The Moneyist: ‘The backlash to quiet quitting smacks of another attempt by the ruling class to get workers back under their thumbs:’ Am I wrong?

Dear Moneyist,

I have something to get off my chest. Please bear with me.

We learned a lot from the (more than) two years of pandemic life. Among those lessons: 

1. We can be really effective and productive working from home.

2. When working at home it’s easy to end up working constantly which can lead to burnout and worker dissatisfaction (hello, Great Resignation).

3. It’s important for workers to draw personal and professional boundaries. 

When I read this story about “quiet quitting,” I was struck by the way people who were interviewed were doing the things that we have been encouraged to do and have encouraged our employees to do: work reasonable hours, don’t work on vacation and strive for work/life balance. 

The featured “quiet quitters” had been experiencing serious physical and mental-health problems associated with their jobs, and now, after setting some boundaries, are overall happier and healthier people and effective employees. “I still work just as hard. I still get just as much accomplished. I just don’t stress and internally rip myself to shreds,” one said. 

“‘The beauty of quiet quitting is that it will mean different things to different people. It’s about rightsizing our career and managing our workload in a smart and effective way.’”

So quiet quitting requires soul searching by both workers and employers. Companies that want to turn quiet quitting into a battleground for the hearts and minds of employees should learn to quiet quit — because they don’t realize that there is room for valuable, substantive work without the nervous tension that work often brings, and without the “them” versus “us” state of mind.

A company that wants to quash the “quiet quitting” phenomenon doesn’t understand the value of a fully-present, engaged employee. It’s a company that doesn’t get that employees are people, not minions that must be squeezed and micro-managed. Similarly, an employee who says, “Not my problem” at 6:01 p.m. is not someone who understands they are part of a team.

Quiet quitting is a perfect example of employees managing up, and showing companies that there is a third way — an alternative to both slacking and clock-watching. I hope it’s a wake-up call to companies that their staff need time and space to exhale, and not bring work home with them, or sacrifice their sanity, leisure time or mental health so a company can meet its targets.

The beauty and the challenge of quiet quitting is that it will mean different things to different people. Quiet quitting will not turn a good employee into a bad employee, but it may turn a bad employee into a more checked-out employee. Ideally, it’s about rightsizing our jobs and approaching our careers in a way that helps us become happier human beings, and more successful employees. 

We get to draw a line between the two, and acknowledge the difference. 

Learn how to shake up your financial routine at the Best New Ideas in Money Festival on Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 in New York. Join Carrie Schwab, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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