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Quiet Quitting

practical advice Aug 26, 2022

I was a runner in high school. While I mostly ran long-distance, I also sprinted the 400m, during track season. The interesting thing about sprints, opposed to long-distance running, is that it requires more downtime during the workout.

In business (Agile or SCRUM methods), there's the concept of a sprint, which is a short amount of time for a team to complete a set amount of work toward a larger goal.

The problem I often see from my corporate clients is the expectation from their companies to perform sprint after sprint, with no downtime to rest and rejuvenate. If a runner was to do this, they would easily injure, preventing them from racing.

I've been reading articles about Quiet Quitting. Many of these articles, including CNN, are completely missing the point of why workers are "quietly quitting" in the first place. 

To provide a little historical context, during the 2008 recession, many companies downsized, forcing their workers to work “lean”, more work for longer hours on less pay. Many workers were willing to do this because of the fear of losing their livelihood. Going back to the running metaphor, workers were expected to run sprints with zero downtime to maximize profit.  

Even after the economic downturn, the expectations of sprints continued, even though the economy rebounded because profit has historically been prioritized over people. 

In my opinion, we have a burned-out workforce, similar to a runner having shin splints because of improper training. Because of this, companies turn to lip service programs such as mental health and wellness programs, PTO (and workers feeling unsafe to take it) and forced social hours.

The reality is that people want to feel fulfilled by their work, be fairly compensated for it, have reasonable hours, and their companies support their core needs (healthcare, childcare, family and medical leave).

I think this "Quiet Quitting" is a bounce back of the overwork and unrealistic expectations we had promoted since the 2008 recession. When profit and people are not mutually exclusive, we'll stop seeing trends like this. 

While changing broken systems takes time and advocacy, there are several areas where we can change our circumstances now to avoid the burnout.

1. We have a choice in finding career options that bring us more fulfillment. 

2. We can negotiate our salary, find opportunities that provide a higher salary, or companies that compensate more.

3. We can search for companies that better provide for our core needs (health insurance, childcare, and medical leave).

4. We can choose to quietly quit.

5. We can find companies that allow for rest after marathons or between sprints because they have realistic expectations of their workforce. 

When we take action, even if only for ourselves (opposed to advocating for a change in legislation) companies follow the trends — the average salary for a job goes up, companies increase their compensation to retain talent, companies change their policies and plans to better meet the needs of their workforce.

I'm hopeful on many fronts because I've seen many clients make satisfying career changes and find amazing companies to work for, and I've also seen companies change policies to meet the changing trends. 

I'm also grateful for the media focusing on trend of Quiet Quitting because it sheds light on what's broken and what we have power over. 

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