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Jet Blue Quitter: A Warning Sign to Big Business?

Why he did it is unclear, and support for Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater is mixed. But the amazing amount of buzz he got nationwide indicates this stressed-out airline employee struck a nerve.

Some experts say the intense reaction is a sign that many of us are stretched too thin, burned out and can’t take it anymore. They say that it’s time for corporations to begin hiring again right now.

A recent drop in worker productivity after five quarters in a row of growth is “a sign that companies have reached the limit of how much they can cut back their workforce and how hard they can work their existing workforce,” economist Joel Naroff told USA TODAY.

He predicted that many burned-out workers may copy Slater (although probably with less fanfare) once the economy rebounds. “A massive relocation of workers who want out as fast as they possibly can.”

Naroff said he doesn’t think American businesses appreciate how overworked and stressed out their employees are. “You can pull this off now because there isn’t really an option, but once there’s an option, it’s going to be payback time,” he says. “You’re going to be losing some of your best people.”

“Clearly, the massive drive to get more productivity and more output out of workers is running into a wall,” he says. “We’re working too hard, all the blood’s out of the stone, and it’s now time to look for a new stone.”

Does this ring true in your circles?  How are you feeling at work—or about your prospects of getting hired?


  1. Monalisasmilesnow

    Regardless of whether Slater’s actions were “right or wrong” I feel sure his actions were an authentic reaction to the tipping point of his frustration. I’ve been there and walked away quietly never to return, now wishing I had had a beer and an escape chute. Disrespect for each other regardless of economic status, sense of entitlement or business or social status (client/”customer service representative”), is totally unacceptable – particularly to the point of name calling. One does not have the right to ‘dehumanize’ anyone by name calling.

    I have been out of work since a global downsizing in January 2009 and have turned down possible offerings because I was advised up front that the supervisor/CEO I would directly support was a ‘screamer’. The huge red flag of “she’s/he’s a difficult person’ or he’s/she’s a screamer makes my decision for me regardless of the lovely salary, perks, insurance, 401-K or close proximity to home. I’ve watched too many friends and family member devastated by burning out both mentally, physiclly and spiritually by forcing themselves to submit to this travesty because the media has convinced them that you must work no matter what the price. There are alternatives, one can simplify, do without, and fashion the workplace they wish for by deciding exactly what they want and working towards it with a vision and taking steps with the attitude of “what’s this going to take.?” Drawing the line and your boundaries will signal to others who you are and how far they can go with you. Your soul is not for sale.

  2. CH

    I’m absolutely burned out. I realized how badly when I took the first actual vacation (as opposed to Family Medical Leave, which was NO vacation!) in years. When it came time to go back, rather than ffeeling rejuvenated and ready to hit it hard again, as after other, even shorter breaks, it was all I could do to get out of bed.

    On top of that, our pay raises have been fewer and farther between, even as the cost fo living continues to increase, and all the work I put into finally getting my degree (Summa Cum Laude) and becoming a certified professional in one of the aspects of my job meant absolutely nothing. No raise. No promotion. No interviews for the other, internal positions I’d applied for.

    After that much let down when I am at work, where’s the incentive? Why would I want to return after a break?

  3. Cristal

    Budget cuts, lay offs, office consolidation…I am burned out!! I took a week off recently and my first Monday back was horrible. I wanted to go back home, get into bed and roll up into a ball. At this point I don’t care about how I look anymore (we’ve moved into a windowless office and I don’t see clients…so who cares??) and I’ve come to realize that what I do just really doesn’t matter. I am not happy, I’ve gained about 20 lbs since I started with this company, and I just want out!!

  4. Beth

    Wow. How fortunate there are people luckey enough to be employed in this economy. These are the ones complaining about their jobs. I only have been able to find part-time work. And my part-time job may go away in the next year or two. I do not make enough money to support myself and am forced to live with my elderly father. I am 40 years old with two college degrees and no one wants to hire me. I would love to have a full-time job with benefits. To the complainers: Be thankful you are employed. Perhaps you should stop taking your job so personally. Try to emotionally distance yourself from it. If the boss is screaming at you, just mentally “check out” to your happy place.
    I know people will love to complain about their jobs. Remember that your boss is under pressure from his/her boss as well. If you are exhausted, remember, no one is forcing you to stay. Turn in your resignation and leave. Create an exit plan for yourself: Make time to send out resumes, when you go to interviews, call them client meetings or sick days. Eventually you will find a new place. If you do not get downsized first.
    I have been searching for full-time work since 2002. I have been fortunate to find part-time jobs. I have been fortunate that my father allowed me to move back in with him. I do not know what I am going to do.
    Get perspective. Be thankful you have a job to complain about. There is always someone willing to take your place.

  5. Karma14

    When I read this article, I said WOW, that is exactly the scenario where I am employed. Management openly says to staffers “I can’t wait until the economy improves so all the C Players leave”. Well to that I say, watch out when all your “A” players leave too! Just because the economy is in such a bad state and jobs are scare does not give employers the right to treat their employees with disrespect and work them tirelessly for little salary.

    To those who are unemployed, as I was for nearly 13 months, I am grateful to be working to feed my family, but at the same token simply stating I have certain values that I will not compromise for the benefit of a greedy employer. They can only take and mistreat for so long, before the dominos fall and they are left scratching their heads wondering were all superstars went. To that I reply: Karma!

  6. BonViv

    The unemployed and the employed have the same root problem: corporations who are trying to get too much for too little out of their workers. There should be 3 positions for every two that the company actually hires – thereby denying an unemployed individual a job. Meanwhile, those working twice as hard are overworked, overstressed and miserable. My last 2 jobs destroyed my health – I was working 60+ hrs/week for unpleasant bosses who could never be happy. As karma would have it, most folks left and now those companies (both PR/Mktg agencies) are having a hard time finding folks as their reputation is beginning to precede them. Companies (many of which are sitting on huge reserves of cash) are only going to learn not to abuse the good graces of their employees if there is a consequence.

  7. NDY

    I understand the comments about being thankful to have a job in this economy, but I have to tell you, I am having serious trouble dealing with a company that has let go of so many employees, that those of us left are working crazy long hours under a frenzied pace. The lighthearted atmosphere is gone, there are worried and exhausted looks on the formerly happy-go-lucky employees’ faces, and I myself have been driven to counseling for fear of “losing it” from pure exhaustion and a feeling of being used. At least in my company, the unspoken management credo is that we are all to be thankful they have allowed us to continue working for them and we better work however many hours were are required to do to get all the work done with half the staff. No thankful attitude, no consideration that we may actually have a family at home that would like to see us occasionally. We are nothing but workers and they dictate to us how we will spend our hours. No alternatives, or good luck finding another job. A sad state for American companies indeed.

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