‘Quitting is for winners.’ Are entertainer entrepreneurs the reason for the Great Resignation?

Dr. Eliza Filby’s article on entertainer entrepreneur Steven Bartlett makes for an absorbing read – and gives a fresh perspective on the potential driver of the Great Resignation.

Filby’s article explores how Bartlett, and the raft of other entrepreneur entertainers who are filling venues with hundreds of adoring, feet-stomping, ‘all you need is you’ fans across the world – may well be having the greatest impact of all on the current recruitment crisis, at least in young people. How? Well, because, as Filby explains, “Bartlett’s message, whether intentionally or not, is one that captures the post-pandemic burnout mood, and one that is fuelling the Great Resignation.”

You can read Dr Filby’s article in full here, but here’s the main takeaways:

“Bartlett’s story as a working-class bi-racial kid from a predominantly white town is one of struggle and structural racism, but also of self-discovery. His journey from college drop-out to social media millionaire is a modern Pilgrim’s Progress full of temptation, sacrifice and eventual enlightenment. Bartlett’s yet another college quitter who scaled the heights of unimaginable success; a fact that undoubtedly resonated with the young audience for whom tertiary education is no longer a guaranteed path to social mobility, only guaranteed debt.

“Steven Bartlett’s precise appeal however lies in his 21st-century definition of success. Happy Sexy Millionaire is the title of his best-selling autobiography. And it is meant to be ironic. For Bartlett, happiness is found not in hot girls, Lamborghinis and dollar signs, but in sincerity and humility. And his stage show is a re-telling of this story packaged so that it applies to us all. He says little about how he built his business or led his team, instead we hear how he discovered true empathy and conquered his ego. He’s the Dalai Lama crossed with Tony Robbins. His message is a deliberate antidote to the 1980s materialism of our childhood, the Tech-bro culture of yesteryear and flies in the face of today’s one click-consumption. And yet, this is an overwhelmingly individualistic philosophy; forget structural obstacles, the only obstacle to your happiness is yourself, Bartlett preaches. He struts around the stage urging us all to appreciate that ‘validation is an inside job’ and our goal is to ‘follow our passion’

“‘Quitting is for winners’ he once tweeted in one of his many bitesize philosophical musings, ‘knowing when to quit, change direction…demand more from life, give up on something.is a very important skill that people who win at life all seem to have’. A tweet that would have spoken to anyone who has just endured two years on Zoom in a job they hated.”

I’m pondering on this, and not because it doesn’t ring true. The sea of change is happening, and it doesn’t look to be turning back.

Filby’s message to terrified corporates wondering how to ‘combat’ the Bartlett effect is this, “Put bluntly, your well-intentioned and well-thought-out corporate values on your website are competing with the individualistic identities of kids who have been building their brand and ‘net-rep’ since they were in their early teens. 

“So what can companies do to counter the Bartlett philosophy? They can’t, so they need to embrace it. By creating workplaces that allow the individual to thrive through creative self-expression, personalised learning and allowing their full identities to be realised in an environment that actually offers them the security and support they wouldn’t have if they chanced it alone. That’s easier said than done of course, but in an age of automation, it has never been more possible and more economical to allow humans to do what they do best, and let machines do the rest.”

One commenter on Dr Filby’s post added something interesting, saying, “I love your point on inspiring action rather than envy, as positive role models do. I must say though, on what companies can do to counter the Bartlett Philosophy, I playfully wonder if it might not be easier said than done, but easier done than said? Companies might be struggling to articulate the truth and cause of the Great Resignation. They can and increasingly are acting by investing in the coaching style of their managers and leaders. This strengthens four qualities that we bet will stem the tide: Curiosity, Connectivity, Candour and Change enablement. It’s Manageable.”

An interesting perspective and well worth a read. 

Andy.

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