And keep in mind, just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Wow - that got kinda preachy, didn’t it? What I’m really trying to say is that I’m afraid, as a society, we may be reaping what we have sown. We can’t fail to let our children fail, and then get angry when they fail. The great paradox of parenting is that every success drives our children further from our reach. Hmm…there’s a good country song in there somewhere.
How will all this shake out? I have no idea, but as she always does, the Economy/Free Market will figure this all out - it may be a bumpy ride, but we’ll see it through. Yogi Berra may have summed it up best, with “the future ain’t what it used to be”, but “it ain’t over till it’s over.”