There are concepts that would be better off unnamed, because they don’t deserve a name, and their having a name actually distorts reality.
Ever heard of “the new economy”? Not if you weren’t reading Fast Company magazine in 1999, you haven’t. Because it wasn’t actually a thing. It was a pretend thing, that nobody ever mentioned again after the dot com bubble burst.
“Metrosexual” had its moment under the streetlight, until we realized that wasn’t a designation much worth discussing, and it high-fived “hipster,” on the way out of town.
“Politically correct” said goodbye, and “woke” said hello. (Has either term furthered cultural understanding, in any way? Quite the opposite, I’d say.)
There have been a lot of unhelpful new terms during our recent “unprecedented times.”
For instance, “the great resignation” is slinking out, with “quiet quitting” tiptoeing in, to take its place.
Not so fast, “quiet quitting.”
First of all, no one can define you, exactly. Can’t bring ourselves to try, actually—because we’ve known what you are all along:
You are a cynical, self-protective, resentful goldbricker, malingerer and idler who works in HR for the City of Chicago or in accounts receivable for State Farm Insurance (and now, in IT at Cisco!)—and burns more calories looking busy than you would if you actually were busy.
These days, these folks don’t passive-aggressively thumb their noses behind the back of The Man, but rather a new, more blurry enemy with another new name: “hustle culture.”
And if three decades at work have anything to tell me, most of these folks aren’t “quiet quitters,” but rather, “never started to begin withs,” without the guts that Johnny Paycheck once celebrated.
They don’t deserve a dignified new name.
Or … “quiet quitting” means something else entirely.
In the mouth of single-minded business leader, it means employees who don’t “act like an owner.”
Employees who don’t agree that “the customer is always right.”
Employees who keep track of how much of themselves they give to their work—and how much they reserve for other people in their lives, including themselves.
Employees who resist the boss’s subtle, relentless effort to rhetorically shrink the world and grow the importance of one company’s Social Media Marketing Department so that it becomes confusing, which one is bigger.
And employees who don’t mistake the corporate mission statement with the Meaning of Life.
They’re simply sane: And they don’t deserve this term of disdain.
Either way: Whether “quiet quitting” dignifies lousy workers, or provides new invective for brutal bosses—it’s a term that sheds shade on the subject.
Let’s not use it, ourselves.