Quiet quitting has been quite the story this year. It’s known by various terms, of course. Mailing it in. Phoning it in. Corporate coasting. Acting your wage. Reverse hustle. Going through the motions. Whatever the zeitgeist wants to call it, I believe that a good amount of the way we talk about it is completely wrong. I keep reading that quiet quitting is about productivity, requirements, and metrics, but it’s not. It’s a story of ambiguity, identity, and rejection.
It’s a human story. It’s something we all do, to some extent, everyday. In fact, quiet quitting (or at least shades of it) is the byproduct of white collar work itself. The office needs the unspoken system that allows quiet quitting, otherwise the whole enterprise wouldn’t function. It’s one part of the checks and balances that keep people coming to work every day. Understanding why it exists and how it actually works can help us be better bosses, better employees, and live happier lives.
To convince you of this, we’re going to go on a bit of a journey. We’ll have to deconstruct some things you thought were true, we’ll have to give names to strange human behavior, and we’ll have to define what a unit of white collar work even is.
Of course, you have to trust that I know what I’m talking about. The good news is that I’ve spent over 20 years in various industries and organizations. From working with unions, to being employed by the government. From fancy offices to job site trailers. I’ve done engineering, marketing, banking, construction management, business strategy, and consulting. From big cities to small towns, with Fortune 100 companies and startups. I’ve been an employee and a manager. I’ve coached executives and the rank and file.
I’ve seen the machine from inside and out, and I’ve lived to tell this tale.
The Workplace Bazaar
The first thing we need to get clear on? Work is a marketplace where employees are buying and selling value with their bosses/companies, 24/7.
Let’s start with an analogy.
Say someone was trying to sell a ticket to a concert they couldn’t attend. They paid $30 for the ticket. If they are offered anything below $20, they’ll just give it to one of their friends. On the…