business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The degree to which many Americans are fed up with their work lives is illustrated vividly, the New York Times suggests, by the decibels used by many to announce that they are leaving their employers.

"There once was a time," the Times writes, "when broadcasting the decision to quit a job might have seemed unwise, or at least uncouth. Career coaches traditionally advised their clients not to disparage former employers online. Though there was always a subset of workers who quit loudly on principle, recruiters often raised their eyebrows at candidates who’d gone public about negative experiences in their previous roles. But after over a year of laboring through a pandemic, protests over racial justice and all the personal and societal tumult that followed those events, some workers are ready to reject stale professional norms and vent."

The Times goes on:  "If quitters think they can punch back at their old bosses without fear of alienating potential future employers, they might be right. The supply-demand curve of the labor market is working in their favor, and employers are growing less choosy. The share of ZipRecruiter posts that require 'no prior experience' has jumped to 22.9 percent this year from 12.8 percent in 2020. The share requiring a bachelor’s degree fell to 8.3 percent from 11.4 percent. Some parts of the United States are seeing significant gaps between job openings and job seekers — Nebraska, for example, has 69,000 positions unfilled and 19,300 unemployed people. Experiences that might have once hurt a job seeker’s prospects, like having taken time off for child care, are being forgiven."

“People are frustrated, exhausted, triggered,” J.T. O’Donnell, founder of the career coaching platform Work It Daily, tells the Times. “When people are triggered, you see fight or flight responses. This is a fight response.”

Seems to me that this trend is one that retailers need to think about, if only because it would be naïve to think that they will not be affected by growing employee discontent - which is especially dangerous for a business model that depends on front-line workers to interact with and serve customers.

And the level of noise being created by discontented workers, it must be understood, is even more amplified by social media, which gives a megaphone to anyone who wants one.

Seems to me that businesses that want to remain effective need to keep their Eyes Open, and give greater emphasis to creating nurturing cultures that are both customer-centric and employee-driven.  Or maybe customer-driven and employee-centric.  

Wanting to leave a job with some sort of rhetorical flourish isn't a new impulse, though it has become more commonplace.  The great Robert B. Parker, in 1962, decided to leave his job in the advertising department of Prudential Insurance, where he was chafing under the restraints of a stifling bureaucracy.

His resignation letter read as follows:

I hereby resign from The Prudential Insurance Company of America, effective September 1, 1962.

Looking back over my years with the company, I note that there have been three of them.


Robert B. Parker

Best resignation letter ever.