VOICES: Quiet quitting or acting your wage?

Quiet quitting, or as Gen Zers call it, “acting your wage” is not a new socio-occupational mantra of workplace discontent. Rather, it appears to be the latest permutation of multi-generational career dissatisfaction.

Quiet quitting, a TikTok derivative, is not quitting per se. It is the act of being physically present at work but only working at a capacity you feel is in concert with what is relative to your salary and how you feel you are valued by your employer. Sort of a quid pro quo, only your boss isn’t in on it.

Preceding quiet quitting was the mid-pandemic Great Resignation, influenced by the Great Bailout (stimulus dollars) and a new recognition that one doesn’t have to stick around the shop/cubicle and collect a gold watch like Dad, Mom and grandparents did. But, are any of these good decisions, whether quiescently pulling back on job duties or outright leaving your place of employment?

When stimulus money’s ebb and flow diminished, quiet quitting perhaps became a preferred pullback without pulling out altogether. Hence, quiet quitting. You instead elect to stay, show up at the office or virtual office and proceed to make hay while the sun is still shining. However, the new ground rules are you’ll make only as much hay as you feel your salary requires.

So, does quiet quitting mean subterfuge and nefarious activities are taking place? Hopefully not, as the quiet quitter is basically taking a “workcation” while passively disengaging from work but not enough to be obvious. This type of quitter may show up on time and clock out on time but offer up no extra time or effort or other volunteering.

So what do quiet quitters or any employee really want? Workers of all levels and professions will tell you what they want from their job is a wage commensurate with the tasks and responsibilities required. They also want and deserve the intangibles: respect, autonomy, a voice and a comfortable cultural environment. The intangibles don’t cost anything, but perhaps a lot of that was shoved aside while employers panicked over supply chain issues, worker output with fewer workers and the unceasing pandemic. Let’s face it, it’s tough to play nice every day, whether employer or employee, when you’re trying to meet both customer demands and job security.

Whether quiet quitting or outright resignation, once we return to the cubicle or home office, the cumulative effect will certainly look different than the pre-COVID environment. I suspect, as many of us do now, that a hybrid of work and workplace will be the new way we perform our duties. However it plays out, there will always be the mental health adjustment days, work-life balance and hopefully the water cooler chat.

There will also always be the slackers and work-dodgers. But none will be as upfront and to the point as Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener who, when asked by his boss to do what he was hired for, often responded, “I prefer not to.”

Jerry A. O’Ryan, MPH, RCP, RRT is a frequent writer on public health, social and medical issues.

Quiet quitting: Passing fad or a workers’ movement?

“Quiet quitting,” “acting your wage,” “inflation-adjusted effort” or whatever else you might call the new phenomenon of workers choosing to do less in the workplace, it appears to be affecting employers across the country and in our communities. Hear from three perspectives on quiet quitting and what it might mean for the future of work.

» Quiet quitting or acting your wage?

» Quiet quitting is fine — if you are willing to accept the consequences

» Quiet quitting as a silent protest movement

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