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The Great Resignation? More like The Great Burnout.

by Derek Laliberte 11 Nov 2021

Six weeks ago, I saw a picture of a great friend sitting around a bonfire alone and on his laptop. It was the end of summer, the sun was setting over the lake, and the view was majestic but, it was a Saturday night. Knowing how much I care for this person, I put my head in my hands and began to weep like a child. The kind of weeping where your shoulders shrug so hard they could dislocate. It was the type of crying you experience when you know how easy it is to relate. At least it was in my case because I was sitting in my office doing the same thing at the same time he was. 

Our friends were over at the house. My kids were outside asking where I was and when I would be off work.  Meanwhile, my amazing wife was holding it down while I did everything I could to catch up. At the one time, I knew no one would need to reach me on a Saturday night. But this wasn't my company's fault. It wasn't my boss telling me I had to work. If you had told him we were working at that moment, he likely would have called me to say to me shut it down. No, I was on our leadership team. I was partly responsible for our process, for setting the example and the tone for our culture. I was the one who has always told my team how valuable "discretionary effort is." I was just as much to blame as anyone else. I was the one that did this to himself. 

For as long as I can remember, this country has been dissecting the "great resignation" and trying to understand why so many companies are not only losing people but, more importantly, can't find good people to replace them. I believe it's a fair topic to discuss because I think it's a significant problem. Every single fast food restaurant in the small community I live in is only open because they have a drive-thru. All of the lobbies are closed. Some of them even have a sign on their doors that asks for empathy and understanding from customers.  Recently, I heard a story about a grocery store clerk who was sobbing in the restroom because everyone was "so rude to her." My brother, who works construction, has been six days a week for as long as he cares to remember. When my brother is not working six days a week, he's easily putting in a dozen hours a day. I could go on and on about teachers, nurses, doctors, factory workers, servers, and don't even get me started on the guy who delivers your packages on Sundays. 

Without looking anything up, without any data or sources, I would be willing to bet that if you ask a friend who works full-time, they will tell you how pressing their job has been lately. Just for the record, that's my opinion and not a fact. Also, this is technically a blog for the record, but I write them as if they are an op-ed. Op-eds are always more interesting, aren't they ("Great, now he's assuming things)? Well, whether you are ready or not, here's another opinion. 

"It's all our fault!" 

Rather than blame politics, the economy, the pandemic, unemployment benefits, supply chain shortages, or the vaccine (I figured I would just throw that in there). 


Why don't we just all accept the blame? Take a big fat look in the mirror and accept that we might actually have a gigantic blind spot. It's our fault it's like this, no one else's. And what if the typical targets for pointing our fingers at were all the things that helped us realize it sooner? A friend of mine once told me that we need to accept the blame for everything if we want to improve. It sounds harsh, but I can see it more clearly now. 

It's not about resigning. It's about burning out! "The Great Burnout" is when someone is at a crossroads in their career where they have to decide between making a paycheck and not making a paycheck. Again it's an opinion but know that I say this because I've lived it. I never wanted to quit. I never intended on resigning, but I was BURNED THE HECK OUT. 

I work too much. All the talk over discretionary effort and how it's the sign of a leader has backfired. Our workstations are 10 feet from where we sleep now. We are always accessible, our productivity is through the roof, and we have created a culture that never stops working. What's the opposite of effort? I looked it up, and it's carelessness, laziness, neglect, apathy, and the one I like best is "disregard." Wouldn't it be interesting if your boss called you to tell you that she expects to see some discretionary disregard from you this Saturday? I'm guessing you might start to love your job again. Or, maybe you will want to work that much harder during your regular working hours. Instead, we throw more money at it. "Here's a raise. Now you'll have even more money that you can't take your wife out with, enjoy!" 

I think the great resignation is a misrepresentation of what is really happening in the workforce. Aside from any other distractions or reasons behind that, in my opinion, it all boils down to time. As leaders, we set the tone for our culture. So, when someone witnesses us disrespecting our own time, they start disrespecting theirs. Eventually, our cultures become toxic, and as a result, people get burned out. They quit.

If you want to have a culture that gives a damn about your customers, you might want to start by giving a damn about your people first. When they get out of bed in the morning, I'm guessing it's not because they want to make their company money or be recognized by their company. It's probably because they want to LIVE THEIR LIFE with the people they love. 

We weren't just made to pay bills and die. To me, the great resignation is just another way to throw the blame on anyone but ourselves. People are exhausted. 

My two cents.


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