I write from a position of privilege in that I am white. I
am also a woman of a certain age which means I’ve had my share of misogynistic
bosses and HR personnel who had to look the other way because, at the time, verbal
abuse and overtones of sexual harassment were de rigueur. I also grew up in a
middle class home with a mother who strained to be more and a father who found
solace in alcohol. I have spent plenty of time doing work I’ve not really
wanted to do, working more hours than I felt I should for little or no
compensation and done so because I believed I had no choice if I was to keep my
job, if I was to advance into whatever might be a career.
I’m at the point now that, quite frankly, I don’t really
care about many things. I care about doing good work. I care about doing well.
I care about being content in what I do. I care about trying to make a
difference. But I don’t care to put up with anyone else’s nonsense any longer.
As I read about the Great Resignation, it’s clear the views
are incredibly varied. Sure, the people who choose to leave their jobs are
putting a strain on those left behind. That’s always been true. What seems to
be less true is the ease with which that individual might be replaced. It is
also clear the pandemic taught many of us a lot of things, many of which were
and are unexpected.
Among those things, many organizations learned that
employees don’t have to be at desks or in cubicles in a central location for
specific hours. They also learned they don’t have to move employees to a central
location and there could be value in having some employees in locations other
than wherever the headquarters might be. I suspect even the idea of having a
headquarters or “main office” is likely to change.
Education has been writhing and churning under the weight of
mandates and expectations from federal, state, and local governments as well as
parents. Even before critical race theory became one of the most misunderstood theories
on the planet, teachers were already wrestling with trauma-informed instruction
and cultural relevance on top of math and literacy mandates and expectations compounded
and confounded by parental expectations and misunderstandings about what
teachers can actually do in 48 minutes or less when there are over 20 nearly
equally needy students in the room.
I have never before heard of so many teachers who are, barely
two months into the school year, done. Just done. Done with kids and their
attitudes. Done with parents. Done with administrators who are caught between
several rocks and hard places. Done with trying to design lesson plans with all
kinds of options because there is no way of knowing how many kids will be in
the room and how many will have to try to join the class virtually.
The turbulence in education is bound to affect companies of
all types and all sizes. That ripple effect is as inevitable as the disturbances
on water when a pebble is dropped only there is nothing calm about this water.
In fact, the pebble probably serves to amplify the disturbances.
People want to do work that is meaningful and appreciated, they
want to be fairly compensated, and they want to work with and for people who
aren’t jerks. Apparently that’s a lot to ask for, and it shouldn’t be.
Years ago I had an employee who came to me to complain that
I never thanked her. She said she’d noticed that I also expressed gratitude to
those who worked extra hours or came through on a project with a demanding schedule
and probably demanding customer, but I never thanked her. I remember thinking
that it was absurd to thank someone for doing their job, but then I got to
thinking about the fact that she was always on time, she was always
responsible, she always did her work even if not necessarily exceptionally, and
she got along well with the rest of the team and others.
It’s easy to ignore those folks. The ones who quietly do
their jobs and do them competently, even well. They’re not the troublesome
employees and they’re not the superstars. They are the ones, however, who keep
the engines of commerce running. I could stretch that metaphor but I won’t
because I’m sure you get it. And so, periodically, I made a point of thanking
her for being there and doing her job conscientiously and well.
She taught me to be grateful for all of my team
members and to make sure they felt appreciated. There was little I could do
about compensation, but I could make sure I wasn’t a jerk.
Based on limited insight and a bunch of reading, I think the
Great Resignation is an important shift and that people are tired of unreasonable
expectations, a lack of civility, and a lack of appreciation. I think some
people will tolerate less compensation if they are valued and if they believe
the boss supports them. Whether or not bosses understand this is a very