Anyone who uses social media to promote their arts career, or do pretty much anything else, has seen articles about a practice called “quiet quitting.” Right underneath them, you may have also seen articles proclaiming “quiet quitting” to be fake. And following that, more articles declaring quiet quitting to be not only real, but so prevalent, everybody you work with is doing it.
“Quiet quitting” is indeed fake in that it is not a unique or new phenomenon. At the same time, it is real, because it is nothing more than a new term for something people have been doing for as long as workplaces have existed. As for “everybody,” that is nearly impossible to measure, but it does seem as though people are becoming more prone to the behavior the term describes.
The term “quiet quitting” is new shorthand for “getting tired of being asked to do more and more work for the same or less pay, and simply refusing to do so.” People who engage in behavior that is now called “quiet quitting” are not leaving their jobs, and they are not necessarily quiet about it. They are just doing the bare minimum amount of work that they have to do in order to keep their jobs, and nothing else.
In years past, the only acceptable attitude among American workers was a willingness to do anything and everything you could to please your supervisors and/or customers or to promote the business you worked for. If your job duties as a receptionist were to watch the front desk, answer the phone and take messages, direct visitors to the correct offices, and respond to emails sent to the general information address, you did all of those things, and you cleaned the front lobby and helped the guy in the first office with his paperwork if he needed help. You even came in early and stayed late to finish those tasks if asked.
Being late for family dinner, missing the occasional child or grandchild’s game or performance, and having little time to relax and unwind in the evening were just things you had to put up with as a worker. Work was supposed to be hard. It was not supposed to be enjoyable. Praise from your bosses, promotions, and your income were your rewards.
Those who gave into this wholeheartedly were praised for being “hard workers” and “dedicated employees.”
Then came the concept of “work-life balance,” a politically correct, corporate-speak term for not allowing your job to take over your life to the point that it becomes your whole life. Workers declared themselves to be seeking “work-life balance.” Corporations lured employees in with promises of “work-life balance.” The term even grew to a ratings category on some job websites.
But like most trendy terms, “work-life balance” began to lose its meaning. It devolved into an empty buzzword. Workers promised “work-life balance” still found themselves doing more work than they agreed to do when they took the job, with little to nothing in it for them. And despite all the stock photos of people lounging next to palm trees accompanying “work-life balance” articles, most workers were unclear as to what that actually meant for them. The point at which a job consumed too much of a person’s time, thoughts, and energy was a fuzzy dot for too many people, and one that often bounced around.
People termed “quiet quitters” are those who caught their dot, brought it into focus, and have refused to move past it. They are the ones who, when scheduled to work from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon, begin their work at nine and end it promptly at five. If their job description as a dish washer and bus person requires them to wash the dishes, clear and wipe down the tables, and roll the silverware at a restaurant, they complete those tasks. But they do not finish them as quickly as possible so they can pitch in and help the wait staff serve customers.
Whether “quiet quitting” is something advisable to do or not depends on the specific circumstances and behavior involved.
Sometimes, all that extra work you do, all that time and attention you take away from other parts of your life to devote to a job, don’t accomplish much beyond lining the CEO’s pockets. You’re doing extra work so they don’t have to take on the expense of hiring additional people to divide up the labor fairly. You are also sending the message that taking advantage of people is something the employees of your workplace will tolerate, encouraging the higher-ups to do it even more. “Quiet quitting” would be the right thing to do in these situations.
In other cases, refusing to do anything you do not absolutely have to do in order to keep your job may mean failing to help someone in genuine need. Refusing to pitch in to help a struggling coworker, brushing off another staff member’s concerns, or refusing to participate in projects that could improve working conditions for everyone because “that’s not your job” or “you spend enough time worrying about this place,” are not new trends in workplace behavior. They’re examples of not so good, old-fashioned selfishness.
Welcome to our new series, “The ways of words.” In this series, we examine a popular word or phrase you may want to use…or avoid…when creating novels, poems, songs, or other written art.
Everyone has a word or phrase, or several, that get on their nerves. Adding “And go!” to the end of online requests for information or ideas puts a lot of people off of trying to provide the information. The word “moist” is widely hated. Beginning sentences with “So” can be irritating and distracting to some. I’ve always found “boundaries” and “shaming” annoying, but I loathe “positive/positivity” and “negative/negativity” to the point that I have tuned out conversations, speeches, and sermons that contained them and refused to support a business because I saw them in their advertising.
The term “self-care” is quickly becoming a hated one for many people. This does not mean you can’t use it in your work or promotional materials, but it is beginning to have an effect on the audience that may be the opposite of what you would hope for. There are a few reasons this may be happening.
Everything is “self-care” these days.
When the phrase “self-care” first seemed to be everywhere, it was a less snobbish sounding synonym for “pampering.” “Self-care” meant “relaxing beauty rituals,” like scented bubble baths, beauty masks that cooled or warmed your skin while improving it in some way, and special hair treatments you only did once a week. Then people began to use it in place of any form of “relaxing” or “taking a break.” Having a drink, having a cigar, eating a candy bar, taking a nap, or ordering takeout because you lacked the energy to cook were all “self-care.” Next, some social media influencers decided “self-care” was anything you did that in any way benefited you, even if it was something unpleasant, so making yourself scrub your toilet and pay your bills and go outside and shovel the driveway in winter were all “self-care” too. Many people who recoil from it are simply tired of hearing it.
“Self-care” appears to be a way to demand praise for doing ordinary things.
Our culture encourages us to demand praise and admiration for some pretty awful things these days. One popular social media meme proudly proclaims that going forward, the poster will be doing what is right for them and nobody else. The comments are always full of praise and encouragement, even though the person basically just announced they no longer care what impact their actions have on other people.
Announcing you are “practicing self-care” is another behavior deemed worthy of praise today, and since everything can be self-care, it demands praise for everything. People announce they’re doing “self-care” by giving themselves a clean home to live in, proceed to tell their social media contacts about vacuuming, dusting, and sanitizing their kitchen and bathroom, and we’re supposed to congratulate them. Never mind that these are nothing more than ordinary household chores most people do every week. “Practicing self-care today…no work…just relaxing and spending time with my family” receives a round of “you deserve it!” and “put yourself first!” from friends who forget we used to just call that “taking a day off.”
People get worn out jumping up and down over others’ every move just because they labeled it “self-care” before announcing it, and in many cases, bragging about it.
Multilevel marketing companies have latched on to the term.
Even when the term itself does not bother someone, it can put people off of your product, business, website, or anything else you are working to promote because of its growing association with mlms. Companies selling useless, sometimes even dangerous, diet powders, bars, and pills promote the products as “self-care” as another term for “tending to your physical health.” It can even be a bit of a shield from liability for these corporations. They can’t promote their energy or weight loss or mood boosting shakes with specific health claims, but they can call it all “self-care” and send the message customers are doing something for their health in a more roundabout way.
Others try to recapture one of the earlier meanings, the face masks and bubble baths definition, by selling cosmetics customers could easily purchase for half the price, insisting theirs are an investment in “self-care.” Of course, those same customers could purchase similar products at a much lower price point and call it anything they wanted, but the mlm counts on customers associating their products with a noble devotion to our own well-being. Those trying to avoid mlms are keeping an eye out for this particular hook to help them weed out the products and services that come with an “opportunity” to ruin your finances and alienate your family, friends, and business associates.
As with most words that work our nerves, whether or not to use “self-care” depends on the effect you want to have on your audience. If you’re writing a piece about a multilevel marketing company, “self-care” is a buzzword among them these days. A character who feels entitled to praise for everything will probably label many behaviors “self-care.” But it may not generate warm feelings in a reader….or draw people to the business you run as a second career…much longer.