The Great Poke

I’m a bit shy of any nomenclature that has the word “great” attached. 

Great, when used as an adjective, means above normal of average. Of course, we use also use it as an adverb (she played great!) but when we talk about stuff and comparing stuff we’re in the land of the adjective.

Of course, not everyone can be great, despite Garrison Keillor’s insistence (back in the day when I could listen to him and not cringe) that Lake Wobegon’s children were ALL above average; a claim that is statistically impossible. This is the other issue with the adjective great: for some to be above average, others must be below.

Now we have the “great resignation” or its new counterpart, the “great discontent”. Studies are showing that employers and volunteers are leaving long-established positions in droves. It’s great in the way the Great Depression was great: much higher than average.

Why is this happening? An article in Gallup’s blog “Workplace” suggests: 

“The pandemic changed the way people work and how they view work. Many are reflecting on what a quality job feels like, and nearly half are willing to quit to find one. Reversing the tide in an organization requires managers who care, who engage, and who give workers a sense of purpose, inspiration and motivation to perform. Such managers give people reason to stay.” [1]

Perhaps what is really happening isn’t resignation, or discontent, but the Great Poke.

Following previous pandemics, large social changes occurred. Not only literary masterpieces like Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway or the whimsy of Keith Haring’s works of art, but also systemic changes to public health, housing, and economic structures. 

After months of being in quasi-lockdown and the deaths of 4.55 million people worldwide (and countless dealing with the longterm impact of long-haul COVID) we should be re-evaluating what is important and powerful in our lives. We should be looking deep into the mirror and asking if this is the world in which we want to live, and how we wish to live in it.

For those of us that lead organizations, the question is that after we work out of the Great Exhaustion (it’s real, friends, I know!) will we remember our organizational mission? Will we remind ourselves of that sense of purpose, inspiration, and motivation… not to perform, but to be who we were created to be?


[1] https://www.gallup.com/workplace/351545/great-resignation-really-great-discontent.aspx

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