Workers Learning That “Quiet Quitting” No Longer Works

You had to know this wasn’t going to last, right?

From the link

One of the first documented cases of quiet quitting was a recruiter I’ll call Justin. Deep into the coronavirus pandemic, after working 10- to 12-hour days for much of his career, Justin had decided to dial it back on the job. When I spoke with him in February, he had whittled his workweek down to 40 hours. In the ensuing months, he went even further, working as little as 30. Every week he worked a little bit less, freeing him up to spend more time with his wife and their newborn baby.

It was Justin, in fact, who helped spark the national debate that’s been raging over quiet quitting. After speaking with him and other recovering overachievers, I wrote about how hustle culture, thanks to the job security granted by the roaring economy, was giving way to coasting culture. When a popular career coach on TikTok riffed on my story, the phrase “quiet quitting” became something of a new cultural dividing line. You either loved the Justins of the world for striking a reasonable work-life balance, or condemned them as slackers and cheats.

The problem here is that these quiet quitters didn’t just cut back into what made sense, they cut back way beyond that. They weren’t doing the “work smarter, not harder.” They weren’t just doing the job and not going further. They were deciding to as little as possible. And, to a degree, they were able to get away with it before. Not now

But by the time the US was furiously debating his new approach to work, Justin was already shifting gears. Over the summer, as the economy began to slow, he noticed his clients were scaling back their hiring plans. Performance reviews seemed to be getting tougher. Some of his colleagues were let go. “It made me nervous,” he told me. “It hit me that I’m the only one who works in my family.” So he decided to “play it a little more safe.” Today Justin, the OG Quiet Quitter, is back to going above and beyond. He’s working 50 hours a week.

At the moment, the job market is still strong. But with job openings down by 15% since March’s record high, it’s clear that the frenzy of the Great Resignation is beginning to moderate. After a year of scrambling to accommodate their restless employees, employers are regaining the upper hand. Workers are sensing the shift in the mounting headlines about company layoffs, the budget cuts that are limiting their raises, and the heightened scrutiny of their productivity. The smart ones, like Justin, are adjusting their behavior accordingly.

They’re learning they are replaceable. They’re learning that raises and bonuses and such won’t come when you do less than the minimum. That if layoffs come they’ll be the first on the block. That the people who are in charge require actual work for compensation.

Companies were also hanging on to every employee, no matter how bad they were at their jobs. At the end of 2021, human-resources managers reported that they were going to “manage out” fewer than 2% of low performers, compared with the usual 5%. The national layoff rate plunged to a two-decade low. When I spoke with Justin in February, he exuded the confidence that many employees were feeling about their job security. “Companies have a vice grip on even their moderately good employees,” he told me. “I was like, look, they’re not going to fire me. It would take them months to find someone new and train them up. My lessened productivity is better than zero productivity.” Employees were doing the math — and it added up to less work for the same pay.

You may be good at your job, but, if you aren’t putting the work in, you’ll be part of the 5%

Things today look very different. For starters, consider what’s going on at the company formerly known as Facebook. As my colleague Kali Hays reported, executives at Meta have instructed managers to bucket 15% of their employees as “needs improvement” — HRspeak for “shape up or ship out.” CEO Mark Zuckerberg informed his staff that he would be “turning up the heat” on performance goals to shed employees who couldn’t meet those standards. “Some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you,” he said. “That self-selection is OK with me.” In a telling observation, one employee noted that Meta’s moves amounted to “quiet layoffs.”

Of course, it’s not the fault of slacking employees that Meta and the Metaverse stink.

The same pattern is playing out elsewhere in the tech industry. Over the summer, managers at Snap were told to put at least 10% of their workers on performance improvement. A few weeks later, the company cut its full-time workforce by 20%. At Google, CEO Sundar Pichai — complaining that the company has become “slower” as its headcount has grown — declared that he wanted to increase efficiency by 20%. At Oracle, which let go of hundreds of employees in August and again this month, employees worry that more cuts are coming.

Guess who’s gone first?

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One Response to “Workers Learning That “Quiet Quitting” No Longer Works”

  1. Dana says:

    The ready-mixed concrete industry is a tough one: when building recessions come, and concrete sales fall, layoffs happen. How did I avoid ever getting laid off? I did it by being the first one to work every morning, by doing the ‘extra’ jobs that weren’t my job, by coming to work every day, rather than calling out sick or taking ‘mental health’ days, by just being reliable, because that’s how I am. People senior to me got laid off, because I was a more reliable employee.

    The result? I got promoted when other people didn’t, and I made a name for myself in the industry.

    The people who just do enough to get by are the people who will languish in the jobs they have, the people who will be bypassed for promotion, and the people who will always whine that they’ve been treated unfairly.

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