September 14th, 2022

Quiet Quitting

Can we stop talking about quiet quitting? It’s not a thing. I try not to be particularly trendy or get too soap-boxey about pop culture in this blog, but I can’t escape newsfeed articles and YouTube clips about all this nonsense. So, let’s talk about what this supposedly is all about, then dive into what toxic culture is underneath it, and what to do about it (other than ignore it, which is an option).

Quiet quitting is basically some version of doing the bare minimum at work, with some tweaks or adjustments given the context this is brought up in. First, this is not a new concept, Office Space came out in 1999, and the whole movie is about quiet quitting and calling out the nonsense and inefficiencies of corporate America. I don’t even think it was inherently ahead of its time, so 1999 at the latest was quiet quitting a thing. Big Lebowski came out a year before that even, and is the quintessential slacker film, so this concept was even present in pop culture over two decades ago. The reality of “quiet quitting” being a trend is obviously a misnomer, unless it has been a trend for 30+ years. Doesn’t really qualify as a trend in my book.

So, what’s it all about if it isn’t just a TikTok trend? The cynic in me would say it’s just employer propaganda, trying to reclaim some of work culture that was eroded by the pandemic. But wait, isn’t it about workers’ rights and sticking it to the man? That’s where this gets weird, and why I think it has become such a “phenomenon” all of the sudden. The idea that doing the bare minimum at your job and that being equivalent to quitting is preposterous. All you should do at your job is what you get paid for. The normalization of going above and beyond, or the idea that working harder pays off for you somehow, is at the core of this trend. These slackers are only doing what’s in their contracts! Can you believe it!?!?! Yeah, that’s what work actually is. Jobs are purely transactional. I do this thing, you pay me for doing the thing. Workers shouldn’t be doing more than what is in their job description, it likely actually creates some liability, or it is just wage theft by the employer getting work from their employees for free. Work culture is super toxic in reality. Late-stage capitalism is not a good place to be as a society turns out.

So, yeah, color me skeptical that this is coming from well-intentioned worker rights activists. This is getting a lot (a lot!) of coverage at a time when businesses are pushing people to return to the office and are trying to recover from the great resignation. Unionization is on the rise for the first time in a few decades, and workers have taken some power by simply leaving their jobs in mass numbers, proving “loyalty” to an employer is not actually a good thing, as it has never been a trait employers have for their employees. Research has continually shown that people who left their jobs in the past three years are making way more money, and often have better benefits or flexibility (or both sometimes, what a novelty!). And yeah, my snarkiness is pretty high on this topic. I think work culture is so unhealthy at almost every level that it is baffling how it ever became the norm. The idea that doing what you got hired to do is somehow not enough, and is some version of quitting? Like, what? You got hired to do a particular job, you do that, and that’s bad somehow? It’s such an odd phenomenon to even be addressing.

My expertise, and one of the topics that comes up with most of my clients, is boundaries. If your employer is asking you to do something outside of what they hired you for, what you contractually agreed to do, don’t do it unless you get paid. If you want to do more because you think it will lead to some sort of advancement, then ask your boss to put it in writing first I guess, but don’t be surprised when they absolutely don’t agree to do that. If someone wants to talk about how doing your job to the bare minimum is somehow quitting then kindly tell them that they don’t understand healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries in the workplace are clear, consistent expectations about what work equals a fair wage. Any expectations beyond that are frivolous and likely somewhere between manipulative and toxic. 

It’s not quitting to only do the job you are paid for. If you are supposed to do more than that, you need to get paid. When you get asked to work on the weekend, tell your boss that the dude abides.