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People share the text exchange with their manager that inspired them to quit

The texts highlight just how overworked, mistreated and fed up employees are — and how many of them simply aren't willing to deal with it any longer.
/ Source: TODAY

People are sharing stories about the moment they decided to quit their jobs, sparking a conversation about bad bosses and our society's obsession with work.

People are sharing stories about miserable jobs — and even more miserable managers — on social media.TODAY Illustration

Many snapshots of purported text message exchanges between employees and their managers have recently gone viral across social media. They run the gamut from the boss who demands an employee work a bartending shift on their day off, to another who calls an employee "a victim" for not coming into work the day after their father died, also on their day off.

The texts highlight just how overworked, mistreated and fed up employees are — and how many of them simply aren't willing to deal with it any longer.

One person's sign-off? "Mail me my check. I quit." Another one: "I won't be in tomorrow or ever again." Yet another? "I think I'll just go work at one of the dozens of places hiring around here."

It's impossible to know just how many of those exchanges are true. But according to Doreen Ford, a moderator of Reddit's increasingly popular anti-work subreddit, the online forum where many of the posts originated, that's not really the point. The point is that they could very well be. Everyone has a story about a terrible boss, right? And while the anti-work movement is no doubt niche and radical, interest in its philosophy has been growing since the pandemic began.

The anti-work subreddit is a place "for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles," according to a description on the website.

A year ago, the subreddit had 175,000 subscribers, Ford said. As of press time, it had 773,000. A public website where Reddit provides statistics about subreddits shows that the anti-work forum is among its fastest growing communities. Think of it as the total opposite of hustle culture.

Ford, 30, became interested in the movement several years ago and is the creator of the website She is a dog walker in Boston — yes, she works.

"Most people in the anti-work community work," Ford told TODAY. "The issue we're trying to address is that a lot of people have to work in jobs they don't like and don't get paid well enough, under people they don't like working for, in this system that rewards abuses of power and unfair disparities and hierarchies. The issue here is that we all live under capitalism."

Ford said that while the surge of recent interest was surprising, it also makes sense at a time when people are re-assessing what they want out of their lives — and their jobs.

This period of the pandemic is being called "The Great Resignation," given the record number of Americans quitting their jobs. In August, a record 4.3 million people left their jobs — the highest number in a data set that goes back to December 2000 — according to the Labor Department. The exodus was led by food and retail industries, whose workers are among the lowest paid.

Labor actions have also been on the rise. Workers from numerous companies and across various industries are demanding better pay and working conditions, like employees from Kellogg's and John Deere who are on strike.

Yet one expert told TODAY people should be careful not to confuse those actions with the anti-work sentiments of one corner of the internet.

"What's happening right now is pro-work," said Sylvia Allegretto, an economist and co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley. "Most people want to go to work. Most people love their jobs. These are people who are passionate about what they do, but they're saying, 'Enough is enough.'"

She said the pandemic was a catalyst in many ways, particularly for the working class, to wake up to the growing inequities in our country.

"Workers have seen where all their hard work is going — not to them, but to those at the very top. We're the richest country in the world with the highest degree of inequality, and it's just gone too far."