“Hi, I’m 35 years old and I have just started a consulting business because I just couldn’t take corporate anymore.”
“Hi, I’m 31 years old and I am taking a sabbatical at the moment. The stress of my work just got too much and I need some time to regroup”.
“Hi, I’m 37 years old and I am looking for work at the moment. I was bullied severely at my last corporate job, so I couldn’t stay.”
This is just a small sample of the narrative we have been hearing over the last few weeks. A common thread – men and women in their 30’s, burned out and unable to continue in the corporate work environment.
They should be in their prime, and they are leaving that segment of the workforce. It begs the question – what on Earth are we doing to people? How did it get so bad, that after only 5-10 years in the workforce it’s too much to bear, and any alternative is sought?
The people we have been speaking to have been qualified, relatively experienced, engaging people – and the corporates have lost them forever. You have to wonder how they justify being so careless with their most sizable and most influential investment. Any shareholder would rightly be miffed.
So, why should we care?
Lots of reasons, to be frank.
Firstly, this is a large section of the workforce. With an even larger section of the workforce now rapidly approaching retirement, people in their 30’s now are going to be critical to the productivity of business units, and the knowledge retention for the overall business. Losing large numbers of this group due to burn out will leave corporates open to unnecessary risk in this regard.
Secondly, these people will not just sit and do nothing. They will go and create an alternate reality that is more tolerable and sustainable. This will likely be in direct competition with the corporates, and on a large enough scale could completely reinvent the business environment as we know it today. Corporates are unlikely to be able to react to a threat as agile as this would be. It’s possible many would not survive.
Thirdly, diverse work environments are the most productive, and often the most innovative. If such a large group does not have any representation in an organisation, the outcomes will likely be compromised. Certain skills will not be passed to emerging leaders, viewpoints will not be heard and a particular stage of life will be ignored. This can only produce second rate results.
And in case you need another reason, what horror must we be creating in our workplaces that people simply cannot tolerate it? To cause people to become desperate enough to just leave without a plan for how they will pay their mortgage? What must the people still in that environment be experiencing on a daily basis just to make ends meet? There is only so long that this status quo will hold. At some point, as more and more young people burn out and leave, the system can only implode and become a relic of the past. And in that moment, the creators of this horror must look themselves in the mirror and understand that they are responsible for it.