Lately the topic of people not wanting to work because they are getting generous unemployment seems to be prevalent with family and friends. I would like to share some thoughts on this topic based on my experience. As with many hot topics, there are many sides and viewpoints to this issue. I do not claim to be an expert. I am simply hoping to share my experience coaching others through career and life transition, and to provide you with some new thoughts to consider.
Recently I shared a valedictorian speech which asked us to look at what was really important – striving for our 15 minutes (or seconds) of fame or our human connections. Somehow the American work ethic has led to our work life taking precedence over everything else – over our family, over our friends, and even over our own health. The current pandemic has been a wake-up call for many. We are asking ourselves what is really important. We are reconsidering what a successful life looks like to us.
For those I work with in job transition, many are taking this time to re-evaluate where they are heading. Many are leaving what they have known and are trying something new. Whether starting their own business, learning a new trade, or retiring early, many are deciding that their day-to-day happiness is more important their paycheck. Yes, some of these people profit financially from the transition, but many others embrace a new lower financial status so they can live a more healthy, relaxed, and loving life with less regrets.
When my husband and I left our safe corporate positions to move to Mexico many of our friends were jealous. They would say that we were very lucky to be able to do what we were doing; that they could not. They wished they could just quit their life and move to a beach. And they could. Nothing made my husband and I special. We just took the plunge. Our friends’ fear is what kept them trapped in their jobs and from the lives they could have. People were jealous of us but not willing to take the risk themselves.
I believe one of the reasons people are being attacked for being lazy and not finding a new job, is actually jealousy. At the root of people’s anger is it not simply that they are jealous of those who are no longer playing by the rules. Ask yourself why you are angry at those choosing not to work. Is it not a little because they are getting away with what you chose/choose not to do? Are you not angry that you played by the rules and these others seem not to have to? In a similar way, recent information about how little corporations and wealthy individuals are paying in taxes has also created jealousy. As I file the quarterly taxes for my husband’s business, I often ponder how his small business if paying four-figures quarterly while major corporations pay nothing.
It takes a lot of courage to go against the norm. My entire life I was groomed to work. Do well in school so you can get into a good university. Get a good degree so you can get a good job. Do well in your position so you can get a promotion. Professional advancement was instilled as the end all and be all of living. When one steps off the conveyor belt of professionalism, it takes a lot of courage to go against what has been preached and believed by those around us.
Nothing amazing ever happens by doing what we have always done. If you want change in your life, if you want to make things better for others, we need to change our expectations of business as usual.
As a side note, if the nice woman who cut my hair last June at SuperCuts decides that receiving unemployment is better than her $15 an hour position where customers come in outraged that they need to wear masks, I get it.