This seems like a good follow-up to the last post about "Bowling Alone" and a social shift that is putting the individual ahead of the group. As the comments made clear, while not always the best approach, it is becoming increasingly common.
In the spring of 2021 millions of workers began quitting their job. The pressure of being deemed "an essential worker," and the strain of continuing to work even as the death toll from the pandemic mounted pushed many over the edge. Even though well before deciding to retire was an option, unemployment seemed a wiser course of action than continuing to be exposed to such a grave threat.
Just as Covid was releasing its death grip on our minds and routine this past spring, this behavior did not lessen. Rather, with three or four million people voluntarily leaving the job market every month, the upheaval continued. There are projections that by the end of this year up to 20% of workers will have resigned.
There are all sorts of ideas why these folks are not agreeing to go back to how things were before. For many, working at home for a year or two brought into focus the toil that daily commuting has taken on their lives. Others, tired of poor pay, indifferent bosses, rude customers, and a lack of meaningful benefits, realized the power in the marketplace had begun to shift toward them. With so many businesses desperate to restaff, those who walked away were not as willing to accept things the way they were. They were holding out for a better shake.
My initial reactions were "what are these people thinking? How are they going to pay their bills? You can't just walk away from work!" Well, they could and they did.
After a time, I had a clearer understanding of why these millions of people made this decision and the rationales behind it. Understanding why someone would not want to return to a job that was unfilling, undervalued, underpaying, and risky were the first realization that struck me. With the overall unemployment rate low but lots of openings for workers in almost every field, this was the time for these folks to better their future.
More recently, you may have read about "Quiet Quitting." Somewhat of a misnomer, QQ doesn't involve leaving a job. Rather, it means deciding to do what someone is paid to do, and nothing more.
The unpaid Saturday morning staff meeting, the staying until 8pm to finish chores, or a stack of paperwork even though the payday ends at 5, are the quiet quitter's targets. "A fair day's work for a fair day's pay" still applies. But, going above and beyond is not part of the bargain. The line that should exist between work and life becomes one that is constantly shifting, or even erased.
Again, only an educated guess on my part, but I think the goal of the quiet quitter is a better life-work balance. Employees are realizing there are parts of living that can never be replaced: the kid's school plays, time with the family on a weekend picnic, having time for indulging in a hobby, or a weekend getaway.
A recent Pew study indicates that 63% of American dads say they spend too little time with their kids. Grinding away at a desk, at the counter, or the horribly misnamed mandatory overtime shift puts someone in the "living to work" instead of "working to live" bind.
I have philosophical problems if someone leaves a job and decides to never rejoin the ranks of the employed. Or, a quiet quitter who slacks off during work hours; that is dishonest and a form of theft.
But, if the goal of these two movements is to better one's working conditions, to be treated with respect and as a valued employee, and to try to keep a better balance between one's life and one's employment, I am all for it.
It is a position I wish I had adhered to when I worked for myself. My work-life balance was poor. I am eternally grateful that I am married to a woman who kept things running so smoothly and didn't let the kids feel marginalized or left out.
After retirement, I gained an entirely new understanding of how warped my use of time had become. While I can't make up for all those mismanaged years, I can do my darndest now to avoid going off the deep end for any one reason. Time is limited and as the cliche says, "no one complains on their deathbed that they didn't spend enough time at work."