Over the last few weeks, a trend that began on TikTok has made its way to LinkedIn and mainstream media. “Quiet quitting” is everywhere.
To my understanding, quiet quitting is when employees choose not to go above and beyond their jobs, including refusing to answer emails during evenings or weekends or skipping extra assignments that fall outside their core duties. Reading all of these articles and seeing these videos, I couldn’t help but wonder why this is newsworthy?
The new term may be “quiet quitting,” but this has been going on throughout the course of human history. So where does “quiet quitting” come from?
If there is one thing that enrages people, it is being exploited. And expecting that employees go “the extra mile” without being paid accordingly is absurd. Labor unions exist to prevent the exploitation of workers and protect them from unfair workplace policies. With the protection of a union, workers cannot be compelled to perform labor outside the scope of their jobs or contracts.
In the white-collar world, there have always been employees who do the bare minimum, those who do a bit more than what is required of them, and those who take on additional projects and tasks in hopes of advancing their careers. (I will write a separate article on why the latter is not a good strategy.) And while most corporate employees are salaried and do not have contracts, they despise being exploited just as much as their unionized peers do.
The late 1980s ushered in an era of unprecedented change and forever upended the employee/employer relationship- a change that is at the heart of “quiet quitting”.
Gone were the days of graduating college, going to work for a big corporation, and retiring 40 years later. Employees are now acutely aware that they are replaceable and can be terminated at any time, for any reason.
The era of mass layoffs and corporate restructurings/reengineering ushered in a new phenomenon that workers universally loathe. Almost everyone has been in a situation where colleagues have been laid off and their positions eliminated. However, just because a role no longer exists in the company’s HR system does not mean that the work ceases to exist. And who is tasked with performing that work? The employees who remain. This is a top complaint of corporate workers—the expectation that they do the work of multiple people and deliver results within the same timeframe and for the same salary as previously.
So now we are in an employees’ and candidates’ market, and people may no longer feel the need to hide the fact that they refuse to be exploited. WHY would anyone want to do more work than is necessary without compensation? “Quiet quitting” was a covert operation until recently, but this is nothing new.