June 13, 2022 at 1:07 pm #107021David WilsonParticipant
Today “help wanted” signs are commonplace; restaurants, shops, and cafes have temporarily closed or have cut back on hours due to staffing shortages. “Nobody wants to work,” the message goes. Some businesses now offer higher wages, benefits, and other incentives to draw in low-wage workers. All the same, “the great resignation” has been met with alarm across the country, from the halls of Congress to the ivory tower.
In America, where work is seen as virtuous, widespread resignations are certainly surprising. How does so many are walking away from their jobs differ from what we’ve observed in the past, particularly in terms of frustrations about labor instability, declining benefits, and job insecurity? Sociological research on work, precarity, expectations, and emotions provides cultural context on the specificity and significance of “the great resignation.”
Individualism and Work
The importance of individualism in American culture is clear in the workplace. Unlike after World War II, when strong labor unions and a broad safety net ensured reliable work and ample benefits (for mostly white workers), instability and precarity are hallmarks of today’s workplace. A pro-work, individualist ethos values individual’s flexibility, adaptability, and “hustle.” When workers are laid off due to shifting market forces and the profit motives of corporate executives, workers internalize the blame. Instead of blaming executives for prioritizing stock prices over workers, or organizing to demand more job security, the cultural emphasis on individual responsibility encourages workers to devote their energy into improving themselves and making themselves more attractive for the jobs that are available.June 13, 2022 at 3:39 pm #107023Danny BishopParticipant
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