Quiet Quitting – A different breed from Great Resignation and Hustle Culture

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

A centennial has passed since the famous historical novel of Charles Dickens was written, a Tale of Two Cities, but its revolutionary heartfelt contradictions are still relatable in this present age. We are in the best of times, yet we are also experiencing the worst living costs ever. We are in the age of wisdom, in which efficient and delivered information is an expensive commodity. However, we are also experiencing the boldest fads and trends that may undermine the values which reflect meaning and purpose in our lives.

The shifting waves of radical change is evident in our consumption, way of life, spending habits, travel and even in our career paths. It can be a form of wisdom, or foolishness masquerading in the form of wisdom.

The pursuit of happiness isn’t an arbitrary dream anymore. It has become a penetrating wisdom for everyone that in order to have a quality and happy life, one must be happy with what he does.

The relation between Work and Happiness

For some that sounds foolish, but so the wisdom that “work” is already synonymous with the degree of happiness we have.

In this modern world, “work” has become a counter-intuitive cycle, the distance between who we are and what we want to become. Work has become such a way of living, that over time it evolves to cultural personification of grit, grind, and hustle.

For others, “work” is a lifelong pursuit of desires, an embodiment of the western culture where it shapes the structure of how we live our lives. The American Dream as others say, even in Asia alone, contains glorifying tones of how the corporate world should feel or how we see them in films.

For years, work becomes a living testament of status in life. You invest time on it, sacrifice for it, evolve with it, and without knowing it, it becomes you.

Either you’re a proud hustler for the promotion you want or a mediocre worker with an aim of making ends meet, these two types of workers have become the subject of our cautionary tale.

The dedication to climb up the ladder of corporate success has been the norm for many years and the fierce competition has brought nothing but a society which thirsts for insatiable recognition, status, power and money.

While it may be true for the old generations, there’s something that “modernity” has shifted on, the recent headlines made waves to a phenomenon called the “Great Resignation”. Many have resigned from their jobs, stating that the compensations were unrealistic and do not reflect the value they have contributed for the company. Some have cited unhealthy working conditions which relegate to tantamount burnout and stress.

This trend took the stage globally after a series of stagnation in some uncontrollable economic factors such as inflation rates, the impact of pandemic and the rigid traditions of imbalances in a workplace environment.

But what truly stood out in this not-so-strange phenomenon is the glaring truth that “work” which is the ultimate dream for everyone has primarily caused, perhaps indirectly a “dissatisfaction” among the populace.

This growing dissatisfaction caused a great distress and unhappiness among the workers, both for the hustlers and the mediocres. That might sound harsh there, but that’s a common ground each one has experienced.

This dissatisfaction breeds constant stress, inner struggles, burnout and resignation. To put it in simple words, “an indifference” from within which later has become second-skin and led to shrinking away from the norms of productivity.

It led to a different workplace revolution of “great resignation” in which many workers decided to resign from their “dream jobs” and take hold of their own career by going freelance or doing remote work that doesn’t subject them to the whims of their former bosses or corporate politics.

 But there’s a remnant of another breed of workers.

Silent. Calculating. Nonchalant. Happy.

Yes, they are genuinely happy. While some of them also appear to be happy.

They believe in staying where they have invested their efforts from the beginning of their careers. They dance to the rhythmic demands and daily struggles within their identity in the workplace that they have once glamorized with. Or as others frankly stated, they have no choice but to stay where they are secured rather than heading into the unknown terrain of unemployment.

Perhaps, it could be the long-term benefits or the identity that they are seeking not only within the workplace but in society in general.

Malcolm Gladwell, the famous author of Outliers recently made headlines when he voiced out his perception about the negative impact of remote workforce.

For him, one should have his sense of belonging in a tangible workplace, that an employee needs to have his own assertion of identity which cannot be found if you work in home set-ups.

That’s a little salty for freelancers out there but nonetheless, this new breed of workers are far no different from those who resigned from their jobs. Albeit, in their misgivings for the value they bring in.

They know how to camouflage in a corporate setting, do the daily mundane corporate roles, and know how to play the game of doing what is required of them in proportion to their wage.

Surprisingly, this is not a tale of the hustlers. We will get to know the peripheries of the workforce in a fascinating if not empathic way.

SNOOZE OFF – The Quiet Quitters

Was there ever a point in your life where you felt like you slacked off from productivity? Or perhaps a moment when you realize that your job takes too much of your personal time and resources that it hampers your quality of life?

Or maybe a season in your life in which you wanted to rebel against the company politics, your bosses, the inflation or whatsoever and decided not to perform in your most honest self of being a dedicated worker?

Maybe, we can put it in plain circumstances, such as cheating your time of work, instead of doing paperwork you found yourself stealing time for a nap, and it becomes chronic because no one has ever caught you doing that for a long time?

A lazy bum. A slacker. A mediocre one.

Now, these terms have evolved to cover those workers who have once been at their best and decided to put “boundaries” on their corporate lives and are dubbed as the “quiet quitters”.

Many have claimed the dynamics of what constitutes a “quiet quitter”. However, experts would say that there’s no exact definition for these workers since there has been no extensive research done on this but the waves of trends based on online testimonies from around the world gives us a glimpse to identify if we are a quiet quitter deep within our human work fabric.

Let’s make sense of what a quiet quitter is based on the testimonies and experiences who shared boldly why they are quiet quitters. One online pundit has claimed that it is just a healthy way of “putting boundaries” on your work responsibilities. That one should not go above and beyond what the work demands.

While others would label it as doing the “bare minimum”. That you don’t have to elevate your working hours and perform at your excellent being because for many reasons there are no promotions or you can’t reap any short term benefits.

The concept of quiet quitting has been a trending topic in many social media platforms, and one would allude this to how the Millennial or the Generation Z has empowered themselves on the importance of being in control with their time, life decisions and in no way work should become the reason why they can’t enjoy life.

Human resource experts have gone on to say that the concept of “quiet quitting” stems from beliefs that the hustle culture is not working anymore for people who want to have a healthy personal life and work balance.

That “overworking” beyond your limits work mindset will only lead to chronic fatigue, burnout and unhappiness.

However, quiet quitting if not thoroughly checked in could be a source of unproductivity and may lead to conflicts within the internal structure of companies. Is it healthy to snooze off from further responsibilities? To snooze off from extra work?

It boils down to one important question that one needs to ponder.

How does quiet quitting help us achieve a healthy life and work balanced life?

When To Say Yes And When To Say No?

The perennial belief of the power of saying “YES” at all costs is the foundation of grit and promotion. For anyone who has experienced this workplace culture, you may agree that in order to stay ahead of the pack, you need to be extra-available for the demands of your job. To always go the extra mile because for one reason, the higher bosses may recognize your invested efforts and for the other- you want to be rated excellent in your working practices.

The corporate ladder has always symbolized success and influence. You believe that your direct and unwavering YES would give you the Utopian dream of being at the top one day.

However, the current metamorphosis overtaking the hustle culture has changed the game, if this is forever, that we don’t know.

Many workers have now viewed YES as something old-fashioned and irrelevant to the needs of every employee.

If the old generation has always thought “YES” to be a virtue, that has already changed a bit because of the resistance in pursuit of a happy and satisfying life.

And there’s a shorter answer and even more disruptive one, “NO”.

However, the NOs are hidden in the veil of quiet-quitting.

NO. A two letter word that might be a cringe for the older generations.

But many have found relief in making adjustments with their work.

They believe that saying “NO” has the real power to change the game of work, that instead of being overworked by the hustle culture, they can maximize their work life by saying NO to things that do not constitute within the parameters of their responsibilities.

The quiet quitters know and respect the value they bring to the table, and despite the name, a quiet quitter does not quit his job but believes that its time for the corporate world to acknowledge the measures of giving priority to a sustainable “life and work balance” instead of giving too much pressure on their workforce to achieve high productivity at the expense of their health.

Quiet Quitters believe in self-preservation and taking care of their mental health needs, which for them is counterintuitive because in the long run, if you focus on what you’re brought in the first place, you will have more success in what value you bring in. A healthy boundary is what they argue, they believe in the concept of “snoozing off”, that work should not consume their time for families which I adhere to also.

But this argument does not resonate with the perspective of some work experts. They fear that quiet quitting may be an obstacle for workforce development and long-term career advancement.

The long-standing debate of who deserves to be in the higher positions still belongs to those who work excellently, someone who always goes beyond their job description and puts much dedication and commitment to develop their skills and expertise along the way.

If one wants higher compensation, which quiet quitters bemoaned in their current jobs, one should be serious in pursuing their career goals by not adhering to beliefs of quiet quitting.

This argument has some merits too, not all workplace cultures have the same mindset and set of responsibilities.

The real challenge would be when to say NO to extra-work from an employer and when to recognize that your NO does really hurt your chances of professional development.

Worst of times, yet best of times

The phenomenon of quiet quitting has its roots and it didn’t appear out of nowhere just because someone has created a rant in a social media platform.

Maybe, this phenomenon has been silently lurking these many years, taking the time to burst out of its shell, or maybe it’s triggered by the normative changes taking place when we have experienced pandemic and many were left vulnerable by the changes in the workplace environment.

In truth, many had lost their jobs during the pandemic, the financial meltdown in some households could be felt especially that small companies were not able to stay afloat with the health crisis.

Quiet quitters believe that they are not fully compensated with the long hours they put in, and that their companies do not recognize their value. And when it matters the most, when life and death is at stake, they are left in the waters of uncertainty. When trust is lost between the employee and the organization, the resentment grows which blossoms into a brewing dissatisfaction.

Instead of bridging the gap, and thereby “rocking the boat” metaphorically speaking, quiet quitters resort to a behavioral pattern of doing what requires them to do with the compensation they are receiving.

If we look closer, there is a lack of enthusiasm to do the extra work or being extra available to do overtime for paper-works.

This is not a case of laziness but a form of disengagement. If there’s a difference between the two, that I cannot define without being biased about it.

The harsh reality is that our workplace environment, not only in some Western countries but also in Asia in general sense, have cultivated the hustle culture to the point that workers felt they are just merely working machines designed for the best economic interests of the company alone.

The rigid working hours do not live up to the fair wage while the inflation keeps on shortchanging them, thus making their lives miserable with the living costs.

Not to say that the working environment has caused mental and emotional agonies with the unwritten rules and expectations to make their “job” a priority over their personal life.

This demand has been romantic for eager young novice workers who have just started towards building their career, but for those who have stayed in their jobs for many years, they have thought critically about what it could mean for them if their contribution was being valued by their company.

Do the workers trust their companies enough that better compensations, and a healthy workspace where emotional and mental support are in place to sustain productivity in the long run?

If there’s one thing that Quiet Quitting has done, it is to simply shed light on the needs of the workforce.

This is not a compensation battle but rather we live in the best of times in which the workforce has recognized they have the role to play in this dynamic change.

The momentum has begun and it’s a matter of negotiation with healthy and secure working conditions rather than sticking to the old paradigm.

Rather than shrinking in solitude, quiet quitters have the bold choice to reiterate their reasonable observations on how to make the working environment more flexible which addresses mainly the tenets of “striking a healthy balance between personal lives and work goals”.

This also enlightens the company to assess and reevaluate their corporate responsibility of recognizing the value of their employees as assets for economic stability.

This phenomenon should not paint both the employers and employees being at odds with each other, but rather come halfway in diplomatic means to provide long-term solutions for the job dissatisfaction and what can both parties do to leverage and rise out of this challenge in a healthy and sustainable way.

It is not by means shaking the dynamics of power and reinforcing the overt notion that the workforce has all the privilege and rights to demand the better side of things.

But rather, managing conflicts and resolving them will lead to better understanding why this phenomenon has happened and what can we do to leverage on this one.

Wisdom And Foolishness. What’s in between?

Trends and fads come in go, either they bring wisdom to us or foolishness, it’s an individual journey.

If you’re working right now, come to think of it, have you tried quitting? There may be reasons behind that. If not, have you seen someone with the signs of quiet quitting?

It is a foolish thing to judge and it is wise to look underneath the tip of the iceberg.

What we have experienced in the past two years has truly changed every aspect of our lives. The pandemic gives us a taste of how life could be fleeting at a face value, and the existential crisis that many has experience has opened their eyes to embrace that living a meaningful life in which they value what they can do and what they can give adds to the overall genuine happiness, especially if reciprocated by the workplace culture.

We can count on many factors in-between why people choose to stay rather than leave their jobs. It’s not that hard to guess but we should also take an empathetic look on the value of “work”.

There’s a hidden virtue of faithfulness in the work we do. An emotional bond which attaches a person to be committed not only for his personal dreams but to work on something higher than his aspirations.

The person longs to be a part of a greater value chain in which he recognizes his purpose and meaning. Like every relationship, the positive reciprocity level of the workplace environment adds up to his motivation and engagement.

I think we are hardwired to think in a passive way. To accept the status quo, to be bothered by the beauty of change, and in some ways to not use our voice.

It is rather foolish to ignore the warning signs of this phenomenon. Like the old adage goes, the real enemy is mediocrity. If Quiet Quitting produces an unproductive chain of resignation instead of career development, it is time to rethink the real value of work we have right now.

We need to pursue wisdom at this age and think of solutions to address this phenomenon, to not be afraid to disrupt the status quo of “overworked and underpaid” culture, to be able to raise changes on the compensation or wages without forcing our personal crusades.

We can’t just snooze off the radical impact of quiet quitting, whether it brings transformative changes to strain forward, or it chains us to the ideology of complete resignation within our inner selves.

Borrowing some parcel of lines from Charles Dickens, it is a far, far better thing to not get caught in the fads of time and snooze in with the transformative change not only in our work but also in our life’s purpose.

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