Dear President Biden,
So I think this past week was the longest no-letter-to-a-president interval since I started writing to DJT in February of 2017. I have been thinking about you and about what’s going on (and what’s not going on) but haven’t been able to settle on any one or two things enough to write about because there’s so much every day, all day that taking the time to zero in on something feels silly and useless. Plus, to be honest, I’ve been wiped out this week despite mostly sleeping ok. I wake up tired and am ready for bed before 9pm.
And just to be clear, when I say that there’s so much every day, all day, I’m referring both to the political landscape and to my work landscape.
I trust that you well know most all of the political situations, vectors, layers that make it into the news and since I work for the federal government and can’t detail the work stuff without clearing it with public affairs, I’ve decided to do is give you some broad (and quite painfully obvious) observations about the flight from work phenomenon so many of us are witnessing/experiencing/contending with that may or may not be coming from my personal circumstances or observations in my workplace.
As has been noted by numerous people in numerous outlets in numerous ways, millions of workers are done with putting up with shitty work situations. One WP blurbette introducing an article about people leaving work to take early retirement notes that people are opting for less financial security because they “feel disrespected and burned out.” Interestingly, the article doesn’t actually say this – at least not in so many words – which is fine, the blurbette gives an ok gist of the situation.
What put some sand in my gears, though, is the word “feel.” It’s maybe ok in reference to burn out (though it’s stronger to say people are burned out), but when paired with “disrespected”, “feel” ends up being a ‘he-said/she-said’ (or ‘they said’) deal where it introduces doubt about whether folks were really disrespected or just feel disrespected. You may think I’m splitting hairs here, but I think this is an important distinction. If disrespect is really happening it begs one set of remedies while if disrespect is not really happening and workers are only “feeling” disrespected then this begs a very different set of remedies. Words matter.
I contend that workers are being disrespected – sometimes blatantly and sometimes in a relentless barrage of subtle ways – but however it happens, folks are realizing that they don’t have to put up with it. They don’t have to put up with the draconian “these are the rules and you must follow them” crap when rules don’t make sense and/or the “you must follow them” deal is not evenly applied. They don’t have to put up with being continually passed over for promotions or pay raises. They don’t have to put up with the undermining digs about their competence or loyalty. They don’t have to put up with the anger outbursts or the bullying. And they don’t have to put up with racist, sexist, homophobic, or able-ist microaggressions day in and day out.
Nope, not any more.
And then there are the domino effects caused by this unprecedented churn. People have every right to take care of themselves and leave jobs that aren’t good for them (if they can make such moves). And, when people leave their places of employment, the people left behind pretty inevitably have to cover their own jobs and whatever additional tasks/responsibilities/etc. that now need to be done with that many fewer hands on deck. Yes, there may be more people in the queue who can be hired on, but that takes time and they have to be trained, and, and, and….
This is clearly a recipe for more burn out, stress, short tempers, poor judgment, errors, and ultimately more churn.
It is not a good positive feedback loop. In fact, it’s a disastrous one.
May we all be physically and emotionally safe in our jobs.
May we all be willing to rethink the whole worker-employer/humanity-profit deal.
May we have the strength to hold the line on enough is enough.
May we accept that we need a bunch of radical resets.