Quiet Quitting: White Collar Workers No Longer in the Mood to Give More at Work Than They Are Paid For

Apparently the executive hive mind is finding out, now that a fair number of recent work-at-home staffers have been bludgeoned into coming back into the office, that they just aren’t that into overproducing to keep the bosses happy. The perception is that some (and any is too many in the eyes of our corporate slavemasters) are now willing to do only what the job demands, and not any more. The horror of having workers who aren’t fawning and fearful!

This new (bad) attitude is called quiet quitting. It’s become enough of a thing that both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have written about it in the last week. Mind you, there does not seem to be any actual data, which makes sense. Why would employers really want to know the degree to which employees aren’t in to them any more? And why would employees trust that any survey would be anonymous? So this newly visible lack of worker enthusiasm for jumping through hoops may be limited to once uber-competitive workplaces, where any decline in anxiety and aggression levels would be evident. And since those highly neurotic workplaces are often those of the supposedly most desirable companies, they’d be more intensely followed by the media than, say, Taco Bell franchises in the Southwest.

An overview courtesy Twitter:

Recall that this new trend, whether real or a corporate strategy to try to restore lost psychologic leverage over employees thanks to Covid, follows ghosting, another new behavior that deeply offended employer confidence in their right to deferential treatment by job candidates. From Forbes in May 2021:

For high school and college seniors about to enter the workforce, certain norms and best practices of applying, interviewing and negotiating for jobs are taught and ingrained….

According to a February 2021 report by Indeed, 28% of job applicants had ghosted a prospective employer over the past year. That’s up from 18% in 2019, despite a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the job market and creating a shortlist of employment options. The numbers are even more startling from the employer side, with 76% reporting they’ve been ghosted in the past year and 57% saying it’s more common than ever before.

The level of ghosting is broad, with employers reporting that some candidates simply disappear from the process after an initial screening call or first interview. Despite the simplicity of an email to express a lack of interest but appreciation for their time, candidates choose the path of silence. However, others are taking the trend to a whole new level, with 46% of job candidates not showing up for a scheduled interview and 7% failing to appear for their first day after successfully landing a job.

On the one hand, Forbes said employers were keeping lists of these badly-behaved applicants. On the other, the article warned that this was a new normal and gave advice on how to reduce the incidence, particularly by being more transparent in the hiring process.

Personally, I’m delighted to see this long-overdue backlash against the “passion” requirement, that all goodthinking Serious Professionals were supposed to regularly and ritually show how passionate they were about their career. Jobs should not be put on the same plane as objects of lust.

Although bosses have been demanding more in an era of rising precarity and inequality (where a fall in income and status has far more dramatic effects than in the much more egalitarian 1960s and 1970s), my dim sense is it took a big ratchet up in the dot-com era. First, most startups were hot air, and the promoters were selling their spin skills. And working to death to garner all those eyeballs was usually a key part of the business pitch.

Second, the Internet era ushered in the expectation that employees (ex ones in lines of work like elite law and consulting firms, where new hires understood their lives were not their own) were on call, either to a degree or a lot, More and more companies expected as a matter of course that white collar workers were expected to monitor their e-mails and respond outside workplace hours. By contrast, in the old normal, a supervisor would have had to have a damned good reason to call a worker at home and expect them to Do Something.

So the Internet encouraged bosses to be disorganized, intrusive, and demanding. No wonder now that workers have gained some leverage that they’ve made it clear that enough is enough.

Not surprisingly, the undertone of the Wall Street Journal story is that employers are unsettled about their loss of emotional leverage. And of course, they’re resorting to old fashioned emotional manipulation: “It’s a tough and hungry world out there. If you refuse to be an ambitious hustler, you will be road kill”:

“Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job, it’s a step toward quitting on life,” wrote Arianna Huffington, founder of health and wellness startup Thrive Global, in a LinkedIn post that has garnered thousands of reactions. Kevin O’Leary, co-star on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and chairman of O’Shares ETFs, called quiet quitting a horrible approach to building a career: “You have to go beyond because you want to. That’s how you achieve success,” he said in a CNBC video essay.

How quiet quitting’s advocates and critics react depends on what they think the phrase means—and interpretations vary wildly. Some professionals argue the concept is saying no to extra work without extra pay and work stress, not necessarily phoning it in. Many detractors say the quiet quitting mind-set fosters laziness and hurts performance, even if baseline job expectations are being met.

It’s entertaining to see old normal exploitative assumptions at work. Build a career? When median job tenure is 4.1 years? And there’s perilous little certainty about professional prospects? Look at how law firm hiring has fallen and the standing of doctors has declined as more and more are employees of giant hospital networks or PE owned outsourcing firms. Plus some celebrated individuals, like Timothy Geithner, were seen by grad school peers as the least likely in their class to wind up in the elite government fast track (Geithner was know for being much more fond of playing pool than studying).

One can go even further: if the Jackpot is coming, one’s time will be better spent on cultivating personal relationships than careerism, since it’s the out of work ties that are essential to forging communities that can navigate bad times.

But back to a more conventional take. Alternatively, I am told that the prototypical German office has everyone show up at opening time, work at their desk, have their proscribed lunch break, and leave at quitting time. This may seem like slacking off, except the Germans allegedly also work while they are working. No faffing off in a lot of meetings, phone chats, or lounging at the coffee station to gossip. Imagine how productive a US workplace would be if everyone did a concerted 6-7 hours of focused activity five days a week.

But the Americans boss types love guilt-tripping. Again from the Journal:

Some critics say they fear quiet quitting is corrosive to workplace cultures—and the bottom line—because it’s demoralizing to efficient workers to see others phoning it in without penalty.

But the piece ends with a call for more employer responsibility:

Jay McDonald, an Atlanta-based executive coach and former CEO of several small companies, says the onus is on business leaders to set clear performance expectations. If employees are meeting them, that’s what matters, not when or how long they work, he says.

“You have a responsibility to have good metrics and measurements for knowing whether somebody’s getting the job done or not,” he says.

Interestingly, the Journal typically has pretty rabid, stereotypical right wing views over-represented in its comments section, but this article elicited quite a few responses sympathetic to employees who wanted to set boundaries, and not very many of the “Slackers gonna get what they have coming to them” sort. For instance:


Every job is different, and employee is different, so it’s hard to say. I have objected to being on call after putting in a long day’s work, specifically told my boss I would not answer the phone or company emails on Friday nights or weekends. The company could have hired a second shift if they expect people to be on call 24 x 7. On the other hand, I did not mind working 70-hour weeks a couple times a year when we had information systems deadlines to meet, and I didn’t mind working those hours half the year when I owned a business. If you can crunch the overtime when it is needed, then there is no sense in working it when it is routine, unless you are getting paid hourly.

In that case work as much as you want. People working double-shifts at the factories are earning $90,000 a year in their 20s for line employees and $140K for supervisors. Those are 16 hour days. But you should not work like that for an 8-hour salary. If your employer demands it, you should think about moving on — unless its one of those employers that pays huge bonuses to the people they know are producing. Companies that want their people to work long hours should pay them appropriately; if they don’t, the company may have incompetent management that doesn’t know how to produce enough value to staff up properly. Nothing good will come of staying in a company like that.


Peter Deserto

This is a false argument that is a deflection from the real issue: management at most companies is ineffective and inefficient. Employees refuse to go above and beyond when hard work, time and energy produce no results. A company’s culture starts at the top. When a fish is rotten it’s from the head down.


Niklas Bjørn

Be alert when someone starts using the word “commitment” about you; it’s usually a way for them to extract more from you without any reward.

In other words, it was striking to see little pro-management jingoism in the comments (and there were a lot) and that when it surfaced, it elicited reasoned pushback. Maybe there is a long-term upside to Covid if it leads to a lasting change in the employer-employee balance of power.

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  1. Helen B

    I think there are two levels to this. One is the old soviet joke, “We pretend to work. You pretend to pay us’. This is the transactional, no engagement model employed by zero hours minimum wage workers and it is psychologically healthy not to care about your employer when they demonstrably don’t care about you.
    The second level is a broadening working culture acceptance of the evidence that your productivity gains and efficiencies don’t translate into a better standard of living for you. If all the gains go to the execs and speculators then, again, work to rule is rational. The only times I have gone over and above in office jobs have been due to exemplary line management and wanting to help another human being who has helped me. I don’t think I am alone, at least in the UK. Lack of reciprocity has consequences.

    1. rhodium

      Employers seem to have largely abandoned the primacy of extrinsic incentives. Instead they believe in intrinsic incentives (passion about one’s job). It goes to show how twisted the minds of these people are that they think their exploitive capitalist utopia is supposed to somehow impart a meaningful satisfaction in people’s lives. Humanity is learning and waking up to what a farce it is when production is no longer a means to an end but all about gratifying someone else’s perceived need to control others and puff up their egos.

      If they want employees to work hard, bring back the carrot. The economy is inherently extrinsic, so give the most productive employees large bonuses, as compensation is supposed to match the value of one’s production anyway. If the other employees are sufficiently chasing the monies, then maybe they will be jealous and work harder.

      Finding a lasting internalized feeling of satisfaction won’t ever come from something you can buy, and if more people recognized that maybe our culture would find a critical mass to shift out of this situation.

  2. Basil Pesto

    I’m admittedly going by memory here but in early 2020 when lockdowns/mockdowns were a novelty and the work-from-home phenomenon was getting well underway, I recall that there was in part a distinct sense from the middle class of the “rediscovery of time”, if you will – time recovered not just from the commute but the drudgery of makework. The odd thinkpiece about more ‘quality time’ at home with family (or even housemates). But also – and this isn’t just my memory talking – there were real booms and boomlets in recreational industries all over the world (eg cycling, golf etc.). Now, one might dismiss these as middle-class fripperies, and maybe there’s some truth to that (certainly the now-forgotten ‘essential workers’ didn’t benefit from extra time for pétanque or whatever, though they sure as hell deserve it), but maybe it’s not such an easy bell to unring? Having had a taste, why wouldn’t you go cycling at a linear park or knock out 9 holes after work instead of sacrificing precious time for no real reason beyond maybe the vague promise of some future career benefit, or giving the kind of people who subscribe to the WSJ a hard-on?

    1. Cocomaan

      This is what happened to me. A discovery of time.

      I’m now working two remote jobs simultaneously, one PT and one FT. Both know about the other. The extra pay is nice. I do not give 100% on either. If one goes south I will switch to the other. It’s nice to have a skill set in an economy where labor is at a premium.

      1. Basil Pesto

        May I ask how that discovery manifested itself beyond your working life? More time for yourself? for others? I was quite interested in the phenomenon at the time having read Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs in 2019 and thinking this “rediscovered time” coincided with it thematically.

        1. Cocomaan

          Oh man it changed everything. We decided to have a kid. She’s turning one in a week or so, a true pandemic baby.
          Huge decision and worth everything.

          On top of that, I did pro bono work and two hobbies of mine, hunting and writing, exploded into actually awesome pursuits.

          Totally changed everything!

          1. Basil Pesto

            Sounds like it worked out very well for you! Pleased to hear it and thanks for sharing :~)

  3. griffen

    My humble view, is that the pandemic onset went from a temporary shift to working from home to becoming more an established process. Working from home may involve more time juggling, as in hurry the kids off to school but if you no longer commute that just freed up countless minutes / hours of your life. That adds up and was probably quite eye opening. Not having a commute was an eye opener to me, for certain.

    Employees of all levels should be allowed to set and generally keep boundaries. Also, it is a fresh hell when problems only arise at 5pm on Thursday and must be solved! My first professional job, at least in real and tangible terms, began in 1997 and generally the office was empty by 6pm. Apparently the problems got solved as needed back then. Management and capital are finally in the position of not possessing all the levers (a promotion! a raise!).

  4. timbers

    Once during a job interview, the Upper Management Dude walked in to meet me and say quick “hello.” He asked: “What is you passion?” I hate that question. My reply:

    “Well, on a less ferocious note, I…(don’t recall exactly what I said after that).

    Separately, at my current job there is frequent comment on how candidates often are no shows for interviews or first day of work. The term “ghosting” is never used so it hasn’t gotten that well known yet where I am. Being a suburban and perhaps more Team R crowd, it is generally attributed to overly generous unemployment benefits from Covid and the young’ins not having “our” work ethic.

    1. Rolf

      Once during a job interview, the Upper Management Dude walked in to meet me and say quick “hello.” He asked: “What is you passion?” I hate that question.

      These questions have always been absurd. I always answer as James Bond answered Emilio Largo, “Well … I’m not what you’d call a passionate man.”

      1. timbers

        Always liked in Casablanca Bogart’s reply to questions of his nationality and side of the war “I am a drunkard and therefore a citizen of the World” could be retooled into “I am a drunkard and therefore passionate about everything.”

        1. 1 Kings

          In all fairness it was Louie who said. ‘That makes Rick a citizen of the world’. A bunch of great lines follow between Strauser, Louie and Rick. Claude Reins- an amazing actor, and equally important to the success as Bogart & Bergman, and would surely believe that Actual passion matters more than stock gains for your boss.

    2. cocomaan

      Maybe employers should stop ghosting my application and never writing back.

      I believe the ghosting trend is a gen Z and millennial response to undesirable social interactions, it’s very different from how other generations handled things.

      1. CitizenSissy

        Hear, hear. Interesting employer response now that the shoe’s on the other foot. Gotta say I’m rooting for the young’uns. I suspect many of them saw older relatives sacrifice mightily for their careers, only to be cut loose when management changed or when they hit a certain age.

    3. The Rev Kev

      That “What is you passion?” question sounds like a trick question of the are-you-still-beating-your-wife variety. Maybe an answer that you could throw back is “I can’t afford to be passionate in my work. I’m too busy being a professional” and see if that puts them on the back foot.

      1. tegnost

        I think I’ll go with lapsing into an unfocused gaze and breath out “…money…” then start rocking back and forth with a wan smile…

        “You’re hired!”
        “Really I was just kidding…”
        “You’re Fired!”
        Alas, the bosses can only be failed, it seems…

      2. tegnost

        I think I’ll go with lapsing into an unfocused gaze and breathe out “…money…” then start rocking back and forth with a wan smile…

        “You’re hired!”
        “Really I was just kidding…”
        “You’re Fired!”
        Alas, the bosses can only be failed, it seems…

        1. tegnost

          ack! I edited breathe before the edit window came up…for shame! [ goes into the corner, looks for dunce cap]
          hmmm….where did I leave that thing…

      3. KLG

        Passion! For the past 10 years I have served on a committee that helps undergraduate students with Fulbright applications. Straight from the Fulbright PTB: Those applicants who use “passion” in their applications and constantly harp about their passion for their project/proposal are first in line. Really. The borderline illiteracy is sickening. But I am old.

  5. fresno dan

    I think about all the extra hours I put in, and all I can think is how much of a waste it was. None of it was of any value. The thing of it was, it was all self imposed. Everyone yammering about how much work they were doing. If you had cut the work week in half, the whole thing would have been cheaper and better…
    In my defense, at least I retired as soon as I was able. I can never get over people who need someone telling them what to do (i.e., a job) to fill their days.

    1. The Historian

      I too think of all the extra hours I put in, but mine wasn’t self-imposed. It was because I had bosses that were so bad at their jobs that we worked constantly in crisis mode. Everything was a crisis and had to be handled immediately – no matter what day or time of day it was – no such thing as planning or even trying to determine what was important or what was not – turns out ALL of it was unimportant in the end. I too am so glad I retired as soon as I was able to. I could have stayed on and worked for another 5 years and doubled my retirement income but when I added it all up, that extra money just wasn’t all that important to me.

    2. HotFlash

      Yeah, bad bosses, incompetent bosses. I recall one time (only one, as I got out as soon as I could after that) the Assistant Controller required that All Hands Be On Deck at 9:00am on a Sat to prepare for The Annual Audit. Mind you, all of us depts had been preparing, an annual audit is quite a predictable event, and we were jointly and severally in Good Shape. So, we were all there bright and early on one of our two days off per week, and since we were salaried, no extra $$$ would be coming. Guess who didn’t show until 9:45? Righty-o, the Ass.* Controller. Other reason I bailed on that co was that one of my superiors confessed to me that there was a code used on the employment applications in the interview: The interviewer (usu dept supervisor) was required to shade in the ‘o’ in “Employment Application for Blah Blah Blah Ltd.” if the applicant was, unh, not white. Elsie was a sweetie, and she felt so guilty, but what was she to do. back then, and there?

      I much prefer working for SME’s, but have learned to beware those run by second generation.

      * sorry, perhaps there should be a ‘t’ in that abbreviation?

  6. Henry Moon Pie

    Workers having just a little power is driving the elites crazy. Billionaire whisperer Jim Cramer engages in regular rants that the Federal Reserve must raise interest rates to the point where “people are afraid to quit a job because they may not be able to get another one.” Lovely.

    It makes clear that class conflict from the employer perspective is not just about profit margins. This is about maintaining emotional and psychological dominance over others.

    The irony is that another policy demand of these elites–let ‘er rip Covid policies–are undermining their efforts to put employees back under their thumb. The number in an article linked here claiming 1.9 million not at work because of Long Covid is a figure that is only likely to get worse with time.

    On a somewhat related note, my spouse had a hankering for a Whopper on her way home from babysitting our granddaughter. She first tried a Burger King that was located in a nice, white suburb close to our daughter. It had closed at 2 PM. Lights out at 5:30 in the afternoon. No problem. She drove to the next nearest BK which was open. As she waited in the drive-thru she saw the sign that they couldn’t take hamburger orders because they were out of beef. (Maybe Mondale can help them find it.)

    Things are not working in our society nor throughout much of the WEIRD world. The billionaires’ attitude toward workers is biting them in the ass.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Sounds like Jim Cramer is confirming my theory with his rants – if it really is so easy to quit one job and move to another, then maybe we don’t have a worker shortage, we have a business surplus.

  7. Mike

    “No faffing off in a lot of meetings, phone chats, or lounging at the coffee station to gossip. Imagine how productive a US workplace would be if everyone did a concerted 6-7 hours of focused activity five days a week.”

    I have been trying to say this to my coworkers for years…I feel like people staying long hours at work is the overall American culture of lying about everything. It’s some sort of weird culture where you have to pretend to love work, stay extra hours and end up being less productive in the end. VS that German model of acknowledging that work is a four letter word and it’s better to get it done and go home than stay around associating with people you care about. Then again I am convinced the Germans I’ve met are robots so I probably couldn’t walk the walk.

  8. Arizona Slim

    During the last few months at my last-ever full-time job, I went to a part-time schedule. And I made an amazing discovery: All of the necessary tasks could be completed in well under 40 hours a week.

    That was back in 1994.

  9. Lex

    Awww, it’s cute the rat race organizers want sympathy. Work to live, not live to work.

    I’m not sure when the idea that we should find fulfillment through our employment started, but it’s the most corrosive psychological aspect of late capitalist America. Ok, maybe making people slaves to the stock market via shifting responsibility to workers for their retirement income is worse. I’d counsel the youth to never reach a point where the need to “quiet quit”, they should start from that point and make their employer earn any extra effort they might give.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      After having applied to any number of jawbz over the years where there was no acknowledgement of a resume being received, no call back on a request for interview, no answer whether you got the job or not if you were lucky enough to get an interview, and basically bastardizing the entire hiring process so it’s nearly impossible to get a foot in the door to speak with an actual human being and you’re now just expected to shoot off digital resumes into the ether and hope for the best, it’s really rather hilarious to see employers complaining about being “ghosted”. What’s good for the goose….

      1. ultrapope

        Exactly. Since applying for my first high school job in high school I have regularly experienced “ghosting” from the places I’ve applied to. In fact, I thought this was just how it always was until my mom started applying for jobs and experienced the same thing.

        Ever now and then something comes up that makes me wonder just how different life in the US was before I was born in the 1990s…

        1. Janie

          How different? Like night and day. Like midnight in a dark forest under a cloudy sky and noon on the water under a bright sunny sky. I was born in the late 30s.

          To me, “how different” explains MAGA’s initial appeal to so many and how that appeal persisted despite Trump’s obvious shortcomings.

          1. Ruthmarie

            It was a very different world. When I was in college in the dark ages of the mid-80s, you could actually LIVE on a part-time job and have your own place. Now, it would have been a studio walk-up. BUT you could pay the rent, buy groceries, afford your car and even have some money for going out on the weekends and for clothes and holidays. A full-time job bought you a middle-class life. Even if you didn’t have a college degree.

            When you worked overtime, you got PAID (usually time and a half). You were able to take your vacation time and your sick time without being called a slacker. Most places gave you an hour of paid lunch. You actually had decent healthcare. No one even thought they weren’t going to have top-notch health insurance. Pensions were going out by the time I was in the workforce, but some places still had them. Job demands made some kind of sense and were reasonable. Definitely a different world.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “… make their employer earn any extra effort they might give”

      this was my policy for the last half of my working life.
      i refused to work sundays(‘remember the sabbath, and keep it holy’ shut them right up)
      and i refused busywork.
      this was cooking…leading into me being an actual chef, the old fashioned way(by owning my own cafe for a time).
      fourth to last place i worked, run by a retired 3m exec who thought owning a cafe would be a fun retirement experience…she’d squawk at me for sitting and reading by the front window on a slow day: ‘why aren’t you working?!”(bill the cat look)…me:”where are my customers?”
      place was already spotless…because as kitchen manager/chef/moral center of the place, i kept it that way…prep was done, special was ready…
      nothing to do, save nonsense to merely please her irrational expectations and stroke her fetish regarding watching people slave away for her(this is a generational thing, i’ve found).
      waitstaff soon joined me…but she didn’t say anything until the dishwasher came out and sat her ass down, too, and opened the local paper.
      she started to come over, and i directed half the staff to move their cars around front…we soon had customers(works every time, lol)
      even earlier in my career, i had figgered out what this article is talking about….and turned the tables….at least in my mind.
      when i went to a job interview, i was interviewing a potential boss….not the other way around, as they assumed.
      when a boss would eventually piss me off…and after 3 tries to get them to amend their behaviour, i’d walk out the frelling door…firing them.
      almost all my bosses, for my whole career, were mom and pop…and mostly like the 3m lady…retired from big money career, and having no clue what they were getting in to.
      they often didn’t start out understanding why they needed me, but they ended up being in a state of perfect clarity.
      out here, all but one of those places closed soon after i left.
      mostly because i was replaced by incompetent yes-men.
      lesson: don’t take any shit off your employer.
      they need you more than you need them…if you’re doing it right, that is.

  10. VH

    I am so enjoying what will likely be a short lived employee advantage that it is ok to work the 8 hours and that’s it. What a concept! I started working in the late 70’s and it was ok then to work and go home. Technology has given us all the equivalent of an ankle bracelet as if we are on parole. Yeah the passion thing. In recent years (last 20 actually) you are expected to not only work more hours, be available after work via email or whatever, you also have to be a cheerleader for the company. All of this sucks the life right out of you but I guess that’s the idea. If you have nothing left but work, hurray for the corporation soul sucking machine. I so hope this trend continues. The U.S. has a very sick work ethic – it’s unhealthy in the extreme and it is found in small, medium and large companies. Trust me, I’ve hopped jobs and changed careers trying to find some relief. Only the pandemic gave me back some of my time that I should not have had to fight for in the first place.

  11. Glossolalia

    I guess I’ve been quiet quitting my whole career. I’ve always worked fewer hours than most of my colleagues, but still a solid 40-45 hours a week. I’m typically the only person on my team that uses all my vacation time each year. I come in to work on Monday and see emails from co-workers over the weekend. I’m in IT, and over 50, so I’m aware that I’m becoming the old, expensive guy, and that between that and not working endless hours I’m perhaps at the top of the list if/when layoffs come, but I accept that as the price for having a clear separation between life and work.

    1. Starry Gordon

      One way to deal with that predicament is to be one of the people who knows where all the bodies are buried. There is a surprising amount of information of that sort lying around in any large or even medium-sized corporation.

      Then you can “retire in place” as we used to say back in the day.

  12. voteforno6

    Over twenty years ago, I was in a sector where there was an attitude that people (at least at my level) should be at the office when the boss gets there and when he/she leaves. Then I moved to a different section, and the boss there told us that if he saw people consistently there when he left, that told me that those people weren’t properly managing their resources. He then said that, as someone who was on his third marriage, it was important for people to have a proper balance in their lives. He was the best boss that I’ve ever had.

  13. Eric Blair

    What is the other side of the coin where Management goes above & beyond the agreed pay and benefits package when extra expectations are made on their employees time?

    It doesn’t seem the Media is having a balanced conversation about this workplace phenomenon.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Media has a huge pro corporate bias. So a little deviation from that is not balanced? Seriously?

      You are assuming facts not in evidence, particularly in light of decades of squeezing of labor. Corporate profits are at a record share of GDP, nearly 2X the level that Warren Buffett deemed in the early 2000s to be unsustainably high.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        i was that kind of boss, fwiw.
        was compassionate with scheduling…paid the waitstaff thrice the waitstaff minimum($2.14/hr at the time, i started them at $6+tips…other foodservice owners hated me,lol)
        kept my food cost below 12%, too,lol…while insisting that the staff eat for free.
        but for the post-911 freedomfries phenomenon, i made decent money on the place.(i was gourmet…introduced non-hamburger, non-CFS fare out this way…didn’t even have a deep fryer,lol)
        and i still hear…20+ years later…that i was the best boss they ever had…taught them a lot, etc(from money management to cooking smartly to constitutional law(4th amendment))
        the remaining competitors still have a boner for me, though, and give me the stink eye.

        1. Linotypist

          There’s a small but credible body of academic research comparing character traits of corporate executives with . . . career criminals. Hardly surprising that wage theft is rampant.

          I hope this is the beginning of a necessary groundswell to improve workplace ethics generally.

          In the 70s I was offered a ‘promotion’ that entailed another ten hours of work per week for the princely raise of ten bucks. I cordially declined and exited a few weeks later. Here’s the thing: you have to recognize that sane employers value reliability because they have to staff the operation, but they need to recognize they’re not entitled to belated feudalism. We have to not only revive unions, but come up with co-management and other practices.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      Would you like a list of pro corporate leader puff pieces? It might take up more words than this entire website’s history.

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      I have never, ever heard of such a thing. Such management would be kicked to the curb in no time at all. What world do you live in where such management exists?

  14. Rip Van Winkle

    Is there anything more soul-crushing for anyone who has worked more than 30 years than being forced to attend a corporate ‘Town Hall’ meeting and seeing their younger colleagues cheering on some empty suit whose only role is to make things worse for them?

    Does this mean that certain corporate tenants may delay plans to supply ‘sleep pods’ in their offices in the Willis Tower in Chicago?

    1. Questa Nota

      Town Hall discussion exhortation, witnessed at a Fortune 500 Company:

      Our business transformation project is like changing the tires going 80 miles per hour.

      In a subsequent meeting the pressure increased.

      We need to change the tires going 200 miles per hour.

      Then things deflated when the company got taken over and thousands lost their jobs. That must’ve been the pits.

  15. Robert Gray

    I have an acquaintance who is a world-renowned executive in a field where it is considered normal (and good) for such managers to change jobs periodically. (It supposedly keeps them and the institutions they serve fresh.) Anyway, this woman is British and after 20-odd years of upward-and-onward in the UK she landed an appointment in the Netherlands. After she had been at it for a year or two, I ran into her and asked how it was going. She was not happy with her staff. ‘When four o’clock comes, no matter what we are doing, they go home! That would never happen in the UK,’ she said.

  16. Earthling

    “Ghosting” job applicants, good for them. For decades, unemployed people desperately seeking work after layoffs and rightsizings and re-engineerings had to spend months applying for jobs, wondering if/when they would hear something. Standard practice to not even bother with a simple email to the rejected masses letting them know they were not making the cut. Untold anxiety for millions, for months, wondering if they should take the step-down job or hold out to hear from Engulf & Devour first. I hope every company that has disrespected people this way has fits trying to fill their ranks, they richly deserve the hard time they have given others.

  17. Acacia

    Maybe “quiet quitting” can find some common ground with the Chinese tang ping movement (“lie down flat and get over the beatings”), a dash of SLACK (h/t J.R. “Bob” Dobbs), and the endless vacay of J.G. Ballard’s “Largest Theme Park in the World”. Now that would be innarestin’

  18. Kurtismayfield

    Corporations really love taking over the functions of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Pay little taxes
    Use guilt constantly to manipulate
    Want to be worshiped without questions

    I swear Asimov was wrong..we won’t have tech priests, we will have corporate priests.

  19. timbers

    The broad reason for less interest in work IMO, is Federal Reserve policy which since 2008 became much more aggressive in promoting asset bubbles on Wall Street and housing and again even more so starting with Covid. Why work when you can make more money doing nothing but owning stocks? Also from the opposite perspective from the have-nots, why work hard if you haven’t a chance in he’ll of ever owning your own home and if you do it keeps shrinking in size and desirability? The “Fed put” of asset inflation has been in effect for at least 15 years now. That’s an entire generation. Behavior modification is in full force by now if my theory is correct.

  20. Mikel

    The lament about “quiet quitting” is not surprising among the workplaces that took on cult-like features and called it “culture”.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Absolutely. Many corporations these days turned to the cult model of engaging their employees. I would never get near the punchbowl, but many drink from it.

  21. DJG, Reality Czar

    Arianna Huffington is a buffoon. Has she started paying any of the writers at Huffington Post yet? HP was notorious as a deadbeat.

    When I was in my thirties, I was managing a set of periodicals at a (toxic) legal association, where much time was wasted in office politics and tittle-tattle. So I went in on weekends to clear off my desk.

    It was not appreciated. I was a “high producer” yet definitely not a “team player.”

    A couple-a decades later, I was hired as a senior book editor at a big publisher by someone who had known me socially for quite some time. She asked if I worked on weekends. I said no: That it was never appreciated when one put in extra time.

    She seemed to think that she was required to work weekends, but then she was head of the group. And they got plenty of weekend work out of me in the form of fly-in meetings and special projects.

    The expectation that one should be a slave to one’s job is the problem here, not people leaving at five o’clock to go home.

    And rectification of names: “Personally, I’m delighted to see this long-overdue backlash against the “passion” requirement, that all goodthinking Serious Professionals were supposed to regularly and ritually show how passionate they were about their career. Jobs should not be put on the same plane as objects of lust.”

    Perfectly stated. My compliments to Yves Smith. The word “passion” should never come up in discussing business, unless one also is willing to throw around the words “greed” and “avarice.” And “too many layers of management, all of them inhabited by dolts.”

    As a devotee of Colette, A. Camus, and Cavafy, I can assure you that they have taught me what passion is for. As Yves Smith writes, “objects of lust.” Not bad. I certainly know that passion doesn’t involve humping the photocopy machine.

    1. Arizona Slim

      One of my friends wrote for Huffington Post.

      She kept insisting that she was a *citizen* journalist. I kept insisting that she should be paid for all of her hard work. I don’t think she ever was.

      1. Alex Cox

        Ariana H used to be an anti-feminist conservative, author of The Female Woman. She reinvented herself as a neoliberal and got aspirant journalists to write for her for free. Perhaps she’s decided that jig is up, and is moving bsck across the aisle.

  22. Retaj

    I heard the term “quiet quitting” last month in a Tik Tok video, but a search of r/antiwork shows first mention in March this year. The reddit post was inspired by a YouTube video examining the increasing power of labor in the years since the pandemic. It turns out that I saw the original video when it was posted in March this year.

    Thanks, I did not know that “work-to-rule” is the old term for this, and it refers to labor sticking strictly to the output rules in the union contract. It’s a form of concerted activity below the level of a strike. The new term evolved in the new environment when all we have is the “right-to-work” and the destruction of unions.

    The r/antiwork thread had very insightful comment from user SweetNerevarr:

    Mark my words, in a couple months there will be an article on the MSN homepage titled “What is ‘quiet quitting’ and are your employees following this new trend?”

    The new term seems to have triggered mainstream and business media, finally, as predicted.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      Most of Reddit considers this term to be corporate propaganda. Its like it was market researched to give people excuses to fire employees.

    2. rowlf

      An alternative name in union shops to Work Too Rule is Work Safe. After participating in two Work Safe union campaigns in the 1980s I just worked safe or worked to rule all the time to avoid disciplining and requests to cut corners. Later good knowledge of policy, regulations and procedures helped my career as most people never read the source material or can find the references.

  23. nick

    My wife works FT remotely and has gotten her average workday down to 4-5 hours, including all the BS meetings. Employer has been pretty cheap on salary but she found the best way to get a raise is to reduce the denominator, that is, time worked.

    One reason it works is because they can’t practically replace her. Ok, her expertise is fairly rare, and so there are many other tasks that almost no one else could do, and others that would take someone twice as long. But also there has been such turnover in her office the past year or so that even for basic, common things she has become an authority and without short, simple insights from her the whole office would lag. She’s still early, maybe mid, career and I wonder if this is happening elsewhere with such high rates of job hopping.

    1. eg

      This was precisely my response at my last job before I retired when the Board stiffed us on an promised pay increase. We subsequently sued and won, but the bitterness of having been forced to take our own employer to court — the cost of which also stung — never left. I snickered at the premise that they thought they were going to get one over on us by stiffing us — all they achieved was the guarantee that I would do less work until I calculated that they had given me the raise anyway on the basis of output. What a bunch of morons.

      I’m retired and don’t miss those family-bloggers in the least. My final act of revenge, if I can arrange it, will be to live as long as possible with the (now virtually extinct) defined benefit pension they are obliged to pay me …

    2. Linotypist

      more power to the empowered, but AI-driven surveillance software is not limited to (say) law offices, bucket shops, or UPS drivers. coming to a workplace near us all, and soon.

  24. Anthony G Stegman

    In many Silicon Valley companies the expectation is that workers are to be “available” 24/7, though they don’t actually work 24/7. The mindset is that as a worker you are expected to put the interests of the business first and foremost in your mind. This shows up as email checking on weekends, shop talk at happy hour, willing to work late into the night in order to meet some arbitrary deadline. I haven’t noticed much “quiet quitting” in the Valley. Most workers have long since been conditioned to be obedient employees. The stock options is the carrot. Losing them is the stick.

    1. Altandmain

      The difference is that programmers in Silicon Valley are paid well, even factoring in the high living costs there. The same could be said of jobs in investment banking and management consulting.

      This has not been the case for most of the US. If anything, these “elite” jobs have destroyed or worsened many otherwise middle class jobs.

  25. Anthony G Stegman

    If society is to successfully address the climate crisis and all that goes with it “Quiet Quitting” needs to become widespread and long lasting. One of the side effects of long work hours is more shopping to relieve the stress of the workplace (“retail therapy”). Heavy consumption is more prevalent in communities where people work long hours. In addition, people become more selfish and less engaged with their community when they work long hours. What’s good for business is rarely good for society. That guy from General Motors way back in the day had it very wrong.

  26. Mildred Montana

    I think the backlash against “quiet-quitting” falls into the category of “Do as I say, not as I do”. There is far more executive/boss laziness in many companies than most people realize, including the employees. I’ve actually heard bosses congratulate themselves on their ability to “delegate” tasks. In other words, and in some cases, “Even though its my job, I’ll get someone else to do it.” (I am not dismissing the ability to delegate appropriately; it can be a valuable skill if deployed by the right person.)

    John Kenneth Galbraith: “The art of genteel idleness has achieved its highest level of sophistication in the upper reaches of the modern corporation.” And perhaps the not-so-exalted reaches as well.

    1. wilroncanada

      Two little notes.
      A friend of ours, back in the early 1970s, finished an MBA at Northwestern U, after his BBA at U of Western Ontario. He was hired immediately as “assistant ” to one of the VPs at a major Canadian railway. He did ALL of the work of the VP (there was a whole floor of them in headquarters). None of them appeared more than once a week, to sign off on the work their assistants had done. The rest of their time was filled with golf games with other executives, shmoozing, and traveling to “meetings” at luxury hotels in various parts of the world on the company. He stayed two years, then left for a less prestigious job.

      I showed up one morning during the first half-hour of the opening of a big box score. Everybody was in a rah-rah meeting with a sub-manager. Other than cashiers, there was nobody else on the floor. So, I walked into the middle of the pep talk and announced loudly, “There are three of us in the notions department looking for help and no-one to help us. So I’ve advised the other two shoppers that a sewing store downtown can give them all the help they need, so we are all on our way to that store. Goodbye!” It was one of the few times I have ever been in that store. I only stopped there because I was in a rush, and they were closer to my home.

  27. Dan

    The wags on Reddit have riposted to “quiet quitting” with a much better slogan: “act your wage”. The latter deserves to go viral!

  28. Anthony G Stegman

    The Aug 1, 2022 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek had an article they titled “Professional Nonmonogamy”.
    “Handle multiple bosses like you would multiple lovers”.
    Perhaps some of those workers “quietly quitting” are actually making time for their other job. According to the article “professional promiscuity” has benefits – more robust social networks and greater happiness.

  29. converger

    As with so many things, David Graeber called it early. From his 2013 essay and 2018 book on the dynamics of bullshit jobs:

    “The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ’60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

    Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done—at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does. I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.”

    I miss David Graeber.

    1. Basil Pesto

      Thanks for this. Following my remarks above I really should have another gander at the book. It’s a shame he won’t be able to revisit his thesis in the wake of the events of the last three years, but I think it’s an interesting line of inquiry indeed.

  30. ChrisPacific

    There was an article about this in local media recently. Thankfully they sought opinions from some younger professionals among those they interviewed, who were just as scathing about the framing as Yves was. As one of them commented, they prefer the term “doing your job.”

    Personally I felt my outlook improved once I started regarding employment as the same kind of arm’s length transactional arrangement that we’re encouraged to use in other parts of life. In order to be engaged and committed while still setting clear boundaries, I found it useful to adopt different personas for the situation: Home Me and Work Me. Work Me was allowed to be as passionate and committed to his job as he pleased, but only within the boundaries set by Home Me. Work Me handled all job related matters except for variations to the terms of employment (e.g. extra hours). Those went to Home Me, who did not give a damn about the job, the company or the mission except as a source of income, and whose interest, passion and commitment was all about the well-being of the household. Guilt trips and mind games, needless to say, did not work on Home Me. They were effective on Work Me sometimes, but if they touched on terms of employment then he lacked the authority to do anything about them.

  31. My Comment

    I am a retired marketing exec who is a fan of quiet quitting. The idea that you are tethered to the company 24/7 enables upper management to not ensure that the focus is on key priorities. Instead it creates a culture of no work life balance that employees adapt to by rationally pretending to work while, gossiping, checking email and social media whenever possible.

    I think this attitude was started by Jack Welch former CEO of GE when he decided to lay off 10 percent of employees every year. At least with him the layoffs had something to do with performance of your division. Now the layoffs have more to do with weeding out older workers and the losers of political battles. Employees know that performance isn’t nearly as important as being liked by your boss (good idea boss!) and other bosses your department deals with.

    I was in tech and the culture created by stock options makes this problem even worse. Most people are afraid to take more than one week off and will guarantee you that they are checking email and messages everyday. What is worse is that they actually are doing that.

    CEOs of startups especially love how young engineers will spend so many hours at the job, working late at night without stopping to judge the productivity of the youngsters or what time they get in each morning. I have seen young engineers arrive at 11 then work until 10 each night with a lot of goofing off in between. All the CEO can see is how late they work.

    However, marketing is not a good position to work remotely due to it being the center of myriad political battles with everyone thinking they can do the job better than the exec currently heading it.

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