Back when I was a teacher, the teachers’ union organized a movement called “Work to Rule” to demonstrate our collective stance that teachers deserved better pay. Every time negotiations were not going the way our union wanted, they asked teachers to do only what our contract stated and only during our required work hours. Teachers would gather outside their schools in the morning, walk in together at the official start of the day, and leave together at the official end of the day without taking work home. Essentially, it was a united and more explicit form of “quiet quitting,” a hot topic in discussions around leadership and the workforce these days.
If you’re not familiar with the phrase, quiet quitting is essentially an act of disengagement in the workplace. Rather than subscribing to the hustle culture–working beyond your duty hours, overextending yourself to meet unrealistic expectations, etc.–people are setting aside the idea of going above and beyond. In some scenarios, people are doing the bare minimum required of their roles; nothing beyond what is explicitly stated as their responsibility or what can be completed during their work hours. In other scenarios, people are showing up to work physically while checking out mentally and emotionally.
The thing is, this movement isn’t just about success at work. Quiet quitting is a symptom of a complex issue. Factor out the extremes–people who are unmotivated, apathetic, and only work for a paycheck, and those who define success in life as success at work. What you’re left with is a lot of people who care about making a contribution, who want to do good work, AND who also define themselves by who they are and what they do outside of the workplace. You’re left with people who feel forced to choose between overexertion and valuing themselves.
No matter how we define success for ourselves, most of us want to feel engaged in and excited by the work that pays our bills. At the very least, we want to feel valued as an employee and as a person. Before succumbing to the symptom of quiet quitting, getting clear about your options and what’s at the heart of your frustrations will lead you to greater fulfillment in the long run.