So, You Want to Change Jobs

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A recent survey by LinkedIn of workers (obviously a white-collar bias) reveals that a staggering 85 percent of them want to change to a new job right now. That’s up from 67 percent this time last year. Clearly, job dissatisfaction is getting worse, not better. The kicker is that this is happening as the white-collar job market is tightening dramatically and thus limiting options for moving on.

There are a number of factors in operation here. The shift in mortgage rates from rock-bottom to sky-high imposes some strange constraints on homeowners. They are very fortunate where they are provided they purchased a home some years back. Home valuations are much higher and that’s the good news. There’s not much of an issue for now in selling.

The problem is buying. You can take whatever equity you happened to have earned and throw it down on a new place somewhere else. But to keep the finances on an even keel, you will have to live with a much smaller house in a neighborhood that is not as desirable. It amounts to a perceived downgrade in your standard of living. Some people cannot handle that, no matter how much they suffer in their current workplace.

This is a major reason why home purchases are at a 28-year low. Young people cannot even think about it, while existing homeowners are locked into their current mortgages and cannot move on.

This problem freezes up the job market too. In the corporate world, people talk about “golden handcuffs” when pay is too high to leave. Maybe we should call the housing problem “plywood handcuffs.”

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Another factor is that the bargaining power in the job market has dramatically shifted from just a few years ago. The purge of the overclass is ongoing, with more layoffs and ever less job security, benefits, and salary offerings. The employer is suddenly in a position of power whereas the job seeker is on the backfoot again. This reduces the incentive to take job risks.

A more fundamental problem relates to job dissatisfaction itself. There are many factors in play here. The worker experience in large corporations has been seriously diminished by the advances made by DEI, ESG, and the imposition of crazed social-justice ideology in every aspect of business life. It is inescapable.

So much of modern corporate life has turned away from productivity and serving consumers toward crazed strategies of internal governance. Some of this is legal risk aversion. They simply want to avoid litigation entanglements as much as possible, and this is a major drag on U.S. productivity as compared with, for example, China, which has no such problem. But other aspects of this are purely ideological. Woke ideology is everywhere present, as if an entire generation has forgotten the purpose of business and jobs entirely.

As we’ve discussed at great length, this whole problem was caused by tremendous distortions in credit allocations that came with zero interest rates from the Fed that started at the turn of the century and continued for two decades following. They made large corporations flush with cash that they spent in the labor market, spoiling a generation of workers into thinking that a job was all about the income stream and not what they are actually doing. This heavily bureaucratized every company with idle hands that ended up doing the devil’s work.

Another factor is of course lockdowns. For a year or two or longer, many workers experienced what it was like to earn the same amount of money while avoiding the commute, the fashion burdens, the eagle-eyed fellow employees looking for ways in which you are screwing up, and direct and intimidating oversight from the boss.

No more HR, no more forced conversations, no more backstabbing coworkers. All they had to do was log into some piece of software and pretend to work and all was well.

At the end of the COVID experience, bosses tried with limited success to get people back to the office and collaborate with each other. To make the experience better, idiot bosses reconstructed their offices with vast “collaboration” space to highlight to employees the advantages of socializing with others. It turns out that people hated that, of course.

What happened in fact was that workers had grown accustomed to having their private space. So they fought over the little “phone booths” and privacy cubicles, to the point that there have been sign-up sheets and long lines just to get in. This created other forms of acrimony in the office. Now you have these companies that make in-office pods and they cannot keep up with orders as every employee wants to come to the office and make it more like home. Otherwise they hate being there.

All this upheaval has spread job dissatisfaction far and wide. Employees are busy trying their best to negotiate maximum time for “remote work” while the boss faces pressure to get people back. This pressure is coming not only from a desire to make things as they were but also from mortgage holders in office space who are terrified about what’s coming at contract renewal time. Local merchants are also itching for the lunchtime and cocktail hour crowd to come back, even as local governments are pushing for a bolstering of the tax base.

All of this pits workers against employers. Then you have the inter-worker struggles over what days and how many are entitled to “remote days” which turns people against each other, fostering strange and often quiet hatreds. None of this is conducive to a healthy workplace.

The real fundamental problem we can observe from watching kvetching videos posted on TikTok, in which people are really questioning why they should have a job at all. You see, the stimulus payments acculturated people into thinking that money grows from trees and you don’t have to do anything to get it.

This attitude shocks many people of a certain age, those old enough to remember when there was some relationship between work, skill, and reward, and believed that working was just part of what it meant to be alive. A series of fundamental changes in the systems that govern the workplace purged that sense from the minds of a huge cohort of white-collar workers. They are having a hard time adjusting to the emerging new realities.

Here’s the problem. If you are not happy at work, and find no means of becoming that way, half of your life is going to be spent in misery while the other half will come down to looking for substances to take away the pain. This is not a good path toward building a viable future.

A genuine market in labor should mean choice and mobility above all else. We seem to have forgotten that. It’s time it was rediscovered.

To those who work in high-end laptop jobs but hate their workplace, my suggestion is to find a small business somewhere. Deal with the downgrading of your house and income. Adjust to a new form of life in which happiness comes first.

No amount of income and bureaucracy is worth unrelenting torment. A dramatic reallocation of labor resources away from corporate hell into a humane alternative is the best and probably only path to change. Making that change takes guts but it is worth it.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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