This article was originally published in Forbes on 30 September 2022.
Rising wealth inequality rarely impacts the elite — until dissent reaches new heights that demand collective action is taken. Current economic conditions, lingering mental health fallouts from the pandemic, energy companies announcing eye-watering profits amid soaring energy prices, and now the destabilizing effects of the disastrous new budget the U.K. announced are pushing employees to raise their voices and say "enough is enough."
Making lasting change on a scale large enough to matter requires an act of rebellion. It requires courage, coming together over a common goal, and knowing when to walk away. Decisions over when to leave a job are complicated, but often by the time someone verbalizes their choice to go, it's well overdue. We are generally bad at knowing when to quit, but when anger boils over, something's got to give. It will likely take one of three forms: Organized strikes, outright quitting, or "quiet quitting." It's no wonder people are angry — the wage gap between CEOs and U.S. workers is 670-1. In an uncertain economy and cost of living crisis, that's not a good look.
These acts of rebellion are already happening. Those in unions are striking so frequently to demand fairer pay that The Guardian is predicting "Striketober." As of this time last year, support for labor unions in America was at its highest point since 1965. Workers in sectors suchas tech and professional services that don't traditionally have unions will look to change that. For example, Glitch, a software company, signed the first white-collar collective bargaining agreement— and that was just last year. Add to that a new generation of workers rejecting traditional work paradigms and you have an environment ripe for great acts of rebellion.
For leaders, ask yourself: how you can listen to the real voices of reform in your business amidst a sea of resentment? How will you work with your openly rebellious people to channel those efforts into fixing problems? It's easy to shout displeasure from the rooftops, but much harder to turn that into productive action.
Those at the top need to take a hard look at their compensation structures. Are they fair? Can you support your people during a cost-of-living crisis, either through increased wages or subsidized payments? And, if you can't, are you transparent about why?
We've already transformed how and where we work over the last two years. Perhaps the next changes will be for who and how much. This is an opportunity to disrupt the status quo and create conditions where we're all collectively a little bit better off.
If done right, "The Great Rebellion" can be a force of change that will benefit all.