If you’ve been reading my newsletter or reading my tweets or speaking to me in any meaningful way in the last week, I’ve been furious at the idea of “Quiet Quitting.” It’s a term that literally means “doing your job and being paid for it” that’s being mangled into some sort of weapon to claim that young people are lazy, and “only doing the bare minimum.” Young people are almost falling for it too, taking the bait and defending themselves from the concept by claiming it’s “a way of setting boundaries with the workplace” and “about work-life balance.”
It’s not that they’re wrong, but by framing this as “taking back” something from management, they are validating the entire concept of Quiet Quitting, as opposed to the correct response of entirely rejecting it. It is an absurd concept, one that makes no real sense because nobody is asking the bosses or managers worried about it what it is that people aren’t doing, likely because the answer is “uhhh, I don’t know.”
It is, however, important to consider the why behind the Quiet Quitting panic, and to understand it through the lens of a larger anti-worker propaganda campaign sustained by executives who are terrified of losing control. Though the term originated on TikTok, the media’s scare campaign is built to aid bosses in trying to sustain control over a workforce that has become untethered from corporate culture.
The anti-remote panic of last year was the first sign I saw that management was scared of something. While at first I believed the return-to-office movement was intent on seeing people back there just for the sake of having “serendipity” or “collaborative moments,” I’ve somewhat refined my theory to add that I believe the office was the only way they could keep control without, well, paying people more money or making their lives easier. The office was an excellent place to sustain control — a micro-society where middle managers operated as informants and workers were afraid to leave too early or say anything divisive for fear that they’d be reported to the higher-ups.
This, by the way, is what “office culture” is. Office culture has never been about organizational happiness or unity or “everybody being on the same page.” It’s always been a told to suppress worker voices, stopping them from complaining about their work and making it tougher to discuss workplace conditions. It also made people less likely to leave their jobs, because they’d be afraid of “losing their friends” or “leaving their boss in the lurch,” with the other…