Quiet Quitting: Is This Your Best Work?

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen

One of my son’s favorite movies when he was in high school was Office Space (1999).  I also enjoyed it alot. You may recall the following dialogue between Peter (Ron Livingston) and Joanna (Jennifer Aniston):

Peter:               I, uh, I don’t like my job. I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.

Joanna:            You’re just not gonna go?

Peter:               Yeah.

Joanna:            Won’t you get fired?

Peter:               I don’t know. But I really don’t like it so I’m not gonna go.

Joanna:            SO YOU’RE GONNA QUIT?

Peter:               No, no, not really. I’m just gonna stop going.

The recent reporting in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and on NPR about the new trend of “quiet quitting” reminded me of the movie. 

In case this phenomenon passed you by, it’s the notion of not outright quitting your job, but “you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.” Really.

According to the Times, “[f]or some, it was mentally checking out from work. For others, it became about not accepting additional work without additional pay.”  At the risk of having someone comment “OK, Boomer,” permit me to say this just sounds like craving “work-life balance,” but with snarky undertones and real downsides.  

Anyone who has spent time around me knows that I am huge fan of work life balance.  It’s the main reason I left BIGLAW to join friends in a work environment I had some control over.  I didn’t stay at BIGLAW so – to use a phrase I learned from my friend and partner Frank Kollman – I could work for a paycheck with “delusions of adequacy.”   Or, to quote Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H: “never let it be said I didn’t do the least I could do.”  

Enough reminiscing; what’s the point of this Blog? (It’s more than just I needed to write something, really it is).  We’ve been through a rough couple of years, and it doesn’t look like there are any rainbows and unicorns on the horizon.  For employers trying to find good help (or any help, it seems), the world of work is challenging at best. As it is for employees, to be sure.

If you are an employer, try to engage your employees. If someone is not performing at the level at which you need them, ask questions and find out why.  Help them.  Caveat here:  be absolutely sure you are treating similar folks in similar positions similarly (remember anti-discrimination law requirements).

If you are an employee, just doing the bare minimum to get by should not be deemed sufficient for your self-esteem or your development as a human being.  If you are unhappy in your circumstance, change it – there are lots of employers out there looking to hire people with a good attitude and work ethic.   “Meh” should not become the new normal in the workplace.   A question you should always ask yourself (and the one that makes associates who have worked with me over the years cringe is:  “is this your best work?  Think hard before you answer.”

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