Dear Jacinda Ardern,
Thank you for acknowledging burnout.
Jacinda Ardern’s resignation from her role as the New Zealand Prime Minister on Jan. 19 may have shocked many, but it is clear that this was a decision she did not make lightly due to the pressures and dedication required of the position.
In her formal press release, she acknowledged the success her administration has seen, as well as the difficulty of the grueling public office.
“With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not,” Ardern announced during a press conference. “I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it also has taken a lot out of me.”
Ardern also shared that she now feels she lacks the energy required for such a demanding position.
“As to my time in the job, I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go.”
When a public official announces a seemingly sudden resignation, it is only natural for the public to assume scandal is the heart of the announcement. To some, the acknowledgement of occupational burnout may be just as shocking. To me, it is inspiring.
From politicians to the public, burnout affects all. It is clear burnout affects more than just busy Drexel students juggling four, five, or six classes with work-study, co-op or other activities. This is one of the most prominent examples so far of a public figure — in this case, the highest leader in a prominent country — being willing to acknowledge the stress an occupation can place on daily life.
It’s no secret that burnout is real. The American Psychological Association’s 2022 Trends Report noted the rampant spread of burnout and stress in the U.S. and acknowledged the added stress on those in public-facing jobs including teachers and government workers.
According to several studies including McKinsey & Co’s “Women in the Workplace” Report, women are disproportionately affected by burnout, a worldwide issue affecting 43% of surveyed individuals from Global Workplace Report’s 2019 study of over 100 countries.
But acknowledging burnout does not have to mean the end of the world; Ardern’s resignation serves as a reminder of the power of turning over a new leaf. In Ardern’s case, she wishes to spend more time with her family without the weight of her job.
Ardern’s step down from her position may look like a political defeat, but I consider it a respectful passing of the torch and reminder that changing paths and acknowledging that going too hard for too long can be detrimental.
Jacinda Ardern serves as a symbol for many reasons, but for me, she serves as a symbol of knowing when to acknowledge enough is enough and shift to a new focus for a better future.
As students are used to daunting workloads, knowing the workforce has its own challenges is not exactly inspiring. While the year-round Drexel academic calendar may serve well as an adjustment to a year-round schedule post-college, increasing levels of employee burnout intimidate students looking forward to their post-gradation life.