Anti-Ambition

In a lengthy writeup for the NY Times, Noreen Malone dives into trends that bubbled up since COVID struck the workforce. The idea of anti-ambition is a phrase she explains is where our jobs have been stripped bare. Gone are the interactions, preparing to leave, the rituals, and the encounters. What we're left with are jobs in our intimate spaces. A huge swath of luster (if any was there to begin with) is now gone.

Now, though, it’s as if our whole society is burned out. The pandemic may have alerted new swaths of people to their distaste for their jobs — or exhausted them past the point where there’s anything to enjoy about jobs they used to like.

If the tight labor market is giving low-wage workers a taste of upward mobility, a lot of office workers (or “office,” these days) seem to be thinking about our jobs more like the way many working-class people have forever. As just a job, a paycheck to take care of the bills! Not the sum total of us, not an identity.

NY Times

I've described some colleagues as "married to their job" to describe someone I felt was too dedicated to their job. Putting in lots of extra time and effort at the expense of one's personal life was something that many applauded. I saw it as something to be wary of. No matter how hard one works or dedicates themselves to a company, there is nothing stopping that company from simply cutting ties for any (or no) reason at all. There is now a power imbalance. I suspect this is why some companies are demanding a return to the office while COVID is still happening.

Malone's article is not quite a wake-up call to the Great Resignation. However, it does provide more insight as to why the labor market is practically upside-down. We are in uncharted waters with jobs, employment, and what everyone is looking for. When the dust settles in five years, it will be a fascinating case study to see where everyone landed.

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