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Great Resignation or Burnout Epidemic?

Great Resignation or Burnout Epidemic?

By now, you’ve seen the surveys: anywhere between 25%-40% of employees are considering leaving their jobs this year.  In my work with private financial clients, I’ve seen this trend too. Because of the pandemic many of us are are questioning life decisions, living arrangements and careers.

If you’re in this boat, one of the next natural thoughts you might have is, “How can I get away from it — this soul sucking job — and do something I like more?” Often people feeling this pull have no idea what they will do next. So the fear that comes next shows up in full force, “I don’t actually know what I want and I’m scared to leave my job when I don’t have the next steps planned out.”

As I’ve written about in my book, I myself experienced a recharge and redirected my life and career after taking a sabbatical. I coach a significant portion of my financial planning clients through taking a sabbatical by choice as well. I can definitively say, the plan for “what’s next?” doesn’t have to be fully formed before you’re ready to take a work break, but there are steps you need to make sure you can afford the time off.

All this is well and good — but let’s take a step back for a second to examine the real reasons why so many of us have a desire to leave our jobs in the first place. It’s actually the burnout epidemic.

While I was writing my book, I dug into the causes of burnout and found there are a few major influences. These include the systemic effects of capitalism and employers slow to move from the now archaic cultural and operational norms from when manufacturing was the dominant driver in our economy (versus the knowledge dominant economy today). But more likely the root cause is trauma and adversity in our own life or from generations past. For some people, these experiences that happened in our lifetime or that of our ancestors, can lead us to feel worthless unless we’re achieving. Needing to find validation through work and achievement is a completely societally acceptable method of engaging. Many of us have gotten really good at all the juggling as long as it feeds the achievement beast. Checking off your to-do list, after all, can be one of the most satisfying parts of many peoples’ day.

An article was recently published in Refinery 29 examining some of the more immediate reasons we are all collectively coming to terms with the epidemic of burnout across industries. It’s not just exhaustion, it’s overwhelm at the system.

One aspect I found particularly interesting is that this didn’t happen overnight or in one generation. Doctors, for instance, experience subtle “betrayals” as they go through training and the early years of the profession by mentors, teachers, and colleagues awakening to the fact that they probably can’t be the perfectly kind and empathetic professional they wanted to be. These little betrayals are further perpetrated by the institutions they work for, the weight of student debt, and more broadly the the healthcare and insurance systems.

Work, today, is failing to live up to the expectations we had of finding passion and purpose in what we do while getting paid well. There’s room for institutions to reform the world of work. But in the meantime we have our own individual work to do. But there’s often guilt associated with leaving a “good” job. In my book I refer to this as “golden handcuffs.”

We might have a conversation like this in our head — “I can do this job, it’s not that hard, and if I don’t take it too seriously I can work on other passion projects on the side.” or “How can I give up these well paid role when I don’t know what to do next?” But all the while, a need to feel fulfilled through work isn’t being addressed. Have we even asked ourselves this particular “why” question enough times to arrive at the core of what’s going on in our brains?

That’s why I include so many journal prompts in The Resiliency Effect. We all must take steps to go through our own inner journey to discover for ourselves where these needs come from and which of these needs have a place in our current self.

Without this inner journey, I’m afraid when we finally find the next job, next career, or next work break it’ll be for similar reasons including overwhelm and burnout.

Cady North, CFP® RLP® is the author of The Resiliency Effect and financial planner to women across the country through North Financial Advisors.