Between my junior and senior years of college I landed a summer job at a factory where my assignment was to work as part of a three-man crew that cut rolls of steel into precisely-measured sheets.
On a day when the crew chief was absent I was pressed into service to replace him, which I did enthusiastically. So enthusiastically that a union member approached me and said, “Slow down, kid, you’re working too fast. The shop steward isn’t going to like that.” For the rest of the shift I worked no faster than absolutely necessary.
And that, I suspect, was my introduction to something currently known as “quiet quitting.”
The phrase popped up on TikTok two months ago, declaring “your worth is not defined by your productive output.” Gen Z seized upon it and then all sorts of supporters clambered to define it and endorse its benefits.
“To put it simply, quiet quitting means deciding not to kill yourself for your job,” the website MindJournal explained. “It’s about not taking your work too seriously and defying the age old belief that work should completely reign over your personal life. It is about prioritizing a healthy work-life balance, your passions and hobbies, your personal relationships and your mental and emotional health.”
“People are not going above and beyond anymore,” the owner of a career and life coaching company in Troy told News Center 7. “We would call it boundary putting. People are trying to balance work-life and shifting careers because they are exhausted and burnt out.”
While I’m all in favor of emotional health and not burning out, I do have questions about this trend. Maybe that’s because I never had TikTok to tell me how to run my life and believed slogans that praised the virtues of hard work and stick-to-itiveness. “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
So what will these quiet quitters do when they discover their fellow employees who still believe in going above and beyond have advanced to satisfying positions, while they’re still stuck in the mailroom? Will they wonder why they’re never considered for promotion or new opportunities?
Will they try to find another job where the employers are more concerned with their employees’ work-life balance and personal relationships than they are with running a successful business? Actually quit their jobs and go live in their parents’ basement? Hang around street corners waving cardboard “please help” signs?
Maybe the quiet quitters are onto something with their approach and future generations will thank them and work happily ever after.
But, to me, it simply sounds like quitting.
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