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Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud


Work-life balance now has a new, trendy phrase: "quiet quitting." But it's not what it sounds like. It's not sneaking out the side door with your red Swingline stapler while sending a text to your boss. It's even more radical. It's the notion that at your job, you do your job. Nothing more, but nothing less.

This idea seems to shatter the hearts of bosses who think the sun and moon of their employees' lives should revolve around their job, to the detriment of what really holds weight in the employee's orbit. Employees should give 110%, volunteer their time with ease and be a continual project of professional development. However, younger generations are debating whether the path to a successful life is found outside their work.

"Quiet quitting" is a strange phrase partially because of its easy association with negativity that we've all been trained to make as Americans. Quitting is for losers. We're not quitters; we're always the go-getters. How dare we give up?

But, if we are all going above and beyond, what are we fetching for our efforts?

The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, conducted from November 2021 to January 2022, found that 14,808 Gen Zs and 8,412 millennials across 46 countries didn't feel financially secure. Some elder millennials in the workforce have spent the last two decades hustling and still are just treading water.

Key points from the survey: Almost half of Gen Zs (46%) and millennials (47%) live paycheck to paycheck and worry they won't be able to cover their expenses. More than a quarter of Gen Zs (26%) and millennials (31%) are not confident they will be able to retire comfortably.

Quiet quitting is being attributed in the media to Gen Z, but millennials have been quietly minding our Ps and Qs, looking at a future that can be stripped away without the reward of that mythical gold watch, or even a retirement plan. One cancer diagnosis, even with "good" insurance, can mean that any nest egg can be wiped out.

It also turns out the pandemic held danger for employers beyond a global virus. The danger was in that extra time for their workers. Some employees had time to finally think about the life they had at home — or the life they didn't have.

As younger workers, we realized that loyalty to a company is not necessarily conducive to your career and that staying in one place is a surefire way to sail your career into the doldrums. There are often no clear paths to promotion, too many promises never fulfilled and not enough value taken from employees with decades of experience. Too many organizations and their managers cater to the growth of the bottom line over the growth of their most valuable resource: their employees.

After a host of once-in-a-lifetimes, such as the Great Recession and a global pandemic, the younger generations are choosing to live with meaning because the only certainty we can experience is the certainty of now. What must feel disconcerting for the older managers is that the actions of their younger employees are not just quiet; they are firm, and foreign. Their younger workers set boundaries that the older generations never felt were an option for them.

Where do we want to be in five years? We'd like to say, "I'd like to learn the guitar," or "I'd like to be coaching my kids' games," instead of lying and saying we want to excel at Excel.

We're opting out of hustling and searching for what is enough for each of us — be it mastering the guitar solo or seeing the smiles from the kids on the field. Those discoveries that see us turning toward our personal lives for meaning instead of our work lives have started to chap the hides of those who sought to gain from, or exploit, our previous attempts at grasping for a world that only existed in their advertising.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.