Read enough thoughts on the job market and you’ll walk away with a bad case of today’s kids: Millions quit their jobs! the headline trumpet. No one wants to work anymore! Quiet stop!
Not so, according to a cohort of new books by work and leadership experts. These quitting workers are not lying on the couch, enjoying a life of laziness and indolence; they found new jobs with better pay, flexible hours or more attractive work environments. By at least one indicator, the tactic is paying off: According to the October ADP Pay Insights report, workers who had changed jobs in the past year earned an average of 15.2% more than the year previous year, nearly double the year. – a 7.7% increase over one year observed by those who remained in their jobs.
New books dive into the changing workplace and what a shift in the balance of power means for employees as well as those who sign their paychecks.
The sin of wages
There’s more at stake than a few disgruntled workers, according to Michael Lind, whose previous books include the 2020s The new class war. In hell to pay, an April statement from Portfolio, he argues that democracy itself is in danger. “If you want to maintain the stability of our current political system, you have to solve the wage crisis,” Portfolio editor Bria Sandford says of Lind’s premise. “Companies have colluded to legally suppress wages, claiming that the invisible hand of the free market will determine the right wages – and this is a lie propagated on purpose” to keep wages from rising. This wage suppression, according to Lind, has in turn contributed to a host of societal ills, including a fierce political divide and even a declining birth rate.
Workers’ lack of bargaining power manifests itself across the spectrum of employment, from the unlivable wages and surveillance that plague workers in warehouses to office spaces plagued by TPS reports and e-mail flurries at any hour. Recent books including those of 2021 Out of office by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen (an “insightful and timely investigation”, by TP) has paved the way for a transition in the latter area, which sees employers taking into account the needs of their employees.
In an interview on Petersen’s Culture Study Substack, Future Forum Vice President Sheela Subramanian observed, “We’re still in the early stages of shifting from command and control to leadership with confidence, and we’re playing what it will look like. in the years to come. According to Future Forum research, 57% of ‘office workers’ are open to looking for a new job in the next year, driven largely by a desire for greater autonomy and flexibility.
This impulse may be at odds with the dominant American notion of the dream job, a concept that Simone Stolzoff questions in Pretty good job (Portfolio, May 2023). When people confuse their occupations with their identities, he writes, it is to the detriment of both their jobs and their mental health. Instead, he advises valuing work that fits your life over work that speaks to your passions.
The book comes out “at a time when idealism clashes with the demands of working life under capitalism,” says Merry Sun, the book’s publisher. To address this, she adds, the author explores several questions: “Why does work have such a psychological impact? Why do we feel compelled to work endlessly? How can we ensure that jobs that do not meet the standards are good enough? Where is the line – what is good enough, in terms of effort and achievement? »
bread and roses
What will it take to change the modern workplace? The modern union, according to new books by authors experienced in the factories or engaged in the history of labor movements.
“No worker is unorganized – just unorganized,” says Rosie Warren, editor of Verso, of the core message of Troublemaking by Lydia Hughes and Jamie Woodcock (April 2023). The authors, both trade union veterans, view elections and political engagement as two legs of a stool; the organization of the workplace, they say, is the critical third. With employee organizing efforts at Starbucks and Amazon making headlines, there’s a renewed focus on the practical aspects of organizing, Warren says, with less emphasis on theory and more on the action.
The recently released graphic non-fiction addresses the need to change work practices at a systemic level. Comics journalist Sam Wallman, in Our members are unlimited, draws on his experiences as a storekeeper at Amazon and elsewhere. It also delves into the history of unions, and how they have evolved over the years as the meaning of the word ‘work’ has changed.
“Union work is seen as very old-fashioned, with hardhats and high beams, working on industrial stuff,” says David Golding, editor at Scribe, Wallman’s publisher. “Modern workers are increasingly in call centres, on motorbikes, at home. But if these workers stick together, they can increase their benefits for themselves; if they don’t, they are stuck with the most practical terms for management. TP‘s called the book “a compelling and penetrating graphic history of the impact and future potential of trade unions”.
In the recent version of Icon To classify, University of Brighton sociologists Laura Harvey and Sarah Leaney and illustrator Danny Noble describe how changing societal stratification has transformed the way working people see themselves and their identity in public life. The subject of class has become increasingly important as work practices have deteriorated, says Icon editor Duncan Heath, adding, “If your job is temporary or precarious, where do you fit in now? in the society ? Everything has become more blurred and fluid because of changes in working practices, the gig economy, the precariat.
you are not my boss
As some opportunities for better work and higher pay improve, job seekers will have more choices and, according to leadership experts, companies will need to make significant changes in recruitment and recruitment. retention of talent in order to remain competitive. Zeynep Ton, president of the Good Jobs Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to help leaders improve the worker experience, found herself frustrated with the number of executives who knew what to do to solve their retention problems, but who had a multitude of reasons why they couldn’t. : complexity, cost, shareholder resistance.
With The Case for Good Jobs, which Harvard Business Review Press publishes in June, Ton aims for a “systematic dismantling of ‘yes-buts,'” says Scott Berinato, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review. Ton argues that the C-suite needs to focus on good wages, rather than market wages, which she says are “the wrong measure,” says Berinato. “They are not livable. So you may be on par with your peers, but your peers’ salary structures are also poor.
Melissa Swift, leader of HR consultancy Mercer, offers guidance to companies struggling to make their workplaces more attractive to an increasingly mobile workforce in Wiley’s January release work here now. “Employees face complex challenges in integrating technology into their daily work lives,” says Zachary Schisgal, editor of Wiley. “It’s important to create human-centered employee roles where the employee’s experience is taken into account.” Swift’s book urges leaders to consider the humanity of their workplace practices in chapters such as “Tech Dreams, Tech Nightmares: Couples Counseling for Humans and Technology.”
Leadership educator Joe Mull takes a similar approach in Employability (Page Two, May 2023), outlining the company-level changes — beyond necessities like pay raises and thrift stores like foosball tables — needed to retain employees. He suggests that creating jobs around people is more effective at making them happy than crushing them into pre-determined jobs. “His message is that your employees are people; be good to them and they will be good to you,” says James Harbeck, who edited the book. Employee engagement, Mull writes, is the result “when people can do their ideal job, do meaningful work, for a great boss,” and he walks readers through setting up the scaffolding for those three levers operate in synchronization.
Hopefully, the big shakeup will be remembered as the days when dignity, good treatment, and fair pay became the best recruiting and retention tactics in the American workplace. These authors show the way.
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A version of this article originally appeared in the 11/28/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: Take this job and love it