Quiet Quitting in Corporate America

A. Kimber

If you perform the duties of your job description, and only those duties, is that “quitting”?

The term “quiet quitting” has been everywhere lately. It’s a pretty simple concept. An employee only performs the tasks in their job description, nothing more, nothing less. Most are saying this is new but is it simply doing the job you are being paid to do?

Corporate America is changing.

My employer hosts an entire workforce of quiet quitters. We funnel through the doors every day, hit the clock, and sit at a desk in a tiny cubicle for 8 hours.

Our conversations are limited and hushed. The 30 minutes we are allowed freedom only seems like five once our leftovers are lukewarm and are eaten at the pace of a starving hyena. If we take a restroom break and have a conversation with a co-worker in the hall, we get the death stare from our supervisor as soon as we step back into the room. He gives us a thin-lipped sneer that implies he is not happy with our absence. We avert our eyes and don’t leave the cube again, silently kicking ourselves for continuing to endure this form of soul-destroying torture.

This depiction is an admittedly over-exaggerated account but is all too common for the corporate worker. The work-life balance, especially after the pandemic, is off-kilter. With the economy tanking and everyone in a dull sense of hushed panic, no wonder so many employees are doing the bare minimum.

In a report by Gallup, it has been determined that “quiet quitters” make up at least half of the U.S. workforce.

In the same report, Gallup found that 60% of people say they are emotionally detached. Nineteen percent describe themselves as being miserable. This dissatisfaction stems from a lack of respect, unfair treatment, inconsistent compensation, favoritism, mismanagement, and burnout.

Does this come as a surprise? For those of us in the trenches, no. This form of rebellion is a response to the continued deterioration of the corporate culture. Why continue to go above and beyond when corporate workers are viewed as just another body? An employee number that can be replaced as soon a recruiter finds a nicely worded resume in the long line of qualified drones begging for a chance at mediocrity.

Is the expectation of going above and beyond wage theft?

Some can argue that the expectation of doing more than required, with no form of compensation, is a form of wage theft. Overzealous workers can justify their extra effort with company perks like donuts in the break room, company parties, merchant discounts, etc. But at the end of the day, these minuscule perks should be used as a way to boost company morale, not as a bargaining chip to get unpaid work.

For years, putting in more time and effort in the workplace was valued and appreciated and would set you apart from the pack. As a result, you were compensated for the extra effort. But in a dwindling workforce, especially one brought about by a spiraling economy, that compensation is a thing of the past. It simply doesn’t happen at the same pre-pandemic rates.

The pandemic made us all, regardless if we wanted to or not, assess our priorities. Humanity is fragile and fleeting, you only have one life, live it to the fullest…insert your favorite cliché as you like. But, the realization that a silent, airborne killer can take you out with no warning, is terrifying. With a metaphorical clock ticking away on our chest, society as a collective has begun reevaluating our happiness.

Some have begun the search for something better. A more fulfilling work-life balance, better management, work from home opportunities; all are at the top of the want list. For most, it takes a significant pay increase to make a move. A pay increase that just isn’t there for many.

With no incentive to give more at their current employment and the possibility of finding better accommodations at a new one slim to none, employees find themselves stuck in the rut of the bare minimum. “Quiet quitting” is becoming the norm.

In closing, let's hope that the rise in popularity of quiet quitting will be a stepping stone to open more discussion on the complacency of corporate America, and a spotlight will be shown on the unhappiness of the quiet quitter in our country.

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I write about local news, events, restaurants, and vacation spots on the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast.

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