Who can afford ‘The Great Resignation’?
Even as a believer and defender of the mainstream media, I’m confounded by the celebration of the so-called “quitagion.”
Coined by The New York Times, quitagion is not a new Covid strain but the historic wave of workers leaving jobs often without notice or prospects.
Coverage of the trend evokes the ornery Johnny Paycheck “take this job and shove it” while also perhaps driving the trend, as trend stories can.
Of course, few struggling wage workers mired in “sandpit” jobs can quit and forgo the paychecks unless they desperately need to, which is truly desperate.
But the quitagion celebration isn’t about them, but rather, the young, college-educated comfortable class as chronicled and cheered by their peers.
Once regarded as spoiled shiftless trust-fund losers, today’s Comfortable Quitters are the heroes and harbingers of the new white-collar talent taking control and dictating to employers who’s really the boss.
Privileged workers of the world, unite!
This is not to suggest the bourgeoise Great Resigners lack a righteous cause. Or snark that many will become the bad bosses they carp about. (See Inc., “Why So Many Promising Millennials Suck at Managing.”)
In any case, “People are frustrated, exhausted, triggered,” The Times quotes a career coach. Like coal miners, their jobs don’t serve their personal needs and aspirations. The money’s not worth the unhealthy work stress and toxic workplace environment. They suffer impossible workloads and deadlines, demanding bosses, difficult colleagues, diseased cultures, and traumatizing microaggressions both real and mined.
Even worse, against their personal lifestyle needs, they’re either forced to work at home or come into the office, or do hybrid.
America’s low jobless rate gives Comfortable Quitters confidence that if they want, an even better job will be comin’ ‘round the mountain. (Like the folk song about the second coming of Christ.) They can decide who gets the rose of their invaluable value.
The New York Times seems especially celebratory.
A recent Times Sunday magazine devoted most of the issue to various aspects of the Great Resignation.
The pieces depicted how many workers — flight attendants, nurses, parents with babies — have good rights to quit horrible jobs.
But in the lead piece, “Seeking No Opportunities,” a callout declared without apparent irony: “[A]n idealistic generation is demanding a utopian world.”
Millennial Times workplace reporter Emma Goldberg has been particularly cheerleading:
Last December, she bylined, “Public Displays of Resignation: Saying ‘I Quit’ Loud and Proud. People aren’t just leaving their jobs. They are broadcasting it.”
A month later, she bylined, “You Quit. I Quit. We All Quit. And It’s Not a Coincidence. Why the decision to leave a job can become contagious.”
Goldberg spreads the contagion like an anti-vaxxer by citing a prominent corporate quitter influencer, Gabby Ianniello, “podcasting & marketing expert, content creator, and the Founder of Corporate Quitter,” who posted her quitting “bliss” on TikTok.
Ianniello’s dream business is helping Millennials start their own dream businesses. Not sounding whatsoever like MLM scammers, Corporate Quitter “is for ambitious 9-5ers who want to start value-based, purpose-driven businesses, helping you finally create a pathway to ditch your soul-sucking jobs for good (and yes, we’ll cover finances and insurance!).”
Ianniello told Goldberg, “Right now, quitting is the hot thing to do. … You get to be part of the Great Resignation.”
“its quitting szn!! Goldberg tweeted. “People are done with their 4:45am alarms and sad desk lunches and they’re teaching their friends how to quit.”
Quitters are no longer losers. If you fail to quit, you’re the loser.
The virulent Goldberg stories and illustrations (above and at top) portray youth quitting their lifestyle-funding corporate jobs as fun, fab, freeing and Abbie Hoffman F**k The Man. Just like their “hippie” grandparents once declared before they became The Man and did well enough to fund their grandkids’ 529 college savings plans not just for tax purposes.
The problem is, these quitting stories tend to yay the positives and lip-serve the negatives. They need the pharma ad disclaimer: “Quitting badly may affect your income, lifestyle and career. Don’t quit proudly on social media if you’re allergic to being unemployable as a toxic jerk.”
As a tetchy old Boomer grumping “why, in my day!” from my Barcalounger, this quitting trend is like technology — I really don’t understand how it works.
I’m with the guy who tweeted back to Goldberg’s “its quitting szn!!”, “Nice idea if you have some way to pay your bills and don’t care about job references 🤔”
I also wonder how the gleeful Great Resignation stories square up with the woeful tales of youth today.
You know: The devastating burden of student loans. The shocking housing prices that lock them out. How their careers were set back by launching during the Great Recession. How they can’t afford to start families before it’s “too late.” Then they suffered the Great Pandemic!
I would never be so churlish as to suggest the Coddled Generations are now coddling themselves because, poor dears, they’ve had it so damned hard.
Or maybe I’m just jealous.
I’ve never had the privilege to quit a job without another possibly better job lined up. And never by publicly trashing my employer. In most professions, the world really is small.
Stupid me: I believed the hoary cliché that work is called work because it’s hard.
In any case, here’s a Post-it Note to The New York Times and other youth-pandering elite media celebrating the Comfortable Quitters:
Not everyone, even the college educated, can quit and launch their own independent business, be their own CEO, and build enough paying clients to cover rent and expenses.
Not everyone can start value-based, purpose-driven businesses to finally create a pathway to ditch their soul-sucking jobs for good.
Not everyone can be a successful freelance social media marketer or influencer. Not everyone can launch a lucrative communications practice and receive a prestigious PRWeek “30 Under 30” award. Not everyone can be a life coach under 30 telling people how to live.
Not everyone is privileged with the financial backing to be an entrepreneur. Not everyone has a generous family, family wealth or family connections to the wealthy. Not everyone has indulgent parents who can let them move back home to launch their dream businesses.
Not everyone can save enough to last until an indefinite paycheck. Not everyone can cut their expenses enough to build their dream businesses.
Not everyone can be a bold courageous risk-taker and self-believer with surefire, game-changing innovations, apps and business plans to attract (and lose) venture capital (including from family and connections).
My point to The New York Times and other Great Resignation celebrators:
Balance the quitagion cheering with a sobering dose of reality. Challenge the Comfortable Quitter hype. Stop marketing the marketers. Lest you encourage young people to ruin their dreams rather than achieve them.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.