Many Americans cannot afford the luxury of going to work every day and performing a job they enjoy. This combined with the customary culture of aiming to go above and beyond leaves a large part of the workforce dissatisfied with their work-life balance.
“Quiet quitting” essentially means compartmentalizing one’s work and life. Those embracing this concept go to work, do their job and return home to engage in a far more fulfilling home life rather than continuing to do their job outside the office.
In a world where corporations hold unprecedented power over individuals, work feels like a slog now more than ever. The workplace does not feel like the protected space many companies claim it to be, especially when we consistently see mega-employers Amazon and Starbucks criticized for things like using reportedly illegal tactics to break up unions and violating labor laws.
In the wake of the “Great Resignation” brought about by the pandemic, workers are finding alternative ways to work without burnout or the stress of aiming for perfectionism. Quiet quitting is a form of passive resistance where workers who don’t want to quit outright disengage from work outside of their job description that doesn’t serve them .
This concept stands in stark contrast to the formerly common idea that workers should constantly strive to do more than what is expected of them. Former Amazon Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Bezos, claims that the relationship between work and life “… actually is a circle … not a balance.”
Bezos’ vision is out of touch. For the Americans who were shoehorned into working for large corporations out of financial need, an unhappy work environment that bleeds into their personal lives can easily lead to burnout and discontent.
One of the most frequent misconceptions about quiet quitting is that it stems from laziness. This could not be further from the truth. A vast majority of those who “quiet quit” do so for a completely different reason — they feel the businesses they work for exploit their labor whenever possible.
According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace: 2022 Report, the top source of burnout was “unfair treatment at work.”
Many workers reasonably feel no obligation to go above and beyond. If companies paid fair wages, provided more workplace benefits and honored union rights, the number of workers who feel compelled to quit quietly would likely decrease drastically.
Another common misheld belief about quiet quitting is that it negatively impacts the company. Some argue that, as a fellow worker, seeing team members not putting in full effort can be discouraging and disrespectful. These people are mistaking “quiet quitting” for not putting in effort at work.
What quiet quitting truly “quits” is the commonplace idea that one needs to constantly be striving to do more. Quiet quitters have no desire to strive for 120% in a field when 100% gets the job done and expends less effort.
For some large businesses, this movement has made obvious their value for profit over workers’ wellbeing. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has led Starbucks to be unyielding in the face of unions and has only started negotiating better rights with three of their over 200 unionized locations.
Members of Starbucks Workers United, the national union collective, have also called out the company’s firing workers involved in union organizing and have accused them of closing store locations based on union activity under the guise of “safety concerns.”
Large corporations cannot continue to expect employees to go “above and beyond” in and outside the workplace while refuting their demands for better rights, especially as our workplace culture evolves to redistribute power back to employees. stand as proof that the corporate world will argue any point to uphold the current economic hierarchy.
Quiet quitting is the latest cultural innovation in a sea of changing times. Union approval ratings are at an almost 60 year high but in 2021, corporate mergers and acquisitions similarly smashed the previous record, consolidating power in larger organizations.
It is only a matter of time until corporate innovation finds a way to strike back at quiet quitters. Therefore, it is tremendously important for the working class to remain vigilant and continue to resist the various strategies employed by the rich to oppress the poor. While quiet quitting implies workers’ silence, in practice it allows workers to stand up for themselves and exert control over their careers and lives.
Jayden Cohen is a freshman majoring in Business Analytics in the Miami Herbert Business School.