Who Is It Really Hurting?

If you had asked me a month ago to define “quiet quitting” for you, I wouldn’t have had the faintest clue how to do so. I’d never heard of such a thing, though some have. Now, I feel like I am seeing it everywhere. The “quiet quitting” term became popularized after Insider posted an article about the current “coasting culture”. (https://www.businessinsider.com/overachievers-leaning-back-hustle-culture-coasting-employees-work) 

 

The internet took to it immediately, with video upon viral video demonstrating what quiet quitting is and how to do it. Essentially, it means refusing to go above and beyond the job you are paid to do. According to the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/08/21/quiet-quitting-what-to-know/?itid=lk_interstitial_manual_4), “The term is a bit of a misnomer, because quiet quitters aren’t walking away from their jobs. Instead, they’re renouncing hustle culture.” Many employees today feel they are underpaid, under-appreciated and do not have adequate benefits to sustain a healthy and functioning life. Therefore, they are unwilling to give their best to companies that won’t reciprocate.  

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Both Sides of the Fad

I have to be honest, the first time I heard the definition it ruffled my feathers a bit. And I still have some MAJOR issues with the concept. The idea of people not going above and beyond at a job is baffling to me. That’s just the mindset that I’ve always had in my work and will continue to have until the day I die, whether it benefits me or not. Quiet quitting guarantees you will not benefit from it at this role, or probably the next, as it could set a victim mindset. 

 

But to play both sides of the fence here, the concept did start to make a bit more sense when I stumbled across a hilarious account on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/saraimariee_/?hl=en) that is dedicated to pointing out the huge issues in corporate America. I definitely recommend you give her account a look. One video, in particular, involves a boss being upset with an employee for telling everyone in the office about quiet quitting. She threatens to bring corrective action against the employee who responds, “For what? I come here, I do my job, I do a good job and then I go home… if you want to pay me more, maybe I’ll go above and beyond for that.” She also points out a coworker who has been going above and beyond for years and has nothing to show for it, (besides the resentment of not being recognized, I’m sure). Corporate America is known for this, and now the light is being shined on it.  Now, some parodies I have seen online, make it seem like quiet quitting involves doing a poor job, being rude to your customers, etc. But what I liked about this account is that she makes it very clear that she knows her own value. She is going to do her job well, but she is not going to let herself be put into a situation where she is doing additional unpaid work or things that are not part of her job description. If this is what quiet quitting truly means, then I am onboard, as long as there is clear communication on “value”.   

 

“Value” is perception, and if there is no open dialogue from the employer and employee, you will almost always have a fork in the road at some point.  Someone can think they should be paid more for the work they are currently doing, while their manager or employer thinks they are compensated just enough.  A conversation about expectations from both parties should always be an open conversation with no end date.  This is a relationship, just like any other one, and there needs to be constant check-ins. If those conversations are happening, and the employee still sees they will never be properly valued, then how do you argue against that?  I guess you can hope they would just quit and move on, but I don’t think I can argue strongly for that.   

Where do we Draw the Line?

After diving into this heavily, it’s clear that quiet quitting is much more well known for Corporate America.  This doesn’t shock me, as these companies are so large, they are making decisions for their stockholders or Venture Capitalists.  It is near impossible to truly understand the employees in the day-to-day trenches (actually running the company).   

 

I get the concept: know your value, communicate, set and maintain effective boundaries (https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbremen/2022/09/20/quiet-quitting-the-real-story-dont-blame-gen-z/?sh=1a0fc6d52eab). But unfortunately, I think this thing has taken on a life of its own and no longer means those things to the TikTok generation. Now it feels like it is encouraging employees to view any work they deem above their pay-grade as part of a toxic environment. But where do we draw the line? 

 

Ideas like quiet quitting have also led to the evolution of the phrase “act your wage”, which is fairly self-explanatory. We are really in an era of employees trying to hold firm to boundaries. But my personal fear is that we are somewhat overcorrecting for the issues that we have seen in the corporate workforce. Being overworked and underpaid IS absolutely a problem. Rapidly rising costs of living are a problem. But I fear that the emphasis only on the negatives of the workforce will lead to continued dissatisfaction and apathy, resulting in a reduction in hustle. And while “hustle” may be viewed as toxic these days, I think it is crucial for a fulfilling life.  “Hustle” is a term that many people use in all aspects of their life.  Hustle to be the best at work, hustle to be the best for your family, hustle to enjoy every other aspect to me is similar to the well-known, “Work Hard, Play Hard” quote.   

 

I’ve always thought, if your job doesn’t pay you well or take good care of you, get another one. But that does require effort. It requires a good resume, and good references. It requires the desire to grind and do your best. And frankly, not everyone is willing to do that. I have not always worked at jobs that financially rewarded me for the amount of effort I was putting in. But I have ALWAYS gone above and beyond, and if nothing else, I was building experience and my future and the future benefits that come along with that. That experience is something I have been able to bring into jobs and use to negotiate higher salaries. I think telling people to quiet quit and act their wage, can ultimately hurt them in the long haul. It’s a fine line, because there are jobs that are unhealthy with ridiculous duties and unattainable goals that do create a truly toxic work environment. But there is also a young generation who THINKS they are being asked to work too hard, when in fact they might know very little about what it actually means to do so. How else are they going to learn if they don’t do it? 

What's the Takeaway from all this?

The cost of living is astronomical these days, but I also think that many people understand very little about budgeting, making sacrifices, and hustling to make ends meet. We certainly aren’t taught how to be financially savvy in school. (That’s a whole different blog topic!) It is incredible what a driven person can do with a little. I have a hard time buying the mindset that we are owed anything. When I was little my mom always used to say, “Leave everywhere you go better than you found it.” And I have carried those words with me. Whether it was saying something kind to the grocery store clerk, or doing the dishes at a babysitting job when I was a teen, even though that wasn’t asked of me, I have always made it a priority to live by my mom’s words. And you know what is amazing? I ALWAYS was the first call for any family that needed a babysitter, out of all of my friends (even some with cheaper rates). Because I was the ONLY ONE who went above and beyond. So, although I had to work harder than everyone else, I was the one getting paid. I have continued to exist in that mindset and opportunities keep coming my way. Even without finishing a college degree, I have made it to a level in my career that I never could have expected. And it is 100% because I have always gone above and beyond while I am at work.  

 

As I have gotten older, I have become better at setting boundaries with my time. But I have the luxury of doing that now, because of the position that I put myself in by NOT doing it before. I have been anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived and exhausted. Working 50+ hours a week at a $12 an hour job, with a task list that should have been getting me at least $20, and having a baby to come home to at the end of the day, was not easy. And frankly, it’s not necessarily healthy either. I had to scrape and hustle to make ends meet. But what I remember the most from those years is what I learned about myself. I can do hard things. I can make something of myself. I will never sacrifice the quality of my work. I will impress myself and everyone around me every single day by doing my absolute best. It’s how I got where I am. 

 

I fear that a good percentage of the youngest working people today won’t see that in themselves. They won’t be driven to find something that they WANT to work hard for, because they aren’t willing to work hard when they DON’T want to.  When the struggles come, they will do the bare minimum. It’s very difficult to grow, flourish and succeed when that is your mindset. 

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