About the content
It’s happening #thegreatresignation and #thebigshift– how “great & big” in both tangible and intangible ways is too soon to say. That’s the facts straight. Another fact and fair warning – it is a long read. So, if you favour short 5 points consultant imaginary causal action plans, this is not for you – but at the same time even more reason to read on. Why is it happening and what are some of the deeper reflections and reasonings – that’s what this essay is about.
Finds an unusual entry point and continues to discuss some key concepts in our modern human condition to set the scene for the following illumination of the contemporary discussion outset in the great resignation and the big shift. Why are some people ready to resign in crisis, that is outside themselves? Working from anywhere, working from home, working in the office is creating tension and perhaps a new normal – what is that?
Part I… and a half
Any philosophy must relate to real life, to the everyday practice of living the one life we have been given. The contemporary discourse plays a significant role in understanding where we are coming from, where we are, and where we are going. More importantly, it can help illuminate why that is so. There will be no action without thinking, we call that headless, and there will be no thinking without empirical experience, we call that figment of the imagination. Part I… and a half because it is both about the whole and the parts, and because it’s both theory and experience.
Continues with a brief treatment of the great gig in the sky, how technology has enabled us to work from anywhere. Building on the conceptual groundwork of Part I, it continues to add layers and concepts referencing the contemporary discussion. It leads to ideas of a new mindset continually situated in the previous discussion. It ends with the claim:
Thriving does not discriminate between work & life, if one aspect suffers, so does the other – there is only ONE life.
About getting to the content – what flavours to expect?
Floating on the surface several symptoms are accounted for in recent writings, but rarely are they examined more than on a general assumption basis and individual rationalisations of why one would consider resigning (e.g., I like working from home so I can walk the dog when it suits me… and the dog, etc.). The is not a scientific expedition but rather an exploration and investigation of rationales of existential conditions that drive some to resign. Without a doubt, they can be personal, and in the end, they are personal – but what motivates them are quite often deep phenomena and concepts – we should not skip these.
The potential reader should expect a mix of many things and the deep dives will pertain to cardinal concepts of human life e.g., Freedom, Justice, self-situatedness both macro- & micro conditions (being bound to contemporary reality), culture in the same frame, etc., because the cosmic order is changing, and we humans influence that. Working from home because then I can walk the dog, is surface talking, the real reason is freedom and the freedom of choice – the positive sense; to choose to do something and the negative sense; to choose not to do something or not having to. Deep down it is not about convenience, although I for one also enjoy when life is easy.
More than anything it is a contribution to the discussion of the idiotic dichotomy of LIFE and WORK, and how to balance the two. Idiotic, because we only have one life and we (here meaning ALL) have a mutual and at the same time personal ethical obligation to ourselves and the ALL, to make the best of it. By that, it becomes an exploration of “The Good” and how a good life is challenged in modernity.
Considering how “work” is to modern man, how we seem to identify who we are with what we do, and how that has become a significant evaluator of self-perception, mainly through how we (self-)perceive we are perceived by others, is in itself a sign of the times and a malady of modernity. Why, many ask, and the short answer is because you are you no matter what you do – you are human before anything else (you cannot escape it).
So beyond being an observable phenomenon (epistemic) that sociology and psychology are hungrily throwing themselves at (rightfully so), it is in fact a phenomenon in which symptoms go far deeper than they show (reactions). It is a challenge of existential character, and the explanations and answers are also to be found in philosophy and ethics – surfing the surface of apparent epistemology is not enough. In short, it is a causal phenomenon but also a complex one; non-causal, it’s both.
Introduction – what is the entry, why, and how?
Before I start digging into the topic and the many related areas let me just briefly provide the background for doing so. Some weeks ago, I was encouraged by a couple of online editors (independently) to air my thoughts on what is now known as #thegreatresignation and #thebigshift. One argued that my 20 years’ experience along with hiring, sourcing, recruitment, and headhunting could be valuable. The second is more or less the same, but also referring to previous articles I have written that they found interesting …
Apparently, the expression “The Great Resignation” was coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate management professor at Texas A&M University, during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek on the 10 of May 2021.
The first time I heard the expression “The Great Resignation” my instant thought was the Pink Floyd classic “The Great Gig in the Sky” from the legendary album “The Dark Side of the Moon” 1973 – I have absolutely no idea why!
The pandemic could be characterized as such, so perhaps an unconscious relation was made in my brain to the dark side of the moon, and while we during the pandemic are performing the great gig in the sky (extensive virtual work in cloud solutions).
Why the Dark Side of the Moon?
It can seem like an odd starting point, but then again what has not been odd about the past 18 months?
Secondly, I don’t want to only recite all the other fine writing on the topics, I’ll leave that to consultancies trying to drive profit out of the conditions. Thirdly, the cardinal causes cannot be found on the surface, the surface causes are mere symptoms and for sure valid and all contribute to validate the argument for individual flexibility. Like not having to commute 3 hours daily (also adds to less likelihood of accidents (impacting others) and save money, less emission (impacts all), lesser need for office space (impacts business financials), more time with family and friends, control of substance abuse, being able to take a nap during the day, walking the dog and on and on. On the flipside, we find social distancing, loneliness, absence of access, lack of physical relations… And perhaps everything was much better on the “bright side of the moon” – really?
Intermezzo – what is the dark side of the moon?
“From the beginning, the band (Pink Floyd, 1973) had intended to call their new album Dark Side of the Moon — a reference to lunacy, as opposed to outer space …” Similarities to the time we live in are many.
Let’s recall some meanings of lunacy :
- the state of being a lunatic; insanity (not in technical use).
“it has been suggested that originality demands a degree of lunacy”
- extreme folly or eccentricity.
plural noun: lunacies
“such an economic policy would be sheer lunacy”
Breaking off the path of “normality” is quite often characterised as lunacy, of course that is not the general opinion when everyone is forced off and into a new path – the rare cases where lunacy becomes normality almost overnight – COVID-19 is such a case!
There are some interesting analogies and metaphors in the short lyrics of that song – because it is about not being afraid of dying, the lyrics go:
“And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying?
There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime.”
“I never said I was frightened of dying.”
Maybe we are not afraid of dying, but we are certainly afraid of dying at the risk of realising at the end that we have not lived life to its fullest potential.
I think many resignees have realised that life is too short for spending it in a crabby workplace with functional utilisation and efficiency as the main driver, commuting hours to and from, stripped of autonomy and far from freedom to and freedom from. Others were hit by the challenge of working from home with the stress of a “one-pot pasta” life and feeling that everything was mixed making it hard to focus.
We are different and have different needs – why we should keep different options open (my primary advocacy) – preservation of options because we are different.
Would you advocate something that doesn’t work?
On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of remote work/work from anywhere on/off since 2008. Working with leading global teams demands the ability to work virtually – because global presence is an impossibility. The most significant and semi-codified shift came around mid-2010. I had become a father in 2009 and worked a job with a 1,5-hour commute each way – taking up a substantial amount of personal time daily. At some point in autumn 2010, my son Bastian didn’t want to greet me when I got home – I had become alien to him. The daily routine was that I left at around 0530 and returned around 1730, approximately half an hour before he was put to bed. In reality, I only saw him on weekends. On a particular day, he actually tried to distance himself from me – and that made the case very clear to me and my wife. The next day I had a talk with my boss about the situation and said that I would have to resign if we could not restructure work to accommodate the needs we had as a family.
Luckily my boss at the time Nicholas Skovmand (now CIO at Bestseller), also a friend and former classmate from the Royal Danish Army Officer’s academy, was very fast to reply: “Per, have a think and a talk with your wife and come up with a suggestion – then we will figure it out!”. The consensus was made that I would strive for a 2-3 day in the office per week, and if there were physical meetings that I needed to attend I should strive to do so. The real beauty was that the agreement was based on mutual trust, the only codification was the conversation – everything is possible within reason… and imagination.
Are employers afraid of dying?
The real question is whether the lyrics of the song speaks more to the ignorant part of the employers – their arrogance feeding their ignorance – they are not afraid of dying, or so they act. Blindness and echo chambering keep many potential purposeful enterprises from becoming conscious capitalists. The firm belief that neo-capitalism in its current form is part of the future is futile – the exploitation, utilisation, greed, efficiency, productivity, and growth idea at any price is NOT a feasible way forward, an increasing majority seem to be able to agree on this – the philosophical foundation is shaky because we are ONE world.
Although much focus has been given, and rightly so, to climate and environmental challenges I firmly believe we have growing and equally serious challenges within the realm of work. Increasing stress-related diseases, burnout, presenteeism, suicide, heart failure, drug, and alcohol addiction … The documentation is overwhelming, most recently Gallup released their latest state of the global workplace, not exactly an uplifting read.
Another and scarier read is Jeffrey Pfeffer’s “Dying for a paycheck” or his openly available article “Why the assholes are winning: Money trumps everything”. The important, and also the political point is that stressed, sick and burned-out humans, don’t just end up with destroyed life, so does a lot of families and on top, they make poor decisions – hence we are worse qualified to handle challenges of all sorts if we don’t throw some focus in the direction of creating decent places of work.