Why The Great Resignation and Labor Shortage are Both About Dignity

I saw a headline on LinkedIn Yesterday that asked, “is a great resignation coming?” It was about how all the professionals who were thinking of leaving their jobs before the pandemic are starting to hand in their letters of resignation. Interestingly, the reason a lot of these professionals are quitting is that their work is not meaningful. 

But this is only half of the story. 

There is another group of people that are quitting in mass. People are reporting that restaurants are closing because workers are walking out. These workers are leaving because the restaurants are not not paying them enough.

Now my first reaction to these two headlines was, wow, another example of inequality. One class of people leave their job because of a nebulous feeling of fulfillment, and another is walking out because their jobs can no longer pay the bills.

But then I thought about it. These two stories are really about the same issue: 


And dignity simply means worthy of value.

The work of these restaurant workers isn’t being treated with dignity because their employers aren’t able or are unwilling to pay them what they are worth. But dollars and cents aren’t the only things that make work rewarding. Working toward a vision you believe in is the ultimate reward. What you create is the value! And creating something valuable is hard, sometimes boring, and at times terrifying. 

But I’m not writing this to say what work is dignified and what isn’t.

It is the opposite.

Too many of us feel unfulfilled in our work because of other people’s definition of dignified work. Either we stay in a job we hate because we think we are supposed to love it, or we don’t get to love our position because we believe we are supposed to hate it. What gives work meaning is believing in a vision worth the tears, sweat, and the risk of failure.

A vision of dignified work.

I want to encourage individuals to fight for their right to have their own definition of dignified work and help entrepreneurs explain what makes their work worth the sweat and tears.