The Uprising

I am one of the two million people who watched this YouTube video called “Joey Quits” this week. The three-minute video shows a young hotel employee, Joey, storming into his workplace where he is treated like “sh*t” to surprise his boss with his resignation notice. The kicker is Joey the ad hoc marching band brought along to celebrate the separation. The tuba, trumpet and snare drum all howl and crash while the group marches out of the hotel triumphantly. The viewer comments were almost unanimously positive like, “beautiful,” and, “God bless you Joey.”

The act of quitting and the overwhelming support shocked me. Who would up and quit like this given our economy? The Bureau of Labor and Statistics now claims fourteen million Americans are unemployed with another six million not in the labor force who want a job. Yet when Joey quits his job, forty people liked the ritual for every person who disliked it. Why? I would expect these twenty million people to be outraged over Joey taking his seemingly fortunate situation for granted and throwing away the dignity of a job. Isn’t this an insult to their plight?

Separately, thousands of Americans are protesting in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. I’ve heard some protestors try explaining their demands with statements like, “I’m not really sure,” or, “uh, I think they should abolish money.” The more articulate demonstrators say they are protesting the inequity of wealth distribution, the overwhelming power corporations hold in our society, and the lack of accountability for the bankers they feel caused the financial crisis. Despite the failure of the protestors to communicate a clear vision, the one the thing they have communicated clearly is a feeling of anger and frustration. With whom? Over what? Well, maybe this is the point of the protest. With everyone. And everything.

Republican candidate for President Herman Cain this week said the protestors are barking up the wrong tree. “[Do the protestors think] that Wall Street execs will come running out of their offices to write them a check?” Cain went on to say the protestors should march on Washington and its failed policy makers, not Wall Street. Indeed, the level of frustration in our country’s political process is palpable. I don’t remember a time when political leadership seemed so violently hopeless.

These acts of defiance, of course, are not limited to our country. In Libya this week, the death of Moammar Gaddafi marked the latest act of the dramatic Arab Spring uprising. An entire region of people are organizing to overthrow their leaders. The world celebrated with Libyans as the forty-two year reign of a tyrant became history, but what will the future hold for Libya and the Middle East as a region?

Leaders from presidents to senators and representatives to CEOs and down to regular bosses are obviously failing their followers, driving them to extreme demonstrations of frustration. Tension is building. The world feels like one big pressure cooker. I wonder how many of my employees wish they could march into my office with a band to tell me to go shove it. How many on my team are bubbling inside from the heat of the declining value of their home, stagnant pay, and rising healthcare and education costs? It’s a tough time to be a leader.