Unless your job is taking care of a tropical island or hosting puppy yoga, it’s likely that you’ve felt unhappy at work at some point. And you’re not alone in that. In fact, recent statistics from Indeed show that one in three people in the UK are unhappy in their job, with the main contributors to our dissatisfaction being pay and stress. Despite that, many of us stay in jobs that have a negative impact on our mental health for weeks, months or even years longer than we should – for reasons including not wanting to ‘give up’ on a certain career path (particularly if it’s one we’ve dreamed about for a long time) or concerns about income (a fear that’s stronger than ever given the cost-of-living crisis), among others.
It should come as some inspiration then, that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced her resignation, citing her mental health as the main driver behind the shock move.
“I am entering now my sixth year in office. And for each of those years, I have given my absolute all,” she said at a press conference on 19 January, going on to admit that she doesn’t have “enough left in the tank” for another term. Tearing up, Ardern continued: “Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”
Unsurprisingly, Ardern’s decision to quit as PM prompted plenty of chatter on social media, with critics welcoming her departure (and suggesting low poll results were the real reason – which Ardern has refuted) whilst fans questioned why she’d chosen to voluntarily step down at the apparent height of her career. Elsewhere, others praised Ardern for putting her mental health first. “What an incredible woman Jacinda Ardern is. Amazing leader who understands that mental health and wellbeing is THE priority,” someone tweeted. “We're only human, no one can pour from an empty cup and knowing when to step back for yourself and the greater good is so admirable. What an inspiration.”
“For a world leader to publicly say that she doesn't have more of what the job needs is incredible and so so important!! When do we ever see someone that powerful take a break, a pause?” another person agreed, with a third adding: “Work-life balance is important whatever you do for a living.”
So, what can we learn from Jacinda Ardern’s resignation?
The biggest takeaway from Ardern’s decision to step down as PM is that no job is worth sacrificing your mental health.
Of course, that’s not to say we all have the freedom to throw the towel in at a moment's notice, and there’s an undeniable financial privilege in being comfortable enough to call it quits when a job is making you unhappy – especially in the financial climate we’re currently living in. In this case, the only option may be to stick things out until a new job comes along.
If, however, your job is negatively impacting your wellbeing – and you won’t be putting yourself at financial risk by quitting – then it’s time to move on or, at the very least, make a change. This might be: speaking to your boss about what’s causing your unhappiness and putting a plan in place to tackle that; asking about the potential for a pay rise, promotion or secondment to another department; or reaching out to your company’s wellbeing support team.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which route you choose to take, as long as your mental health is in the driver’s seat. As Ardern said so perfectly: “You can be your own kind of leader – one that knows when it’s time to go.”
For information, support and advice about mental health and where to get support, visit Mind’s website at www.mind.org.uk or call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 6.00pm).
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