Why ‘back to normal’ is just a C-suite fantasy

Raise your hand if this thought, a real quote from a real-life CEO, crosses your mind several times a day:

Which illustrates how profoundly the mood around work has changed during the pandemic. The base is unhappy. So are the middle managers. And the executives don’t feel too good either (they just get paid much, much better).

Here’s the deal: The so-called Great Resignation, in which workers are quitting in record numbers to move on to better jobs, isn’t limited to the grassroots, reports my colleague Jeanne Sahadi. Managers are also rethinking what they want from work and life, and that’s complicating the “back to normal” narrative that many companies are pushing.

“We’ve never been here, where the entire workforce is undergoing social, economic and psychological change,” Jeanne Claire Deason, an attorney who advises clients on their remote work arrangements, told.

In fact, nearly 70% of executives surveyed by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence are “seriously considering quitting a job that better supports their well-being.” A large majority of executives (81%) said that improving their well-being is now more important than advancing at work.

Many are not just thinking about quitting smoking. In the first five months of 2022, nearly 670 US-based CEOs left their posts, according to relocation firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. (That’s the highest count for that period since the company began tracking executive moves in 2002.)


Management is hard work at the best of times. But it’s a nightmare under the pressures of our current era: hybrid workforces, rampant inflation, and endless chatter of an impending recession (raising the ominous prospect of layoffs). Oh, and a war in Eastern Europe, the crumbling of constitutional rights in America, and the ever-present threat of new strains of Covid-19.

On top of all that, middle management is tasked with carrying out the “get back to normal” fantasy that top management still (somehow) believes is an achievable goal.

About a quarter of middle managers in 13 countries surveyed earlier this year by Gartner said they feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. The same number said that he does not feel mentally engaged at work.

To be sure, managers are generally paid more to take on these additional responsibilities. But like any worker, they have their pressures at home, their frustrations with office politics, their secret or not-so-secret desires to throw their laptops in the sea and drink Mai Tais out of a coconut.


The pandemic broke everything: the economy, the companies that drive it, and the human beings that make all this modern capitalist endeavor move forward. It also broke the measuring sticks we have long used to mark progress.

Just today, the head of the Federal Reserve, the certified Silver Fox Jay Powell, basically told the world that the US economy will never be the same.

“The economy is being driven by very different forces,” he told a meeting of central bankers in Portugal. “What we don’t know is whether we’ll go back to something that looks, or looks a little bit like, what we had before.”


Senior executives, instead of pushing their middle managers to set the office JUST the way it was in February 2020, should heed our guy Jay Powell’s words here and acknowledge these new and different forces, not just for the good of their businesses but also by the people who work for them.

Office workers need more than culture and collaboration platitudes. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my colleagues and all our office chatter, but I also love writing this newsletter in my pajamas with my dog ​​at my feet and not being on the subway two hours a day, five days a week… ) If you really want people to come back, you can try mandates I guess, but in a job market like this where jobs are plentiful, I wouldn’t risk it.

Let’s change the goals. Let’s find out what the office is for and when we need it, instead of trying to anchor people to it just because that’s the way the boss is used to doing things. Let’s rethink what progress looks like. That will mean different things for different jobs, and it won’t happen overnight.

To be sure, the option to work from home is exclusively a white-collar concern, and there are plenty of industries where remote work just doesn’t work. But the most important problem is to recognize that the lives of workers are richer and more complex than any utility they provide to your company.

All of us, in our individual fields, are going to carve out a new normal, steadily, over time, like fractured bones.


Cruise ships are one of those industries that can barely survive the pandemic. and i mean barely.

Today, Carnival shares sank 15% after a Morgan Stanley analyst described a worst-case scenario in which the company’s share price could drop to zero in the [not unlikely] event of a global recession.

“If there is a demand shock that leads to travel cancellations or weak bookings…liquidity could shrink rapidly,” the analyst wrote. The report also dropped Royal Caribbean and Norwegian about 10%.


We now turn to everyone’s favorite Nightcap beat: Junk Food.


I often suspect that there is a brainstorming team at Taco Bell whose job it is to get high and come up with new menu items. Listen to me…

We have had Frito Gorditas. We have had Doritos Locos tacos. Nacho fries. This company had the audacity to put spicy Pop Rocks flavored with cayenne pepper in a burrito. Honestly, that last bit makes this latest piece of news seem bland, but here we go anyway.

Into the pantheon of Taco Bell’s admittedly wacky experiments goes the humble Cheez-It, in the form of “Big Cheez-It Tostada” and its more hearty cousin, “Big Cheez-It Crunchwrap Supreme.”

It is, in fact, a huge Cheez-It, 16 times the size of the standard cracker, instead of the usual toast shell.

Makes sense? Nope! But it’s crazy enough to work. Someone in Irvine California please try it for me as this is a sooooo Limited release item from Bell.


Coca-Cola’s innovation platform has been testing some strange new flavors lately that it advertises as “starlight” and “pixels.”

For his latest collaboration with music producer Marshmello, he goes a little less abstract: It’s just Coca-Cola, with hints of strawberry and watermelon. (No marshmallow, that would be too much on the nose.)

“We created a vibrant blend of my favorite flavors in this all-new blend,” Marshmello said in a statement.

Who could resist a vibey mix?

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