"Quiet Quitting"? You Mean, Doing the Job I'm Paid To Do? in Those Public Entries

  • Aug. 19, 2022, 2:09 p.m.
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  • Public

You’ve probably heard of “quiet quitting” lately and wondered either (a) why people are doing it, the lazy bastards, and (b) if it’s actually “quitting”.

I’m not even going to define the employers/slaves to hustle cultures’ view on this; you can find it anywhere online, if you’re curious. But to me, as an employee, “quiet quitting” is a really horrifying term for “just doing my job, and just my job.”

See, here’s the thing: The past few years have been a major time of reckoning for a lot of people. At its peak, COVID resulted in hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations in the US alone; worldwide, 6.45 million people have died from it, and in the US, we’ve just hit 1 million COVID deaths. Most of us have had it, and all of us know someone who did; of those, almost everyone knows someone who died from it. Mass death events, like wars and pandemics and acts of terrorism, tend to force people to look their own mortality in the face.

Because here’s the truth, kids: You’re going to die someday. Yes, you. You will die someday. I’ll die someday. Everyone we know, everyone we love, all of us have an expiration date. But none of us knows when that is. So in a lot of cultures, especially American culture, we ignore that fact. We put it out of our minds, we live like we’re immortal (and if you ask me, consumerism is a huge symptom of death denial). Until we can’t. Until someone close to us dies, or until our lives get ground to a halt by a virus that kills indiscriminately. Then, we’re almost forced to stop and take inventory of our lives. At times like these, we start to think, What have I done with my life? If I died tomorrow, what will people remember about me? Will people remember me at all? If I died now, in five years, what imprint would people say I left on them?

And that’s exactly what we did during the pandemic. We took stock of our lives. And a lot of people, especially essential sacrificial workers (which I was, in two different jobs, throughout the lockdowns), realized just how overworked we were, and how little we had to show for it.

In my own case, I was working an absolutely thankless job with the Indiana Department of Child Services, delivering pizzas part-time just to make ends meet, and taking a full course load to finish my degree. And after some reflection and soul-searching, I realized that I hated both of my jobs, but especially the primary one with DCS. Why? Because, for the princely sum of $27,000 a year, I was expected to be a paralegal and an admin assistant and a babysitter for the new admin who couldn’t stop talking about his girlfriend’s vagina at maximum decibels and a group counselor for my paralegal team and the liaison between my team and head management and whatever title has to take verbal abuse from the process server when they fucked up a service and whatever title has to deal with constant write-ups from an assistant chief counsel who refuses to ever consider that maybe he’s the problem. And about a month before I gave my two weeks, we were also expected to do court filings with no training, because why the fuck not.

I want to point out, I worked at DCS for just over three years. In that time, I helped us streamline the process of requesting criminal records, I switched us over from hand-written Certified Mail slips to electronic ones, I trained three new paralegals, and I was the paralegal that attorneys would come to if theirs was out or they had, well, the one who just wouldn’t work with anyone. (There’s always one, isn’t there, and they never get in trouble, do they? “We need everyone to come back to the office, because the ~culture~!”) And what was my reward for all of that? An extra Jeans Day that didn’t have to be on a Friday! …In an office that was already okay with jeans, provided they were black and the governor wasn’t paying us a visit. Wow. Just.... Just wow.

I never got a substantial raise. I never got more than a “cost-of-living” adjustment, which totaled about $700 a year, which, even in Indiana, is insulting and doesn’t actually reflect the cost of living. What did I get, besides the extra Jeans Day? Well, after the first two years, a supervisor who was scared of me, because, let me check my notes… I’m an introvert, and he’s an extrovert. One of those epically annoying extroverts, too, who spends more time chatting people up at their cubes, whether they want to talk or not (and because ~the culture~, you have to talk with these assholes!), and can’t fathom the idea that introverts are anything other than creeps and weirdos and, even worse, cat people.

And here’s the thing: I didn’t complain about my work while I was at work. Ever. Not once. I kept all of the kvetching away from work. I knew the job I was doing was dead-end, but I believed that, if I worked well and did what I was asked, then eventually, once I finished law school, I’d be able to move from paralegal to attorney. Or, at least, once I finished my undergrad, I could move into a different position in state government. Because that’s what we’ve all been taught, right? “Work hard now, and you’ll reap amazing benefits.” I didn’t even complain too loudly about having to work a second job, because hey, just because I’m working up to 16 hours a day doesn’t mean I’ll have nothing to show for it, right?


Well, I went above and beyond at two jobs for three years, and all I got was this shitty burnout.

And this is where I think “quiet quitting” actually, let’s call it what it is, “refusing to be exploited”, is taking hold of people. There’s no benefit to going above and beyond for your job anymore. There’s no incentive. There’s no reward. Most of the time, there isn’t even a “thank you” in it. You go above and beyond, and your boss keeps asking for more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and even more, and what do you need a raise for? Why should I approve this vacation request you sent? What do you mean you’re sick? Can’t you just be fulfilled by the job? Have you no sense of pride in a job well done! That’s all you need! You don’t need to rest, you can sleep when you’re dead! nO OnE wAnTs to WoRk AnYmOrE!!!

But it’s not that “no one wants to work anymore,” it’s that people don’t want to work for nothing anymore. No one wants to feel like they’ve accomplished nothing at the end of the day, and you can only do a job without acknowledgement or even a passing “thank you” for so long without feeling like someone’s taking advantage of you. And no one’s asking for cake and ice cream every week; they’re asking for a raise in accordance with the extra work they’re doing. They’re asking to be allowed to continue working from home. They’re asking to take time off to rest and recuperate and keep doing their best work.

As a society, we’ve gotten used to working for diminishing returns. We work more and work harder, and most of us have absolutely nothing to show for it, except exhaustion and burnout. This isn’t sustainable, and we’re hitting a critical mass right now. If you don’t voluntarily rest your mind and your body, if you keep pushing them when they’re already exhausted and burnt out, at some point, they stop working. They will force you to rest, and you may never fully recover.

And in this way, I think the pandemic was a gift. A horrible gift, to be sure, but a gift all the same. It gave us time alone with ourselves. It forced us to slow down. It pulled us all, kicking and screaming, through the long, dark night of the soul. It made us reconsider what’s really important. It made us face our mortality and, in some cases, even come to terms with it. In total, the pandemic was a horrible, awful thing, and I wish it would have been handled better.

But if the end result is more unionization, more worker’s rights, more and harsher laws punishing exploitation in the workplace, an actual living wage, and a realization that work isn’t everything, well, that will be some good to come from all this.

Park Row Fallout August 19, 2022

You couldn't be more right. I think back to my time in retail and even pretrial services (so... from 15 years old to 31 years old) and just how much "above and beyond" was expected and demanded as part of "If you want to keep your job, you'll do this!" And how much my family (esp. my father) was "You need to make work a priority and give 110%" It's like.... yeah, no. Not a great approach when it is strictly exploitation and no actual reward or acknowledgment.

Deleted user August 19, 2022

I so totally agree with you on this. I hope changes will come, but deep down I have to say I'm not sure that will happen.

Zappel August 19, 2022


Fawkes Gal August 19, 2022

My former boss who worked himself ragged on nights and weekends was unceremoniously laid-off after close to 15 years of giving 110% and then some to his job. The only reward you can hope to get for working hard, is more work. I'm glad that more people are coming to this realization. Life before work, always.

Camdengirl August 20, 2022

It is a broken system because the idea used to be that if you worked hard, you'd be rewarded with a raise and a better job.... And that definitely happened when I joined the workforce (I'm in my 40s).

But the boomers refused to retire or downsize so families got stuck without any top jobs or family sized homes to move into.

And the minimum wage removed those entry level jobs like post boy or office junior or tea lady, because they weren't worth paying for. You also didn't have that gradient of starting salary which subsidised extra cash for those who worked hard- everyone got paid the same. And there wasn't that much difference between being a supervisor and being a worker, so no one except the most poisonous of people wanted to do it.

I now get paid the same as my boss, it is that ridiculous. His boss i think gets a bit more, and the next in the chain gets a little bit more, bit we are talking a difference of £10k between all those roles.

Silverstar46 August 24, 2022

Yes! I 100% agree with this!

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