As a business owner who’s lobbied hard to strip rights and privileges away from workers, I am confused and frankly disturbed by the number of people who have quit their jobs recently. It seems like every month a new record is set for resignations, with 4.3 million people resigning in August alone, the most ever. Many of my own businesses have had HELP WANTED signs posted for months. As a result, our profits are down and we can’t expand. And I don’t get it.
Like it or not, you need to work for a living. That’s just the way it is. And, like it or not, you specifically need to work a job that leaves you underpaid, devalued, taken advantage of, annoyed, harassed, and empty inside. That’s just the way it is—due to specific policy choices that I lobbied for and got.
One worker who recently resigned told me, “Childcare is so expensive that, taking its cost into account, my take-home pay while working full time is $500 per month. I’m not leaving my child with a stranger to make $500.” I mean, it made no sense, especially because you can save that $500 and afford a home down payment just in time for your kids to leave for college.
Did I actively work to dismantle affordable childcare programs because I didn’t want to be taxed? You bet. Did I also lobby against raising the minimum wage? Obviously. But that doesn’t mean my life and my business should be negatively impacted by my choices.
I had another worker who told me, “Yeah, I’ll come back into work as long as we take COVID seriously.” Huh? Last I checked, COVID was over, and requiring customers or coworkers to take basic precautions is vaguely annoying to a minority of them. So we’re not doing that. He quit, I guess because he had a lung issue from childhood, which is a pitiful excuse.
I had another worker tell me, “The idea that the customer is always right is demeaning. They’re often wrong, and then they act righteous even though they’re being ignorant assholes.” Well, sorry, but we’re keeping that policy. And if you don’t like it, you can quit—or work yourself up to management, where you can isolate yourselves from the wreckage of your terrible workplace policies.
I had another worker tell me, “It’s a pandemic. I want health care.” When he said that, I knew he wasn’t really committed to the team. Because a pandemic is exactly the time when you need to forgo health care in order to sell discounted decorative bowls to people with anger problems.
And I was able to forget this worker at first, but many more people said the same thing to me. I patiently explained to them that we couldn’t afford to provide health insurance, because hospitals and insurance companies are extortion rackets. If we give health insurance to all our employees, we might lose our competitive advantage and go out of business. Then one employee said, “It sounds like we need Medicare for all and regulations eliminating extortionist practices.”
I said we didn’t need that, and I wish I could remember that employee’s name, but unfortunately, he got sick, delayed going to the doctor, got much sicker, and had to miss a bunch of work, so he went on disability. It’s almost as if universal health care would help me retain my … retain my wor … retain my worke …
Ugh, I’m exhausted. I came close, but honestly, I’m not going to connect the dots here.
I had another worker quit because, he said, “I just really dislike you.”
I said, “You’re not quitting because my politics and management choices have made your life worse?”
He said, “Yeah, that too, but mainly I just really dislike you on a personal level.”
I respected his honesty; I told him he was worthless and we said our goodbyes. Now he day-trades crypto and makes twice what I paid him without having to deal with me, while I still have hundreds of people whom I can take advantage of for money. So who really won there?
Workers, of course, respond to more than just economic stimuli. They need to feel that they are valued for who they are, that their work matters, that their organization matters, that they are learning and growing, that they have time to enjoy family and friends, that they are contributing to something greater than themselves. These are things I’m also not good at providing.
Being a business owner in this climate is tough, and honestly, I’m feeling the squeeze myself. I’ve been having trouble sleeping and have high levels of anxiety. On Sundays, I always get this panicky feeling. It might be time for me to take a step back, take some time, and recharge. A three-month sabbatical is what I need. Luckily, we have generous benefits for managers who want to do this, because everyone knows that attracting and retaining skilled managers is the key to running a successful company.
Frequent contributor Chas Gillespie’s most recent project is a tourism website for Ship-Trap Island, the setting of “The Most Dangerous Game.” Find out more and book your stay at visitshiptrapisland.com.