Dear J.T. & Dale: My company is dealing with a staffing shortage. We have a lot of hourly positions open, but nobody wants them. We’ve been interviewing like crazy, but people usually ghost us. My boss says that once people run out of money they’ll come back to these jobs, but I actually don’t believe it. I think people just don’t want to do this kind of work anymore. In the meantime, I’m stuck picking up all the extra slack. When will it end? — Carlton
J.T.: I actually think your boss is wrong. There’s a reason we’re in an economic time that is coming to be known as “The Great Resignation.”
DALE: According to projections by data firm Visier, by the end of the year, 25% of employees will have quit a job. And other data suggest that this is not a result of those enhanced unemployment benefits.
J.T.: No, I believe the pandemic was the tipping point for something that’s been brewing within society for years: People no longer want to waste hours of their lives doing something that doesn’t feel satisfying. The definition of satisfaction is individual, but right now people are taking the time to figure out what matters to them.
DALE: Plus, the “gig economy” has been liberating, especially for the hourly workers who we’re talking about here. They can quit their traditional jobs and still bring in an income by driving for Uber or doing coding or moving in with friends and putting their homes on Airbnb. None of this feels at all temporary, does it?
J.T.: No, I don’t believe it is. And smart companies are building incentives and workloads that make people feel like it’s worth coming to work. I believe this is a fundamental change, and that the companies that understand and embrace it will be the ones that survive.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve been working for my company for five years. During the pandemic, I had a baby. Obviously, when on client calls, they could hear the baby in the background. My old boss had zero problems with that. However, my company just hired a new boss, and when a client commented on a call that she was on with me and my baby, I got reprimanded afterward. My boss told me that if she hears again about a call where my baby is in the background, I will be fired. Can she do this? — Ivy
DALE: This surprises me, as we’ve all grown accustomed to working with remote employees and hearing the background noises of domestic life. I think your new boss is out of touch, but hey, she’s the new boss. J.T. is the HR expert, but in most circumstances, a new boss can make new rules and fire employees who break them.
J.T.: First, I would consult your employee handbook (if you have one). The challenge is the company allowed you to do this during the pandemic, but the person who allowed you to do it is no longer there. My guess is that the new boss can dictate rules, and this could be grounds for termination. If you value the job, I might talk to her about it and see if something can be done. If not, I would probably find a workaround. You may just want to look for a more accepting employer. Perhaps you can go where your old boss has gone? I will say that lots of companies want to go back to their old policies. Your new boss might want to see more professionalism now that the pandemic is over. Be very careful with this, and in meantime, make sure that the baby is not heard on the calls.
DALE: And one final thought: There may be a technological solution. Investigate whether there’s a headset you can wear that will greatly diminish the background noise the caller can hear. Even if that doesn’t work, if you explain what you’re trying to accomplish to your boss, that might buy you enough time to experiment while you find another solution.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.