As we entered into COVID, a lot of workplaces operated on a model that constantly sought to do more with less to maximise profit (or value).
In many cases, this model was underpinned by extracting as much value as possible from workers. Some adopted a culture of unpaid overtime, others routinely delayed recruitment of vacancies while increasing responsibilities for other roles, and most engaged in persistent scope creep, where additional responsibilities, projects, or duties were added to a role over time (often adding, rarely subtracting).
The result? An overextended workforce without any slack.
As we moved through the second year of COVID, what we hoped would be a short-term stressor became a chronic one. With the strain this placed on most aspects of life, and the additional work required to adapt work to COVID conditions, it’s unsurprising that folks burned out.
Unable to sustain unsustainable conditions, the Great Resignation saw a mass of workers leaving their jobs.
The way many of us have been working is not sustainable long-term. It takes a toll on our health and wellbeing.
For those who try to achieve and maintain this unreasonable ideal, there is a crushing defeat when your gumption, resilience, or circumstances fail you, and you are no longer able to perform consistently at this level.
The overinflated expectations of yourself that you have internalised have tied your self-worth to your consistently remarkable performance, and leave you poorly prepared to process this failure.
As talk of the Great Resignation subsides, the phenomenon of ‘Quiet Quitting’ (or as I like to call it, just doing the job you are paid for) is stepping into the spotlight.
This isn’t a new idea. Quiet quitting is a form of work to rule, an old method of industrial action where workers restrict work to only that in their contracts and rules. Work to rule can include malicious compliance, where workers comply with rules and guidelines despite knowing it will have a detrimental effect on the work to be done.
What is new is the name ‘quiet quitting’.
Friends, doing the job you are paid to do does not count as quitting, quietly or otherwise.
It is a recalibration of what is reasonable to expect of us. It is a viable alternative to this accelerating grind, where we must all be super achievers who deliver above and beyond every time – at a minimum.
This new framing suggests that anything less than consistent exceptionality is quitting. Doing the job you were hired to do is below expectations.
It’s frustrating. I wholly support workers to do their job without needing to go above and beyond, but it irks me to describe this as a form of quitting.
Calling this quitting just further entrenches the unattainable standards this movement is railing against.
Quiet quitting for one
Working for myself, you might think I’ve sidestepped out of the grind culture / no longer have the capacity to quietly quit (urgh).
Since going out on my own, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to see how these workplace norms have become internalised and entrenched through my attempts to create ways of working that don’t repeat them.
It’s hard. These expectations run deep. They creep in unannounced, and are slow to shake off.
This week I’ve been toying with the idea of what it would look like to quietly quit (blech) when I am my own boss.
It’s got me navelgazing over questions like:
- What do I consistently do because I feel it’s expected but doesn’t actually provide value?
- Where am I overcommitted?
- How can I bring more joy and ease into each day?
- Where can I do less?
- How much is enough?
- In what ways can I adapt my work to support my own wellbeing?
Through these explorations, I’m hoping to bring more gentle, ease, and self-compassion into my own work practices.
I’d encourage you to consider the same.
Carve out your own way of working that is nourishing, sustainable, and centred around your own wellbeing.
And let’s quit calling it quiet quitting. Acting your wage is right there.