Have you heard about “quiet quitting?” How about “lying flat,” or #actyourwage?
They are all terms belonging to recent movements in reaction to inequity and inequality for employees in “The New American Sweatshop™.”
In theory, sweatshops have long been gone from the work world—at least in first-world countries.
In reality, things are still crappy for most workers. People are underpaid and overworked. They aren’t valued by any stretch of the imagination even while being asked to work more and give more of themselves, and there’s little protection for them from, well, any of it.
If you’ve not yet heard about quiet quitting and it’s adjacent concepts, they are all about doing just enough in your job to meet its requirements, and so you don’t get fired. The idea being to bring pressure to the businesses to do better with how they treat and value those who work for them.
This isn’t really new; when I was coming up on my career path (before I started my first business) I was part of a movement we knew as “go slow.”
It was the same… do as little as you can, moving as slowly as you can, in the hopes that employers would feel the sting and things for workers would become better, fair, and that we would be able to feel that we’d exchanged our time and effort evenly for what we received from our employers as compensation.
We showed up, did what we had to do (as slowly as we could) and went home.
Pretty much everyone I knew at the time was fed up, exhausted, and bone-weary, but even going slow didn’t help improve our lives because much of our free time was spent raging against going slow and not seeing change from it. And, when we were at work, we often had to fight the urge to use our skills and talents in service to the “job,” because doing that sort of “extra” wasn’t going to teach employers the kind of lesson we hoped they’d learn from our going slow.
It was not fun…at all.
I have a feeling it’s much the same today. I don’t know that sizeable workplace change will come of the quiet quitting movement. And I bet it’s still no fun.
And, while I know that there are people for whom doing the minimum is a-ok, I also know that there are plenty of people for whom this will never be enough.
You might be one of them.
If you’re the person who wants to give all of herself, professionally, who wants to go deep into what she’s doing, who wants connected work relationships, for the work to be worthy of her efforts and to be worthy of doing that level of work, the minimum will never be enough for you.
As a result, quiet quitting (in all its forms) for you will lead to a sort of “quiet dying,” at least inside.
I’m pretty sure you didn’t get your degree, and/or work toward mastery of what you do in order to sit there every day and quietly die of boredom, of keeping ideas to yourself, of not contributing in ways that make you feel alive.
So, what’s the fix?
If you can’t figure out how to work with your employer to make things better, finding another job is an option.
For me, the single-best fix is having your own business (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?).
I get that it can feel scary to consider taking that level of risk—going from someone who is “steadily employed” to being someone who is 100% responsible for yourself and your livelihood, but I’m telling you what…in case you haven’t noticed, you’re already 100% responsible for yourself and your livelihood.
Whether it’s conscious for you, the reality of employment is that you are just one conversation away from being fired, laid off, demoted or laterally moved to a job you don’t want, or given double the work without double the pay. And staying in that kind of situation is absolutely a choice…and a risk.
You get a paycheck and maybe benes, sure, but at what cost to you? From my perspective, it’s a pretty big cost.
What you need is something different. Something that will let you soar, contribute, and enjoy your work without also worrying about being silently expected to do always more while getting less. And let’s not talk about facing burnout.
From my perspective, I don’t know that you can reliably find that in a job because what’s fundamentally missing in a job is autonomy and freedom. In a job, they say, and you do. That’s really it.
You cannot be free when an employer holds 100% of the power in the relationship, and now that “quiet firing” is also a movement (where employers demoralize workers to such an extent that they quit), it’s even worse than it might have been before.
The beauty of having your own business (whether as a VA or anything else) is that you are 100% free. You are free to design your own work, create your schedule, to set your fees for profitability, to do the work you want most to do, and to do it for the people you most want to do it for. It’s your game played by your rules.
And, I want to say that the risk associated with self-employment will never be as gut-wrenching as feeling the assault your soul likely feels from either giving more than your employer deserves (because you need to do that deep work at all costs), or engaging in quiet quitting—hoping it will create change that it doesn’t create.
The change? The only change you’re likely to see is change you make for yourself when you step into your own space and do things your way.
If you feel like you’re quietly dying in your job, please consider changing what “work” is for you. This world needs you and your deep, worthy work more now than ever. And we want your vast aliveness, not the remnants left over after the best of you has been depleted by a job and employer that doesn’t care about you.
Should you find yourself in a spot where you don’t feel like you can leave a job that’s draining you, at least find a way to do something every day that leaves you feeling completely alive. With that, you’ll likely counter a bit of what’s happening to you at work.
But by all means, don’t let yourself quietly die. No job on the planet is worth that sacrifice.