The Great Resignation: Aussie quits $100k job to work at McDonald’s

An Australian man has quit his $100,000 finance job, fed up with “rubbish meetings” and a terrible culture to work as an overnight cleaner at his local McDonald’s – taking a hefty pay cut to escape the corporate nightmare.

He’s one of many Australians embracing The Great Resignation, which is set to slam workplaces in the next six to 12 months with 2 million people ready to quit their jobs, research from Allianz Australia showed.

It comes as many young Australians are also throwing in six figure jobs with nothing to go to, preferring to be unemployed than unhappy at work.

Others like Paul, who did not want his surname used, have ditched lucrative careers looking to escape the “stress” and sense of impending doom that would creep up on Sunday afternoons.

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‘I can’t do it anymore’

Paul had spent 23 years in the financial services industry, but recently resigned from his team leader role in customer service for a major finance company.

“I just got the point where I was sick of managing people in a way I didn’t feel comfortable. So much of the work you do in financial services it’s just paper pushing and million dollar people talking about first world problems,” he told

“It was a job where I was good at it rather than being passionate about it. I finally just woke up one day and I thought I can’t do it anymore.

“You know that feeling when you don’t want to go to work? It’s a Sunday afternoon you get all tense and horrible and I thought why do we do it to ourselves? Let’s go be broke and poor and see if we can be happier.”

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The Central Coast man said despite his finance job being fully remote, he hated the culture which he described as one that was led by punishing rather than educating, overbearing pressure and forced overtime.

He said he was once asked to put a staff member on a performance plan and also tell them at the same time they would be managing his team while he was away, which he said was bizarre.

The dad-of-four added he would go through moments of hating his job so much that he would scroll through Seek and use the quick apply function to instantly submit a CV for things like maintenance jobs.

“People would look at my CV and see I’d been in financial services for 23 years and never called,” he added.

Pay slashed in half

But within 10 minutes of applying for an overnight cleaner role at McDonald’s – where he actually worked his first job at age 15 – he got a call.

Three weeks ago he started at McDonald’s taking almost a 50 per cent pay cut down to around $53,000.

It’s seen him working 11pm to 7am – where he gets home in time to take his kids to school — and he is “loving” the change.

“Job satisfaction is way up and stress is down. There is no constant moving goalposts. No rubbish meetings and pressure to always remember all the corporate language rules. Just cleaning. If it’s dirty, I clean it,” he said.

“I had a new piece of equipment and the fun I had and the satisfaction I felt when the floors came up twice as good was just wild.”

Paul said he’s glad not to have play the corporate “game” anymore and can actually “disconnect” from his job outside of work hours.

“When you’re in the corporate world, you’ve got to respond to emails, think about your language and the pressures of managing people and how to keep people together in a digital age and it’s nice not to have do all that thinking,” he said.
“I get home now and I’m more active in the house and I’m getting back into hobbies as my brain isn’t exhausted.

“That’s the nice thing about doing physical work, I feel like I’m doing something and at my age, it’s nice to be back on my feet and the creative stuff is coming back.”

Don’t get ‘trapped’

The 48-year-old said his kids don’t understand why he would take a job with less pay but he said he’s teaching them not to “get trapped doing something because someone is going to pay you”.

“Don’t make money your motivator,” he added. “Fear is the mind killer too. Everything we do carries too much fear these days, sometimes you just need to take the shot and take the opportunity and throw caution to the wind.

“In fairness I am a little mad. I’m the type of idiot who walks out of job four months before long service leave comes up but strangely enough it’s always worked out for me. It takes a certain strength to take that risk.”

$40,000 pay cut

Sebastian* is another Aussie who is looking to take a $40,000 pay cut to make a career change after he was placed on stress leave just four months into a new job.

The sales manager said his current company is so severely understaffed that the workload was “relentless” forcing him to work 55 hour weeks, including weekends, yet it was never enough time to catch up.

“I would be coming home at night feeling like there was big boulders on my shoulder and not being able to switch off from work and literally not able to escape from it at all,” he told
“I would be trying to watch TV or YouTube to try and distract myself and it’s so consuming that … I would be thinking about what that customer wants or there’s so much trouble or there’s no stock, so workload issues would be coming up at 7pm or 8pm or 9pm at night.”

Dry retching looking at emails

The 39-year-old said it got to the point where just looking at his emails caused him “severe anxiety” forcing him to take unpaid stress leave from his $120,000 job.

“This pay cycle I’ll get paid for one week out of four so that kind of stress level is keeping me out of work and has knock on effects for financial stuff,” he explained.

“I’m in a reasonably privileged position with income protection insurance and mortgage insurance but it’s $2500 to $3000 less than what my normal pay has been.

“I’m looking for lower stress jobs and a step down in role, so I’m probably looking at a $35,000 to $40,000 pay cut.”

The Melbourne man said he is undergoing psychological treatment but has realised there is no way he can return to his current role.

“I’ve not looked at my work phone for a couple of weeks and then I was looking at my work emails this week and I was dry reaching,” he said.

“I felt physically sick just looking at my emails, so there is no way I can return to that.”

Sebastian added he is looking to make a move out of sales where he has spent his whole life into something like a public sector job doing administration, which he said has been “challenging”.

From almost six-figures to nothing

Tom*, who lives in Sydney, is another Australian who chucked in his 20 year career in real estate after the stress piled up during the pandemic.

“I think during the lockdown having been in property management we basically became the go to for everyone’s financial problems and I mean that with no disrespect for anyone suffering,” he said.

“I think that just took its toll on me and I decided I need to do something where I’m not at home thinking about other people’s problems.”

He quit his job in February going “basically from just under six-figures to nothing”.

The dad, who is in his early 40s, decided to launch his own gardening business but admits he had moments of doubt where he wondered “what the hell” he had done, but said it is now operating successfully.

“I feel a bit more alive. I’m always outdoors, healthier, I have a lot more time for my family and kids which I didn’t have before and even when I was home early from a day in real estate your mind is always thinking about everything that is going on back there at the office,” he said.

“It’s very hard to switch off in that role and you can turn your work phone off or not answer but there’s always something on the back of your mind on what has just happened or what you have to do the next day.

“I don’t’ have the anxiety feeling of going to work.”

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons

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