Quiet Quitting is not a new phenomenon. For generations, there have been professionals who have chosen to do no more than is required of them at their jobs and to only work the hours stipulated in their contract. They leave promptly at 5 pm and shut down the work part of their lives until 8 am the next work day. In my generation, it was called “coasting”. In the 70s and 80s – well, it was called laziness.
It looks new because it is now being institutionalised. The way to institutionalise a thing is to give it a name, “Quiet Quitting”, to devise some catchy slogans around it, “#ActYourWage” and to describe some positive values around it. The best articulation I have found of such values is by Zaid Khan.
“”I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” Khan says. “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not — and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.”
The quiet quitting advocates I have seen have based their actions as some kind of payback to companies that they feel do not care about their well being. Again, this is not new. It was called a “go-slow” that was effected by workers’ and trade unions, who organised employees to all ‘coast’ at the same so that company operations are slowed down, therefore impacting the companies’ profits. That way, the employers were forced to the table to negotiate “return to work” agreements.
These employee actions were very effective in the industrial age, where workers worked shifts in factories. In the information age, it is yet to be seen what the impact will be, but CEOs across the world are concerned – especially because of the invisible nature of the action. In quiet quitting, a business leader has nothing they can really complain about because the employee does exactly what their job description says, and no more. How can one complain if the job is done per brief?
I suppose that eventually, the world will adapt accordingly – perhaps creating new jobs, such as “scale experts” who will be the ones to devise the new ways that companies will scale, given that employees will not go above and beyond. It is important to be aware that it is that moment of going above and beyond that workplace innovations happen – that’s when new ideas are created after all. Businesses always adapt to situations and stay profitable, in time.
What is the consequence?
As I was reflecting on this phenomenon, I asked myself what the consequence is to the growing professional. Can Quiet Quitting be beneficial to the professional? I don’t see an upside. It is fine for the professional who wants to make a satisfactory living, one who does not really aim for leadership. But for the one who wants to grow, quiet quitting is, in my submission, the worst possible move. Here’s why:
- Unexercised muscles wither. When a person takes a long time without exercise, their muscles shrink and become weak. Similarly, leadership is something that is practiced before and not after one is in position. One must show initiative, develop their people skills , develop their social analysis skills (not just looking at cold-hard data) and develop their intuition. While quiet quitting, there are many skills and capacity that one may not develop. Chances of a person becoming an under-developed professional are higher.
- Promotions & raises follow demonstration of capacity. I was eavesdropping on a CEO’s interview, in which he expressed his concern that Gen-Z, that youthful population expects raises and promotions, while at the same time quiet quitting. “It makes no sense. No business will take an increased risk investing in a person that does not demonstrate capacity,” he said. “Even they will start their own businesses, which will grow because of the same work ethic, we demand as employers and they will expect the same from their own employees.”
- Quiet quitting will contribute to a negative emotional status. As humans we like to feel proud of our work and accomplishments. We want to see impact and our contribution to that impact – not only as validation by others but as a feeling of fulfilment inside one. It is sad given that we do spend at least a third of our time at work.
In my own experience, I have found it useful to give my all at a job that I decide to do – whether I am employed or it is my own business. What then I would do, is to become aware when I have done all I can in that job and I would then leave. Each job that I have ever done gave me useful lessons that I have used in subsequent jobs to move myself ahead. Some of the jobs, I worked in had very toxic employers.
I worked once for a media organisation, where the manager would shout at us and literally tear up a printed article that I had done for grammatical and journalistic errors. Our editor’s reactions greatly discouraged my colleagues and I. I am grateful that I was able to sift out the noise and figure out what I needed to learn. I needed to learn how to write properly for the media. By sifting out the noise, I got better at the writing that in a couple of months, the editor had nothing further to say about my writing. He would read an article and publish it untouched. When that happened consistently, I left. Because of the skills I picked up from that editor, I went on to write internationally and eventually became an editor myself.
My view is that instead of quiet quitting, it would be more fulfilling for one to actually quit and go put all of one’s energy in a place that they feel they have a contribution. Time is a finite resource for me and for you and people in their 40s will tell you, that you will not have the same energy and luxury of time that you have in your 20s.
Don’t quiet quit, quit loudly and proudly and go use your energy where you can achieve more for yourself. If you can’t, shine bright where you are.
Read also: Ode to youth