Quiet Quitting: The New Way to Work

Quiet quitting is a trend that exposes the flaws of our working system and education system, where offices are devoid of passion and instead push workers to burnout through mechanical work and a toxic environment.

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High school is the time when many students first enter the workforce. Whether it’s working for a family friend, participating in SYEP, or lifeguarding at a local pool, many of us are expected to learn responsibility, time management, and financial skills through our experiences at work. However, it’s hard to maintain a healthy balance between work, school, and leisurely activities when jobs expect more than just their description: coming in for extra shifts, staying overtime to do something a coworker didn’t have time to finish, or doing something just because your boss didn’t feel like delegating it to someone else. A new phenomenon has risen, along with a corresponding speculative name: quiet quitting.

Quiet quitting is when you detach yourself from whatever standards you normally hold yourself to and do your work without striving for perfection. As NPR puts it, quiet quitting is doing the “bare minimum.” However, later in the article, there is a contradictory definition ascribed to quiet quitting: completing work that is assigned to you and part of your job description during the allotted time of your shift. So how is that the bare minimum? Quiet quitting is the result of burnout, and if that’s what workers need to do to sustain their mental stability, then it might as well be the norm.

The appeal of quiet quitting is understandable: it helps set boundaries between personal and work life. Defining one’s worth based on the perfection of one’s labor has detrimental effects on mental health, causing an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression. A recent study led by University College London Professor Mika Kivimäki and others found that these mental health problems bleed into physical health, increasing chances of strokes and heart attacks.

Unsurprisingly, many businesses are critics of quiet quitting. Employees who go above and beyond with their work without compensation are obviously preferable, so when a new trend like quiet quitting arises, CEOs become concerned about their profit rather than the mental health of their workers. The result of our capitalist society, in which yield is prioritized over well-being, is that workers are pushed to burnout after being given an unrealistic workload. What these CEOs seem to ignore is that as the mental health of their employees plummets, so do their quality of work and their loyalty toward the company. Quiet quitting is proof that ignoring the problem of emotional neglect doesn’t solve anything.

It wasn’t until I put quiet quitting into terms I understood that I realized it shouldn’t be normalized. As Stuyvesant students, we are accustomed to hard work. Most of us have probably been going above and beyond our entire lives, to the point where it’s almost expected of us. No feeling is more familiar to us than burnout, and sleepless nights and tireless streams of work are second nature at Stuyvesant. However, we all have that one thing we look forward to. Whether through a club, an English class, or a computer science elective, Stuyvesant does its best to nurture our passions. In theory, your future career should do the same. It should be a place that challenges you to push the boundaries of your passion, no matter how much time or work that goal takes. Many of us choose to put in the extra effort in certain subjects or areas of interest because they tap into our passion, and most of us will also choose a career path that is intellectually demanding. The path to success is undeniably difficult, but, once again, worth it. Quiet quitting, however, is evidence of failure in the workforce. It tells us that workplaces have become so toxic and devoid of passion that any effort put into work is unsatisfying. It warns of a dark future of slow burnout in a tedious job that does not feed into our passions after graduation.

Quiet quitting may also be the result of a systemic issue within our education. Stuyvesant is a school that offers endless resources. However, many schools are not as lucky and do not have the resources necessary to foster an intellectually challenging community. Those who are lucky enough to have found a passion will usually try their best to find a job in that field, praying that it isn’t oversaturated. But many fall through the cracks with no drive or direction, forced to work in a career they hate. Without any determination to succeed, these people are not motivated to put in the extra effort. They are also more prone to burnout since they don’t have a goal in sight. This situation creates yet another reason to quit quietly, and it’s rooted within a flawed education system.

Instead of blaming workers for how they cope with the mental and physical strain their workload gives them, we should zero in on the kind of work these people are given. Most who are complicit in quiet quitting spend their days performing robot-like duties that require no creativity or variation in jobs that don’t challenge them and instead lull them into constant boredom. Above all, these workers are exposed to toxic employers who treat them like replaceable objects rather than people. Testimonials from quiet quitters exemplify this treatment. One employee said that her ideas were “mocked and rejected” and that she missed the environment under former leadership, where she had “creative freedom.” Another said her trigger was when she had a “job that [didn’t] appreciate” her. We should try to understand the employees who are prone to quiet quitting instead of blaming employee apathy on the individual.

Quiet quitting is not the fault of workers but is due to the neglect of companies and the mass production of a directionless workforce. When treated poorly, workers feel unmotivated. If companies truly care about their profits, they’ll focus on the treatment of their employees and prioritize mental health over quality of labor.