3 months ago

The hubbub of 'Quiet Quitting'

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In recent times, yet another buzzword called ‘Quiet Quitting’ has shown up, walking hand in hand with the popular post-pandemic phenomenon buzzword ‘Great Resignation’. 

While the hype may seem contemporary, it is practically old wine in a new bottle. The famous Stanley Hudson from the popular, hilarious mockumentary ‘The Office’, aired in 2005, is the perfect example of Quiet Quitting. One of his most used dialogues was 'Do not care.' 

He is part of a middle-sized paper company, where he works the bare minimum, minds his own business, and is very disinterested in anything else that does not concern him. Sounds familiar? Because we all have faced employees like this, be it within an office or while taking service from them. If we are honest with ourselves while working on a bad day, we even consider it ourselves, even if it is for a split second. 

So what exactly is quietly quitting? In a nutshell, it can be depicted as when the employee does nothing but the bare minimum task to keep their job or just barely does the duties assigned without putting any enthusiasm or mental investment into the work. 

In no way are they slacking off, and they keep on fulfilling their primary roles. This surely seems okay-ish in the beginning, right? Because, after all, the concept of employee and work is wrapped around the basic bulwark of paychecks; the employee works and gets paid. 

So as long as the employee is doing the core tasks that s/he is supposed to do, the deliverables are there; this should be all right despite all the other extra stuff that is above the bare minimum being absent. 

But in reality, this is bad. In the long run, this is quite harmful, and its impact is more far-reaching than normal quitting/resigning. 

Every workplace comprises its workforce, and other than the obvious monetary benefits, the perks in an organisation are social capital, brand image, career growth, etc. This trend of quiet quitting gesticulates at something severe that the employees lack faith and belief in entirety in the organisation or what it stands for. 

Let’s get back to Stanley. His boss, Michael Scott, portrayed as a whimsical person, tries different things to keep the workforce motivated and deals with them like a family, often at the cost of productivity. 

Stanley is always unimpressed about everything regarding Michael (or pretty much every other colleague in that instance), and he says the famous quote, “I would rather work for an upturned broom with a bucket for a head than work for somebody else in this office besides myself. Game on”. 

At the end of the day, it is an exchange. The employee is engaging in the core tasks in exchange for the paycheck. The extra mile, which often goes beyond the call of duty, is often the differentiating factor among other organisations. This extra mile comes from the workforce only when they have a sense of belongingness or takes ownership of the organisation. 

But this is not free. This citizenship behaviour comes when one enjoys the perks of being a citizen in the very first place. After all, being human beings, we always tend to first look at what we are getting instead of giving. 

While the vice versa might sound handy and quite motivating in a Ted talk or a forum, the basic instinct of humans tells us to look for the self-benefits. The moment the price of demanding the extra mile is not paid, the exchange gets unbalanced and thus comes the disengagement of the employees in refusing to go beyond the regular task.

With the long-lasting tiresome battle of surviving the pandemic and the advent of the rise of mental health and how taking care of one's own self matters the most, as well as the wind of change regarding entrepreneurship and freelancing out there, people think there is a plethora of options. 

People are becoming less risk-averse and trying out new ventures. So those who are doing the bare minimum to keep the primary job use the time they used to go the extra mile for the organisation, in something more productive or a second hustle or something for their own. This adds up to the pressure on the other colleagues as well. 

The concept of work-life balance is getting grilled in people even more, and some are even choosing life over money when push comes to shove. Projecting the hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation, or the sense of fulfilment doesn’t just come from the verbose harangue of the leaders/HR/books. 

The so-called 'perks' of citizenship behaviour or ownership might just outweigh the investment on the employee’s end. The fatigue regarding this quiet quitting can be triggered by something which might seem trivial to the leader/HR but might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

It can be anything from not feeling appreciated to being stuck in a task/role they never like, even something as trivial as the sitting arrangement. Since employees are connected through the grapevine, one quiet quitter might just set off the doomsday clock in another employee. Like most human activities, it acts as a snowball effect (just think how each ‘trend’ works).

To battle this silent disease, the leaders should listen on a real basis rather than being all Michael Scott to Stanley (trying to convince that they are family) or being Don Draper to Peggy (the only relation we have is money). For a change, they might try to understand for real, and being a manager, really 'manage' to live up to the expectation of the role. 

The writer is an engineer turned finance enthusiast, trying to drink gulps from the immensely stimulating world of finance besides his regular job at Dhaka Stock Exchange. 

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