The Great Resignation of 2021

An article in the Economist came out recently that claimed up to 40% of the American workforce is planning to resign from their current job in the next 12 months. This should not be news to anyone that is actually paying attention to American work culture and the fallout from decades of working ourselves to death.

On the Mr Money Mustache forums there is a thread called “feeling burned out – anyone else?” That thread has exploded in the last 3 months with the same story repeated over and over. We are all burned the fuck out and hustle culture is killing us. Everyone has their own story of how they got burned out and most of us just looked up one day, opened our eyes, and realized this is not the way to live a life.

One thing we are learning is that even “good jobs” are causing burn out and are even more dangerous than the overly toxic jobs contributing to it. At least when your job is truly toxic you know you have to leave, but when the job is mostly good then it is very hard to see the problems. That is the exact situation I find myself in. The golden handcuffs are locked tight and it’s time to bring out the saw before I chew off my own arm.

A random forum post really resonated with me – “My situation is a bit different, but I am burned out by the constant anxiety hanging over my head of having to perform well. I’ve been in jobs where mistakes could be life and death. I am tired too, so fucking tired. It’s been a rough year.”

Yes! This is my sentiment exactly. It’s not that my job is bad, it’s really not and I’m lucky to have it, but the reality is that the American pressure to perform supersedes working in a good environment. The pressure to perform at higher levels is the reality of the world we have created and it is becoming clear: we have set ourselves up to be miserable through our own expecations and ambitions.

All of this stress, anxiety, peformance metrics, and pressure to perform has finally reached a breaking point and that has manifested itself with 40% of the American workforce desperate to call it quits. Not only do I empathize; I am one of them.

Until we address the American work culture this will never change. At my primary role we have hired a new CEO, who by all intents and purposes, is the exact kind of CEO organizations spend years searching for. She is young, energetic and full of great ideas. With this change brings new expecations, work load and metrics to meet that will make the organization better as a whole. It also brings much higher levels of stress to the entire team. I’ve spent a lot of time in start ups and this is nothing new; except this time I am finding that I have no energy or excitement to do it all over again.

It’s nice to know that 40% of my fellow Americans are feeling the exact same way. Hopefully this leads to a new revolution and we can finally change the way Americans view work.


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