My job is killing me: The rise of anti-work sentiment
My job is killing me – it’s a phrase all of us have at one time uttered to a friend, loved one or perhaps even to ourselves. Whether because we’re being smothered by a micromanaging supervisor. Working too much overtime for weeks on end or too many text and emails after hours. Always with the fear of dismissal in the back ground. Or are just painfully bored, dissatisfied and unfulfilled by our job.
If you’re currently feeling this way, you’re not alone. Millions of workers across Australia and the world are finding their work life increasingly more challenging and unrewarding. And they’re turning to social media to vent their frustrations. The terms “My job” or “myjob” receives a significant amount of enquires on Google. Work life is a marathon, constantly having to learn things I’m not interested in. Sound like you? read on.
Search ‘my job is killing me’ in any number of social media platforms and you’ll see countless posts describing the personal hell of many workers. Some detail the challenges that come with inconsiderate and overbearing managers. Others, the soul-crushing toll that a toxic workplace takes. And quite a few tell the story of how a dream job quickly turns into a nightmare, like this Reddit post from “an engineer at a big tech company.”
In the post, the engineer describes how he gets to work on “fricking cool” projects for IBM, Amazon and Facebook. He also says that he makes “$35K more than I should for my experience.” So, why is he saying, “my job is killing me?” The engineer says that unsustainable overtime, including being on call 24/7, is wreaking havoc on his mental health. Given that Australians are doing $100 billion worth of unpaid overtime per year, or more than five hours of overtime per week, you may be in a similar situation to this engineer.
“My personal life has become overwhelming because I’m not getting anything done outside of work,” writes the engineer. “My anxiety and depression has become life-threatening (again) recently.”
Living to work, or working to live?
This is a question many ask themselves. While working excessive overtime can severely harm your mental health, sometimes the endless drudgery of the 9-5 workday can too. “The idea of waking up early to go to work for eight hours a day, then come home and have a few short hours to relax before going to bed early to wake up and do it all over again every single day is soul crushing,” says an American worker on Reddit.
It’s safe to say that a good many of us have had thoughts like this before. Sometimes, going to work day in and day out feels like what many have termed as ‘wage slavery.’ Being trapped on the hamster wheel of an unsatisfying vocation may make you lament to yourself that ‘my job is killing me.’ But it doesn’t compare to the struggle faced by those in high pressure workplaces where achieving targets is placed above all else.
“My job is killing me! It’s destroying my mental health! How can I make it stop?!!” says a 17-year veteran of the banking industry in this Reddit post. He describes how the pursuit of “ridiculous” targets has seen his mental health plummet. But because he has no other option, he’s forced to continue in his “horrible job” until retirement. “Sometimes, I get anxiety attacks as soon as I wake up and start throwing up because I’m too scared to go to work,” he says.
The growing ‘anti-work’ movement
It’s experiences like these that have given rise to a growing global movement seeking to challenge the idea of modern work. Dubbed the ‘anti-work movement,’ it’s gained prominence online particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Peruse posts on increasingly popular Reddit communities like r/anti-work and r/work reform and you’ll see just how deep the anti-work sentiment goes. There’s no shortage of people telling the world that ‘my job is killing me.’
In the last two years, frontline workers in particular have become increasingly frustrated with the stresses of their job. Those in hospitality, retail and education have had to contend with the increased pressure of dealing with a potentially deadly virus on top of their existing work-related stresses.
This has seen many reach a tipping point. Fed up with their job, scores of frontline workers have turned their back on their industry and headed for pastures anew. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data released in June reveals that 51 per cent of hospitality venues are struggling to recruit workers.
Has the Great Resignation hit Australia?
It’s not just frontline workers who are quitting en masse. ABS figures released in February reveal that 1.3 million Australian workers – 9.5 per cent of the workforce – changed jobs in the preceding year. This was the highest job mobility rate since 2012.
ABS data from June also reveals that 66 per cent of large businesses were finding it difficult to recruit workers. And 79 per cent of businesses report lacking enough applicants for job ads. One of the biggest reasons for this, businesses reported, was pay and working conditions not meeting the expectations of applicants.
The Great Resignation hasn’t impacted Australia as much as the United States – where in 2021 over 47 million quit their jobs. But we’re certainly seeing more workers question their jobs, career paths, and the idea of modern work. Employees are looking for socially aware organisations to work for. Employees are looking to work for employers who have climate change policies, practice diversity, work from home mandates. Don’t dismiss employees at a whim. Its not all about money like it used to be.
What the numbers aren’t telling us
The statistics seem to suggest that while many Australians have quit their jobs in the wake of COVID-19, the Great Resignation is yet to fully hit our shores. However, what they don’t capture are all those workers who are ‘quiet quitting’ – a new trend that is fast taking over the nation’s workplaces.
Like many new status-quo challenging concepts, quiet quitting has its origins on social media platforms like TikTok. Resonating in particular with Millennials and Gen Z, quiet quitting is essentially a rebellion against the idea that work should take over your life. It means not having to go above and beyond of what your job requires.
Many of those who are quiet quitting are doing so because they feel they’ve been taken advantage of by employers. They vow to do only what their job description requires of them and refuse to go the extra mile or perform any overtime. It’s a protest against the burnout and stagnating wages plaguing many Australian workers.
My job is killing me – should I resign?
Many of us often stay in a job for far too long than we should. We may tolerate a toxic workplace because we’re being paid well. Or we may be willing to do excessive overtime because it will help us possibly earn a promotion. We may even be forced to stay in a job because we can’t afford to quit.
These are among many valid and understandable reasons to remain. But if you’re saying to your self that ‘my job is killing me,’ it may be time to consider if there truly is another option than remaining.
Quiet quitting may seem an appealing option, and it may be satisfying to exact revenge on your employer by doing the absolute bare minimum. But is it really a positive long-term option for you? If you’re content doing the bare minimum at work, fair enough – that’s your choice. But for many, simply being an organizational dead-weight isn’t going to bring them happiness. In fact could make their life worse, leading to a stream of different appointments and in turn resignations or dismissals.
If you’re saying ‘my job is killing me,’ make your health a priority
Staying too long in an unfulfilling job, a toxic workplace and or doing excessive overtime can seriously harm your mental and physical health. And numerous studies back this up.
One by the European Heart Journal reveals that people who work three or more hours longer than a normal workday have a 60% greater risk of heart-related problems. And another study found a direct link between working longer hours and type 2 diabetes.
The stress of a high pressure or toxic workplace often leads to a lack of sleep. And those who consistently fail to get enough sleep are at increased risk of chronic disease, according to Harvard Medical School. The range of mental health conditions that come with a poor work life. This includes anxiety and depression, can lead you into a cycle of deteriorating health. Many people turn to alcohol and substances to medicate. This long-term only serve to make their physical and mental health worse.
If you’re saying “my job is killing me,” it probably is. And if you can, you should probably look to get out as soon as possible – even if it means relinquishing an attractive salary or the prospect of promotion. Basically though for the vast majority of employees it is really all about the trade off of health versus income. Go back a hundred years coal miners were lucky to live past 40 years old. Those days are gone. Now its about mental health concerns, lack of sleep in the 24 hour global economy, the cost to the family in increasingly one parent families.
Conclusion: Have you been mistreated at work?
If you have got this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read the article. Unfortunately I don’t have all the answers, what to do next. That’s your job, to work out what to do. I’m just bringing your attention to what’s going on in the work communities out there. I’m arming you with as much information as I can.
If you have experienced harassment, mistreatment by managers, or were unfairly dismissed, our team at A Whole New Approach can help. We’re Australia’s leading workplace advisors and commentators. For the last 20 years, we’ve assisted thousands of workers to lodge Fair Work claims. This article is about workers rights, employee rights, casual employees. Feel overwhelmed, harassed or bullied by your employer, pick up the phone. We will listen to you
Call us today on 1800 333 666 for a free and confidential conversation.
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