all this talk about”quiet quitting” is absurd

At Slate today, I wrote about the terribly-named “quiet quitting” trend — how it mirrors a larger change in people’s relationship to work, and why a lot of workers are disgusted with the idea that they should do more than “quietly quit.”

You can read it here.

{ 398 comments… read them below }

  1. BatManDan*

    One thing that I enjoy about self-employment; the direct correlation between the work I do / choices I make, and the income I earn. I don’t need anyone else’s opinion of what my work is worth, whose goals may not be aligned with mine.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Being self-employed, I find that I work a lot harder for myself than I ever did when employed by a company, and yet even I am trying to establish some more work/life balance in my life.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        After several years of self-employment as an HR consultant, I took a job earlier in the year – and immediately went from 60- 70-hour weeks to 40-45. I don’t have to do my own bookkeeping, endless networking and marketing, pitching, and all the other activity that wasn’t billable but needed to get done, usually during my evenings and weekends. You could say I was frazzled, sure.

        1. HBJ*

          Well, yes, in self-employment, there’s plenty of stuff that you can’t really charge for. It’s just the cost of doing business. But theoretically, all that should be built into your prices so you can afford to do that without working 70-hour weeks.

          1. Stuff*

            The problem there is, someone else may well be willing to work those 70 hour weeks instead of factoring it into their prices, and they are going to outcompete you if you don’t put in the same level of effort.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Yes, I know all this. I was self-employed for over 15 years.

              My particular point was tied to learnedthehardway’s, which is that I worked harder for myself than I ever did as an employee.

            2. HBJ*

              Ok, then you need to set yourself apart in some way or the industry is over saturated and doesn’t need your business.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                As I said, I took a job and am no longer self-employed.

                Also, I absolutely did set myself apart, because I worked more steadily as a contracted consultant than I did in my previous years. Again: I was agreeing with the poster that said s/he worked harder as a self-employed person than one who was W-2.

                Please, stop assuming so much about what I did, and how I did it, simply because I commented that I put in long hours. I wasn’t complaining, I was stating facts.

              2. hot buttered anon*

                Hustle hustle, amirite? Which is part of being self-employed and why the hours are often long and unpaid. Lived experience is real. I too went back to paycheck work so I could enjoy some non-work time with full benefits and steady pay.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Many years ago I was manager of a chain convenience store. The higher-ups were big about how we managers should regard the store as if we owned it. Even then, as a callow youth, I understood that they meant that we should put in endless hours without complaint, not that we were empowered to make substantive decisions, much less that we would reap the benefits.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            yeah. At my previous job, the sales staff were told that nobody slopes off before 8pm or they’ll never make their targets. So they stayed, without putting in any more work. No point cold-calling people after 6pm. If they’re still at work, they’re too busy to listen to your pitch. The whole point of working late is that you can at last get stuff done without being interrupted, so people would be even less inclined to give them the time of day. So the sales guys stayed at the office to goof off and pretend to work.

      2. CPegasus*

        I’m absolutely the opposite. I work so much less now. I make less money but I only have to be at the desk 5-6 hours a day. When I can’t focus because no one can reasonably do 8 entire hours of focused detail work (I’m a proofreader and editor) I can just. Not work. Go take a nap. Watch some TV. Get a workout in. My life is so much more balanced, and I’m no longer judged on my inability to be neurotypical in the office.

        1. CPegasus*

          I mean the other big deal is I sleep until 10. I tried a long time but I just can’t function if I’m expected to be anywhere at 8:30. I’m in sleep studies right now but I couldn’t find anywhere willing to be accommodating of an 11-5 workday until I worked for myself. And when I’m busy, because I’m well rested and otherwise taking care of myself, I’m not so burned out and exhausted that it’s a big deal to come back after dinner, a workout, and a shower to work from 7-9 and finish some stuff up.

          I really needed a setup where I got the work and the deadline and then got left the hek alone (with occasional check ins) to get it done so this is what works for me.

          1. Ttblfinfl*

            CPegasus – so glad that you’ve put together a schedule/process that works for you! It sounds exactly what my spouse would love to design for themselves – proofreading that has clear deadlines, is mostly hands off, and avoids mornings! Could you share what industry/industries you support? Any suggestions on how to get into this line of work (qualifications, samples, etc.)?

            1. CPegasus*

              So, I was lucky in that I had a friend of a friend who ran a publishing company in the RPG industry, which is very insular. Not necessarily in the sense of hard to break into, but in an everyone-knows-everyone way, so once people learned that I’d worked with them, it spoke well for me. They put me on their list, had me do one project when their regular couldn’t, and loved what I did. So I ended up in a niche of RPG and LitRPG products.

              I’d basically say to just get started in whatever is around – when I pitch myself to people I tell them that anything that has words should be the right words. If you know someone with a restaurant, ask if you can proofread the menu or flyers. If you’re in a play, see if they have someone doing the program. Once you’ve got things that are available online, put them on a website (even if it’s just a facebook page) and plug yourself as the editor.

              I highly recommend because that’s where I get almost all of my work, and the staff have been very helpful with occasional problems that crop up. They take care of chasing after payments etc. and have stopped me at least once from making a contract with someone under 18.

        2. MeepMeep123*

          Same here. I’m a lawyer. I went from BigLaw (80 hour weeks) to solo practice (maybe 20 hour weeks unless I’m feeling lazy). My salary did go down, but so did my stress level, and I don’t need crazy BigLaw money anyway. I was able to start a family, which I could not have done while working these crazy hours. I wouldn’t go to working for a law firm again for any amount of money.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        My spouse and I are both the children of small-business owners (and, by “small”, I mean, our parents and that free child labor). The experience turned us both into people who are employed by good-sized entities that handle all the bureaucracy of our running them. I would rather focus on what I’m good at the have to do business generation, finance/accounting, benefits, etc. (Our parents managed this by not having health insurance most of our childhoods and having no retirement, neither of which are really optional anymore.)

        Self-employment is not for everyone, and it can be much harder work than working for a paycheck.

        My in-law’s business was also almost put under by the arrival of a corporate competitor. Nearly wrecked their business the first year, and then nearly all their customers came back year two due to dissatisfaction with said corporate competitor… but some businesses can’t hold out for year two.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          In the US, health insurance and employment savings are still completely optional. Unfortunately.

    2. Rebecca*

      I’m a teacher, I went into business for myself and cut my job in HALF. Even doing all the other stuff – marketing, accounting, etc. I am working a fraction of the number of hours for double the salary.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        How does this work? Who are you teaching, and how do you get paid? Asking for a spouse.

        1. AMT*

          Not OP, but a lot of teachers and former teachers in my area do early intervention, either on their own or via an agency.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        My sister’s a teacher, and the amount of unpaid labor she does is INSANE. She probably makes about six dollars an hour if it’s broken down over a typical week.

        She FINALLY quit trying to keep the PTA together single handed this year—she was reluctant because “if I don’t do it it won’t get done!” I kept pointing out that if the PTA is going to fall apart because of one person’s walking away, it’s already done.

        There was some complaining, natch, but she finally grasped that people were completely happy to let her work for free until she collapsed because “stuff was getting done” and they didn’t have to worry about investing any time or energy in it until she quit being the Accomplishment Fairy for all of them.

  2. Anonym*

    Thank you for this, Alison. I’ve gotten increasingly angry the longer this stupid term persists. The implication that doing your actual job ISN’T doing your actual job is just absurd, and perpetuates the incredibly unhealthy work culture we have here in the US.

    1. Cait*

      This must mean we can call the practice of not giving raises, not giving promotions, understaffing, mandatory overtime, and little/no benefits “quiet firing”.

      1. ferrina*

        If we want it to more accurately mirror “quiet quitting”, then “quiet firing” is when companies only give us the compensation and benefits that they offered us. How dare they only offer what they owe us and what we agreed to!

          1. Johanna Cabal*

            Because if they make an employee miserable enough to quit, they avoid the hit to unemployment insurance. At least in the United States…

            1. Fishsticks*

              As every hourly employee who had suddenly gone from getting 32 hours a week to getting 10 or 12 can attest.

        1. Selina Luna*

          You are incorrect, and you’re being kind of obtuse. Quiet quitting is when you stop doing all the extra crap that an employer has come to expect, but that they are NOT compensating you or promoting you for. Basically, some employers want someone who will work the jobs of 2 or more employees, but they want to pay for 1 or fewer employees, and quiet quitting is the silent protest against that.

          Therefore, quiet firing would not be akin to giving us the compensation they offered us in a 1-to-1 deal. Quiet firing is what many employers are already doing-piling responsibility, expectations, and additional work onto employees without actually ever compensating them.

          1. ferrina*

            My point is that some employers are claiming that employers doing exactly what they are paid for (and not doing more than what they are compensated for) is “quiet quitting”. That’s disingenuous by employers- these employees are doing their job, but not doing the extras. i.e., doing exactly what they agreed to.

            Yet when employers do exactly what exactly what they agreed to, they don’t see themselves as “not team players”. Some have the audacity to even call themselves “generous” (for providing the compensation they agreed to). If we hold employers to the same “above and beyond” standards as they “quiet quitting” employees, we’d be demanding regular bonuses and non-negotiated paid holidays, and any employer that did otherwise was sub-par (even if they provided a strong compensation package as part of their agreement with employee).

            ps. I don’t think I’m obtuse- I think I’m rather A Cute.

            1. Despachito*


              How is “quiet quitting” doing exactly what you are paid for, not less, but also not more?

              Would you think a restaurant stiffed you if they brought you one pizza instead of two if you just paid for one pizza?

            2. Anonymous this time*

              Am I wrong in thinking the term wasn’t coined by employers, but by fed up employees who decided they’d just do their actual job and nothing more? I thought employers just responded to their employee’s quiet quitting with their own “nobody wants to work anymore”.

              1. Despachito*

                But in this case still it would be tainted by the (wrong) idea that doing what you are paid for (not slacking but not bending over backwards either) is somehow NOT doing enough.

                If someone expected to be able to buy a new Ferrari for the price of an old beater, most of us would think she is completely out of her mind. Why do we not use the same thinking at work?

              2. ferrina*

                IIRC, “quiet quitting” was originally not doing the actual job, but rather doing as little as possible while not getting fired. So doing 60-80% of the job description, or doing just enough to not be worth the turn over cost, but not doing well. Or showing up for 40 hours, but deliberately going so slowly that you only end up doing 20 hours of work.

                I’m not sure when it got co-opted to include good employees who are productive but say no to overtime and extra projects.

              3. Twix*

                It was – I believe it originated on the Anti-Work subreddit – and it originally referred to doing the absolute minimum to avoid getting fired. But it was quickly co-opted and redefined as a pejorative for “refusing to do work beyond the scope of your job and compensation” as part of the “hustle culture” marketing campaign a lot of employers are pushing in response to the changing balance of power in the labor market and a lot of employees realizing they don’t have to let themselves be exploited.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Oooh, I like it. “I was quietly fired when the company paid my agreed on salary” is as ridiculous as “I quietly quit by doing everything in my job description.”

        3. Cait*

          What I mean is, if employers are using the term “quiet quitting” to suggest that employees who work the exact hours they’re expected, won’t do overtime, won’t come in on weekends, won’t answer the phone on Sunday, won’t respond to emails on vacation, won’t take on more projects for no extra pay, etc., then employees can use the term “quiet firing” to describe employers as I did above.

      2. Sarah*

        I’d call it wage theft – not paying people for the work they are doing. Some of those practices, anyways.

    2. Lydia*

      I still firmly believe this is a way to keep employees producing by making them think they’re being rebellious. I want to know where this idea came from and how it gained so much traction, because it definitely still favors employers over employees.

    3. one L lana*

      There appears to be a widespread belief that this term came from employers to refer to employees’ actions in a negative way, but my impression was that it was the other way around — “quiet quitting” started going around tiktok etc. as a form of rebellion against a job you can’t afford to quit.

      either way, it’s a dumb rebranding, to be clear.

      1. Education Mike*

        That’s my understanding too, but I think that in the larger sense it’s still coming from the employers. They’re the ones that pushed the mentality that doing the job you are paid to do for 40 hours a week then closing your laptop and going home is somehow slacking.

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      It’s extremely dumb and very misleading. I am annoyed enough legitimate media are reporting on it, but it’s becoming an accepted term.

      Additionally I have always been salaried and I have never gone crazily above and beyond what my duties entail so I am baffled by “doing the job you were hired to do and not working extra” is a new trend. I have never been trendy … until now apparently. Who are these masses of people that need to “quietly quit” (ugh) because they’ve been doing extra with no recognition.

      1. Mockingjay*

        “Who are these masses of people that need to “quietly quit” (ugh) because they’ve been doing extra with no recognition.”

        I was one until a few years ago. Frog in the boiling pot.

        How does it start, you may ask. You get a job, you do your tasks well and go home. Boss recognizes your work ethic and proficiency, and hands you a special task. Delighted with the praise, you immediately tackle special task and complete it spectacularly. Boss leans on you some more. After awhile, you protest and Boss says, “But I need you! You are the only reliable/error-free/organized/etc. person who can do Special Tasks A-Z!” Okay, how about a promotion and raise, then? “Oh, sorry, not in the budget this year.”

        In truth, there’s no simplistic explanation or solution. Ours is a society that ties self-worth to our job titles and company ‘rank,’ which is why moving up turns into a power struggle. Limited worker protections under states’ “right to work/at will” statutes give employers enormous power over employees. Deregulation of corporations in the 80s and 90s led to extreme profits for top shareholders at the expense of worker salaries. Add in the (U.S) unique condition that companies, not government, supply health care and other benefits, and people end up staying at crappy workplaces for a lot of not good reasons.

        Another painful but honest point: I can get away with quiet quitting due to seniority. I think that younger or middle workers who do the same may eventually be penalized career-wise. I hope not.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I was one, too, until I realized that my job would never give back to me the energy, time, or thought that I was giving to it. Now I have time for myself. I just wish I’d figured all that out sooner.

          1. Anonymous this time*

            Me, too! Though, like Mockingjay, I was at the end of my career. I was the person my boss piled work on because I was so dang reliable and I burned out. I started to just do my actual job about 6 months before retiring and it felt like a vacation.

        2. Alternative Person*

          This pretty much. I’m straddling a very fine line between going above and beyond and not doing more than I’m paid for right now because corporate HQ finally realized that cutting out middle management was a bad idea. I was given a secondment (with a (temp) pay increase that brings me up to about 80% of the full role) to bridge the worst of the gap while they wait for the overall management structure to settle (in the middle of a re-org with a planned expansion) and the company’s archaic bureaucracy to actually ‘create’ the positions.

          I have a lot of mixed feelings about it because while I’ve had my eye on this kind of work for a while now, the secondment feels like the company is trying to cheat me out of the full rate and title, but I can’t afford to not to take it because this kind of position experience is pretty key to long term growth/opportunities and given recent practices, if I don’t take it now, I could easily be waiting 5+ years for another chance.

      2. Beth*

        “These masses of people” are all the people who spent their younger years being told that the way to get ahead is to go above and beyond their job description. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that you need to show you can do a higher-level role before you can expect to get promoted into it, or that you need to be a top performer to expect a raise bigger than 2% (when inflation is pretty much always higher than that), or that being assigned a new task is a “growth opportunity” for you to develop new skills and experience that will look good on your resume. If you’re at a really good employer–one that pays close attention to their employees’ development and consistently rewards hard work–then these behaviors can make sense. But most employers aren’t that attentive or loyal to their employees! And especially for new workers, who have time, energy, and ambition but not a lot of experience and whose mentors are probably telling them some of the above, it can take a while to realize that their efforts aren’t going to pay off the way they expected.

        It’s unfortunate that the term ‘quiet quitting’ has become mostly a term that employers use to try to shame employees. The first time I heard it, it was from young people telling each other that the myths I mentioned above aren’t true–warning their peers to make sure their employer is worth the effort before putting extra time or energy into their jobs. I liked that use of it a lot better.

    5. StellaBella*

      The unhealthy work culture is in many places. I work in Europe. My org is very much about burning people out and asking more from us than we can give.

    6. whingedrinking*

      Yeah, when I first heard the term, I thought it meant, like, in your mind you’ve already checked out of the job, you just haven’t told anybody yet. So you’re doing stuff like discreetly (or not so discreetly) job-hunting and slacking off. Imagine my surprise when I was told that apparently, you can be fully invested in your work, not planning your exit, and in fact doing a stellar job – but you’re still a “quitter” if you don’t work for free.

    7. Luna*

      I’ll be honest, when I came across the term “quiet quitting”, I thought it mean the employee finishes their task for the day and then leaves, not returning. Not even mentioning that they are actually quitting or resigning, just… poof. Gone without a word. That kinda ‘quiet quitting’.

  3. Mostly Managing*

    If your company relies on volunteer work from paid employees to get everything done, there is something fundamentally wrong with your business model.
    It’s volunteer (or voluntold!) work if it’s unpaid; extra hours, missing lunch breaks, etc.
    There are some upper level management jobs where an occasional late evening is required because something went wrong, but I think even those should be the exception rather than a daily/weekly expectation.

    Need more hours? Hire more people.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yes! It’s a staffing issue that employees no longer feel the need to help resolve & management refuses to see!

    2. Dinwar*

      “Need more hours? Hire more people.”

      The problem is, it’s not that simple.

      First, hiring new people costs 3x as much as their salary. That’s VERY rough, but it’s the rule of thumb in consulting. Unless you’re planning on earning 3x the profit, hiring new people means you’re losing money.

      Second, and more importantly, you have slow times. Every business ebbs and flows. If you hire enough people to cover the flows you can’t afford them during the ebbs. I’ve heard that you want 80% of the workers you think you’ll need to cover the busy times. This means that your workers will be doing extra when things get busy. This is supposed to be balanced out by having them work less during slow periods.

      Both of those can be mitigated by temp staff, if the industry allows for it (try finding a temp staff agency that can get you a certified welder with 40-hour HAZWOPER training…).

      The issue is that companies often fail to realize that their baseline has expanded. Employees don’t generally want to screw over the company (it’s in their best interest for the company to remain afloat, after all) so they tend to work a bit harder when needed. This can mask the fact that baseline workload has increased to the point where you now only have 70% or 60% of what you need to cover truly busy times. That means you’re essentially in “busy times” mode all the time.

      To be clear, I AM NOT blaming employees. I’m not blaming anyone. What I’m saying is everyone is doing what they think is best and it creates a situation where despite no one doing anything wrong bad outcomes occur. Managers should be paying attention to this. Employees should be pushing back against extra work. But often they just try to get through the week and end up not realizing just how bad things are.

      1. Combinatorialist*

        The problem with this is that it is perfectly reasonable to make “giving extra in the busy time” part of people’s job assuming that

        1. the “busy time” isn’t all the time and
        2. the business provides flexibility and down time in the not busy times and
        3. the business compensates them appropriately (which can mean lots of different things).

        Expecting workers to go with the ebb and flow of business is a perfectly reasonable expectation as part of their job. But if you expect your workers to cover your ebb and flow but give no flexibility to theirs and no reward for doing so… that’s on you and is your fault

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Yup. All of this emphasis on “leanness” really means that you drive employees to go above and beyond and then punish them by shrugging and assuming that it’s just what they should have been doing all along – rather than seeing it as a devoted and/or terrified unsustainable temporary push of effort that they were not compensated extra for.

          1. Dinwar*

            It’s a misapplication of the concept of lean management–the same misapplication that hurt the supply chain earlier. Lean management, including just-in-time deliveries, was originally intended to limit the stockpiling of certain components to lower costs. Not all components are the same, however. In some cases substitutions are relatively easy (say, paint). In some (say, computer chips) not having that component shuts down production. Folks forgot to do the hard part of figuring out which components could be delivered in a just-in-time fashion and which were key components that required a stockpile to ensure continued, uninterrupted operations.

            Similarly, lean management in terms of staff should mean that you have enough staff to get the job done EVEN IF something goes sideways. If you simply reduce the staff to the bare minimum what you have isn’t a lean management system, but a fragile one. If something happens to one person the whole thing flies apart.

            Unfortunately the shift between lean and fragile is very, very, very easy. There’s no hard line here. different events, for example, can impact teams different ways. Someone being mildly ill is totally different from someone breaking their tibia, for example–at least in my work the former is easier to deal with due to the lower time cost. And the longer you’re lean the more you assume that you can reduce costs, especially if you have diligent staff. They’ve handled this workload before, after all! (Never mind the fact that a one-time push is nearly infinitely easier than a baseline workload increase.)

            This is where you need good executives and upper management. You need someone to slap the manager upside the head (figuratively, mostly) and tell them they’re being a flipping moron. Without that it’s really hard to see that the water your in is starting to boil.

            1. Lydia*

              It doesn’t matter what lean management is supposed to be if it’s actually being implemented in the way the US uses it. And I would put out there that this is the first time lean management has ever truly been put to the test and it failed.

              1. Dinwar*

                “…the way the US uses it.”

                “The US” doesn’t do this. Certain firms do. They get a lot of press so everyone assumes they’re the most common, but without putting in the work to tabulate it I’m not sure we can know whether this is a dominant trend or not.

                “And I would put out there that this is the first time lean management has ever truly been put to the test and it failed.”

                I’ll grant that it’s the first time it’s been tested to this degree. I’m not sure it’s fair to say it’s failed, though. Lean systems were also tested, and while it looks like they failed (the supply chain collapsed), careful analysis has shown that those institutions that failed did so because they failed to implement key aspects of that supply management methodology, failures that were identified and criticized before the pandemic. I think a similar analysis would show lean management of staff suffers the same failures. You don’t want to duplicate staff, for fairly obvious reasons, but some roles DO need redundancy. Firms that failed to identify those key roles almost certainly suffered more than firms that did identify them.

                1. Fishsticks*

                  “an systems were also tested, and while it looks like they failed (the supply chain collapsed), careful analysis has shown that those institutions that failed did so because they failed to implement key aspects of that supply management methodology”

                  Yes, because “just in time” and “lean” staffing in a growth-at-all-costs economy will ALWAYS prioritize ignoring any aspect of supply management that doesn’t cut costs or result in increased profit for the shareholders/corporations.

                  Lean/just in time failed when tested, because it was never designed to meet the challenge of more than any one thing going wrong at the same time.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Also, it has to be within reasonable limits. My company seems to have it in their head that people are cool with flexing 20 hours a week. Like we can ask our part-time staff to flex up to around 25 hours a week in the busy season but then only give them maybe 5 hours a week in the non-busy times? And flex our full-timers up to their full 40 hours a week in busy times but only give them 30 hours the rest of the time. We keep telling them that people have lives and bills, and the vast majority of qualified workers want a job where they have roughly the same schedule and income every week. But they keep trying to make this fantasy work where we supposedly have part-timers who are happy to get only 5 hours a week but are also happy to randomly pick up an unexpected 8 hour shift if someone is out sick or something.

          1. hot buttered anon*

            My spouse took a part time job to ensure time at home to manage our farm business. New manager decided a rotating schedule was easier for her to impose, so now there is no way to plan ahead, take a class, make medical appointments etc without upsetting 3 other people’s schedules. This is for a 20-hour $20/hr job. The only upside is that there are good benefits and it’s union, which is rare in my area.

            1. Luna*

              So glad that my own 20 hours a week schedule tends to get written down several weeks ahead of time, so I can see about when I’ll work or have a day off and say I can go to the doc on that day, at this time, without having to request a day off or ask for any schedule changes.

          2. what's in a name*

            I applied for a job through a temp agency that looked like exactly what I’m looking for. The agent called me and told me they’re in their busy season now so it will be 40 hours a week until the end of the month (September, since that’s when I had applied), but they couldn’t guarantee full time hours after that. I withdrew my application, but I’ve seen that same job posted to four separate temp agencies’ job lists multiple times for the last month and a half, so I guess I’m not the only one who didn’t want that.

            Turns out, it’s hard to get people to accept your job if you tell them you can’t guarantee they’ll earn enough money to cover their bills.

          3. münchner kindl*

            It can work if people, even part-timers, are employed as salaried. Then flex time balances out over the month or year, but the income stays the same.

            That’s how our contracts and flex-time are done outside US.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I worked for way too long at a salaried job that required 60-hour weeks during crunch time and 45-hour weeks during slack times. If your hours ever dipped below 40 hours–even after a 60-hour week–your manager was expected to discipline you. Same if you stopped recording your exact hours worked, even though none of the hours were billable or eligible for overtime.

          At one point they introduced an exciting new flex-time plan where people who put in 50 hours + travel time during one week could earn a work-from-home day the next week.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. Nowadays I would leave after three months or less. I’m so over that kind of crap it isn’t even funny.

        4. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, exactly.

          I’m happy to pitch in and do extra outside my job description for my current employer… because I trust that it’s either a genuinely rare emergency, or they will compensate me fairly for the additional work somehow (raises, flexibility, trainings/assignments I’m interested in, advancement opportunities). Often both things at once.

          But it’s one thing to do a ton of extra work because the building is literally on fire and getting compensated for the effort, vs taking on constant additional unpaid labor.

      2. Lacey*

        If you can’t make enough money to cover the extra hours you need… I guess you can’t afford those extra hours?

        All of my employers have solved the problem of the ebbs of business by hiring enough people to handle the busiest time and then expecting us to have down time and just making sure they charge enough during the busy time to cover that down time!

        One had such predictable slow times that they would schedule special projects for that time. Others let me figure out how to use that time and I would work ahead on projects I knew would be coming up. My current job is not that predictable so if it’s slow, you just enjoy it!

        1. Dinwar*

          There are various ways to handle it, sure. I know some companies do a lot of the training during the traditionally slow times, especially around the holidays. My line of business requires a lot of travel (75% isn’t unusual, 90%+ is on the high end but not considered unreasonable) and also is seasonal (hard to put a well in under 3′ of snow), so “Come into the office and do your training during the winter holiday season” is a common way to manage downtime.

          That said, there’s a huge difference between extra HOURS (which can be done by working overtime) and extra PEOPLE (which requires payment of benefits, insurance, hiring, onboarding, and a bunch of other stuff). Hours are fairly cheap, provided you can get them. People are more expensive and harder to come by. The “quiet quitting” thing is, fundamentally, an attempt to increase the scarcity of the former to make the latter a better financial choice.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            The “quiet quitting” thing is, fundamentally, an attempt to increase the scarcity of the former to make the latter a better financial choice.

            If “quiet quitting” is a thing, it’s much more … fundamentally … a realization by individuals that they don’t have to give away their work (time, effort, attention, etc) for free. Why work *extra* hours, work *extra* hard, give up whatever else you could be doing for no benefit, or a benefit that’s not worth the trade off? In the past it might have been necessary to keep your job … or at least that was the messaging. But in this job market, there may be other jobs to be had where that is not a requirement.

            The one time in my work life I did what might be called “quiet quitting” I was not attempting to make hiring more staff a better option for my employer by not being available. I was reclaiming control over my life, schedule to have my work life be much more in line with the compensation I was getting for it. There had been no benefit *to me* of giving 110% – 150% more hours, effort to my job. So I just stopped doing that, and did 100% of my job.
            The extra 10-50% that no longer was getting done wasn’t my concern, or the point.

      3. Fikly*

        Except everyone isn’t doing their best for everyone. That’s a false premise.

        Upper leadership is almost always well aware of what they are doing, and working very hard to get everything they can out of workers for the least amount of cost possible. Capitalism promotes this intensely. And the more they do this, the more money they make, which just perpetuates the cycle.

        1. Brooklyn*

          Exactly this. Look at the number of businesses that are preparing for a recession by doing layoffs now. CEOs become CEOs by skimming the margins, not by being good to their employees. Please name the last time a major US corporation gave out unpromised profit sharing, and consider that about 17% of workers are victims of wage theft, adding up to about $8 billion in stolen wages every year.

          Also 3x is the cost of hiring, not the ongoing cost of an employee. The actual running cost is usually ~1.5x the salary. Decrease turnover (by paying people what they’re worth and giving them good work life balance) and you don’t have to pay 3x.

          1. Avril Ludgateaux*

            100% in agreement with what you’ve written, but one note: by “preparing for a recession” surely you mean “engineering a recession,” since unemployment decreases spending and mobility, and is both a cause and symptom of recession.

            1. Fishsticks*

              Well, and the Feds have said outright they’re raising interest rates and trying to engineer a recession in order to lower wages and “cut inflation”… by taking from employees but allowing employers to price gouge with impunity.

        2. Despachito*

          It is fun you mention capitalism – I am from a former socialist country which was full of quiet quitters. It was a logical result of the reasoning that no matter how hard you work, it will not make you any richer. So why bother?

      4. Hannah Lee*

        ‘ “Need more hours? Hire more people.”

        The problem is, it’s not that simple. ‘

        It isn’t. But if companies can’t afford to hire (and compensate) the staff they need to operate, provide the product, service they are providing at their baseline and accommodate the busy times AND manage the ebb and flow of that without putting ALL the downsides on their employees, then they don’t have a sustainable business model and need to to back to the drawing board.

        IME, often the “we can’t afford to staff up” enough to avoid the burn-out inducing heavy workloads happens at the same time executive base pay, bonuses and extra compensation are increasing, AND increasing not just in $$ but also as a % of pay rates, sales, etc. That 3x salary figure for a new-hire individual contributor sounds scary, but in most cases it is a drop in the bucket compared to one executive’s increase in compensation year over year. Take 5-10% out of the executive staff budget and applying it elsewhere in the organization could, in fact, fund more appropriate, sustainable staffing levels. Managing for slightly lower profit margins could do the same thing (again, likely taking a bit mostly out of the pockets of owners, executive staff, investors) Trade offs like that have always been a part of running a business, but pay disparities and who reaps the benefits of growth, of productivity gains have been favoring executives, owners, investors more and more at the expense of workers, for decades.

        There is definitely a “boiling frog” aspect to it, as you describe. But at the end of the day, many owners, managers have been doing what they can get away with (what they think is best… for them) but at a cost to to their employees (in time, quality of life, health, opportunity costs, etc). Employees recognizing it and drawing a line by choosing to do their jobs instead of 1.1 or 1.2 or 1.5 x their jobs isn’t a bad thing. It’s simply pushing the impact of management staffing decisions back on the people who are making them.

        1. Big Bank*

          This is what frustrating me no end right now with inflation. The narrative is that we need to cut people to address the growing costs. That’s false. You can cut staff, increase consumer costs and/or you can cut profits. But we’ve gotten to the point where somehow profit cuts are outside the calculus. It doesn’t matter if the current profit model of the company is built on overworked staff. It’s just simply not allowed to touch profits.

          1. Burger Bob*

            Always happens when a company goes public. Once you have shareholders to worry about, you’re not allowed to stop increasing profits if there is any other option.

          2. Starbuck*

            Right, businesses in the aggregate are enjoying record profits and the idea that there should be any possible impact to that is just unthinkable. It’s extremely anti-worker, anti-consumer, heck it’s just anti-anyone-who’s-not-extremely-rich.

      5. Charlotte Lucas*

        Weren’t there some studies a few years ago that found a benefit to being fully staffed during the busy times & overstaffed in the slow times? It gives employees a chance to work on “extra” projects (often stuff that needs to be done but isn’t too priority). And it allows for creative thinking & problem solving that ultimately benefits everyone during the busy times.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          And also, it allows for people to schedule time off when it won’t create problems of workflow. …. for vacations, family care, medical procedures, etc.

      6. Selina Luna*

        I get what you’re saying, but the employees who are doing quiet quitting aren’t usually in places where they’re just experiencing a typical ebb and flow of business. It’s the employees who find themselves ALWAYS working, who are expected to check emails and calls and do work outside their normal work hours, for whom 60 hour weeks are always the expectation, not the exception.
        If you have your employees work 60 hours a week 3-4 weeks out of the year, that’s fine. If you expect them to do so more than half the year, you should consider hiring another person or at least prioritizing what work really needs to be done. Accountants work 60 hours a week until April. If they’re doing so in October, that’s a staffing problem.

      7. John*

        This is not how the vast majority of companies work – at most salaried jobs, you still have to come in 40 hours a week during slow times, and they’ll still want you to come in extra when it’s busy.

      8. Avril Ludgateaux*

        First, hiring new people costs 3x as much as their salary. That’s VERY rough, but it’s the rule of thumb in consulting. Unless you’re planning on earning 3x the profit, hiring new people means you’re losing money.

        Corporate profits have gone up 40% since 2010. CEO pay is, on average, over 300x that of a minimum wage worker. They can afford it. Stop making excuses because “well b school always says you have to understaff.”

        For that matter, temp agencies and consultants both exist and fill a core need for truly temporary positions. If the cost of a suitable number of temps or consultants during “the busy season” is too much, then you’re hiring too many for too long and you are well and truly understaffed, not “experiencing seasonal spikes” or whatever.

      9. Beth*

        Yeah, so, this isn’t actually automatically true. You’re right that there are busy periods and quieter periods in every business, and you’re right that it’s not realistic to hire maintain perfect staffing levels at all times (hiring and training take time, temp labor pools may not offer enough potential employees with the skills you need, etc).

        But there are actually two solutions to that. One is the lean staffing thing you’re advocating here: hire what you need for slow-to-average periods and expect your employees to step up and work extra during crunch times. The other is to staff for busy periods, and have some leeway in your staffing during less busy times.

        Of course businesses love the idea that they can minimize their labor costs by relying on the former! But that deal sucks for employees. It means you’re expected to drop other activities you usually spend your time on in favor of your employer’s needs when they say they’re busy, that you’re expected to put in extra labor beyond what you originally agreed to (often without much reward, or without reward enough to really balance out the work), that you can’t really count on having a routine schedule, that you get less time with loved ones…a million bad things. It’s not cost-free; it’s just employers shifting the cost of their labor off of their budget sheets and onto their workers.

        And that sucks. Businesses should be accounting for the full cost of their needed resources–including labor. If a business needs 3 workers from November through March and 6 from April through October, then their options should be to either pay to hire and train new employees every spring, or to staff for their busy period and accept that their employees will be less busy in winter, whichever is easier and cheaper for them. Expecting their 3 employees to work double during the busy months is just exploitation.

    3. Library in the Middle*

      Please see the entire public education system in America. Run on unpaid (mostly female) overtime.

    4. ferrina*

      There are certain jobs where longer weeks is expected (see: big law attorney). But that also comes with a certain compensation.

      I work in an industry where we have times of high workloads and times of low workloads. As a manager, I try to balance the overtime by giving time off during the slow times. It averages out (honestly, a bit in the employer’s favor- even less reason for them to complain).

      This is also why crosstraining and having strong priorities is key- when it’s busy for a 3-month stretch, that’s too long to demand 50-60 hour weeks, but not long enough for a new hire to make sense. That’s why I crosstrain- so we have additional personnel on hand if needed. It’s also why it’s important to know priorities- if I need additional personnel, it means they aren’t getting their other work done. So the employer needs to decide what work gets the limited amount of overtime – they can’t have their endless overtime and their employees too.

      1. Big Bank*

        On paper this “balancing out time” makes sense, but it doesn’t work in the real world. There are things as humans we miss out during those busy times that you can’t ever, ever get back. Maybe it’s time to realize that it’s not okay for businesses to expect people to discard their relationships just because of work, and just deal with overstaffing during the ebbs.

        1. ferrina*

          It does work for some people, and I know plenty of real world people that this does work for. Of course it doesn’t work for everyone, and it definitely shouldn’t be applied indiscriminately across the board. But some industries have overtime cycles as a fact of the business (think retail work during the holidays, or accountants in tax season, or florists during wedding season). If we tried to “overstaff” as you suggest, we’d all need to take a big pay cut (20k+) for the business just to stay afloat (no profits), and that paycut would hurt me and my family more than the occasional long night.

          fwiw, this lifestyle works for me and my family. I have a couple late nights each month, and it hasn’t killed my relationship with my kids. Do they like it? Of course not. But they also know that it’s very temporary, and I’ll be back to playing with them soon (and if they were sick or had something immediate, someone else would do my work and I’d be there for them). It also gives them the occasional early pick-up days where we can spend extra time playing and have a more leisurely evening.

      2. MeepMeep123*

        When I worked at BigLaw, we were expected to be there 24/7 on intense weeks (literally; lots of people pulled all-nighters to get all the work done), and 9-to-5 on slow weeks. We never actually got time off. You’re a nice manager, but most managers aren’t, and BigLaw managers certainly aren’t.

        I’m a self-employed lawyer now, and when there’s a slow period at work, I actually unplug and take time off rather than sitting at the office 9 to 5.

      3. TechWorker*

        Also I just don’t think everyone is physically capable of 60 hour weeks (for 3 months?) – so you discriminate against anyone with even mild health issues in your hiring?
        I work a low-medium stress middle management job – I am paid 6 figures and get good reviews. I also get migraines and working ~50 hours is enough to trigger that to the point where I sometimes end up having to take a day off after a long week. On average it costs me maybe 3-4 work days a year. There is no way I could work 60 hour weeks for 3 months.

        1. TechWorker*

          Woooops I misread your sentence as ‘3 months isn’t too long to require 60 hour weeks’ – glad on a reread to realise you actually said it *is* too long. Sorry! The rest stands :p

          1. Reluctant Job Hunter*

            Just to emphasize your point, I worked 50-70+ hours weeks for the better part of more than three years, and it wrecked my health. I still haven’t recovered nearly three years later. My employers back then knew exactly what they were doing. The company regularly boasted about record profits while underpaying and overworking us.

          2. ferrina*

            TechWorker, sounds like you and I are on the same page! I’ve done a couple multi-month stints where I had to work 50+ hrs/wk, and it was awful! (and I don’t even have health issues!) The most I’ve ever asked my team for was 2 weeks at 50+ hrs, usually followed by at least one short week. (my industry requires occasional tight deadlines and long hours). And when a team member isn’t physically capable/has other commitments, we’re able to juggle workloads so they are doing consistent 40 hrs while the other teammates take the extra hours+break. It’s all about finding balance within the team.

            And nope, definitely don’t discriminate against people who can’t work more than 40 hrs/wk! I’d miss out on a lot of great candidates if I did that.

      4. Westsidestory*

        Big Yes to cross-training. As a manager I always promoted this, but it was amazing that at many places the “upper” management pushed back and even forbade me from teaching staff new skills during slow periods. The big fear seemed to that a versatile, more valuable employee might dare to ask for a raise!

    5. Wisteria*

      If people are salaried, then they are getting paid.

      If people are hourly non-exempt and they are not getting paid, then their employer is violating labor law.

      Not sure where you are going with referring to paid work as volunteering.

      1. what's in a name*

        People are getting paid their normal standard salary for doing their normal standard work. And then, when things are short staffed or there’s a new initiative starting up or any number of other things that staff are asked to “volunteer” to cover, they’re getting paid their normal standard for their normal work plus whatever time and effort is required to cover the additional work.

        I’m a little salty about this today because I’m coming off a week when a bunch of people were out and I was covering so many people’s responsibilities I barely even had time to eat lunch, and the only response I got to all the extra energy I had to expend and all the extra exhaustion I ended up with was “well, I’m glad that all worked out!” I wasn’t expecting any financial compensation, but I didn’t even get a “thank you for handling that” or a “wow, that sounds rough, I’m sorry you got stuck with that.” Just, well, it worked out. Why should I put myself through that again the next time people are out if all I’m going to end up with is exhaustion and a shrug from the powers that be?

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly this. Just because I’m exempt doesn’t mean I have endless hours to give. I’m exempt with the understanding that most of my weeks will be around 40 hours. When I’m asked to work 60 hours/wk for several months because my boss can’t be bothered to hire the additional staff we need, or asked to do half of my boss’s job without a raise because my boss is incompetent, that’s not what I agreed to and not the tacit agreement when I negotiated my compensation. That’s the company negotiating in bad faith and trying to take advantage.

      2. Lydia*

        I would challenge this with, again, teachers. Teachers are salaried and the amount they are asked to do, required to do, expected to do, on their own time and dime is tantamount to volunteering.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s a tax exemption for money teachers spend out of their own pockets for school supplies. The fact that someone realized this was a very common practice and thought, “we should make a tax break for that” instead of “why on earth are we making teachers subsidize public schools” enrages me.

          1. Avril Ludgateaux*

            Want to be angrier? The tax deduction is $250 of classroom supplies per year. The average teacher spends 4 times that. And then parents complain that their kids are asked to bring tissues and Lysol wipes.

            1. Koli*

              And then complain they have to take time off when their kids are sick. Know what would help with that? Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, soap and tissues in your kids’ classrooms!

      3. Burger Bob*

        There are jobs where people put in additional work unasked because the tasks they’ve been given simply aren’t going to get done any other way. This is pretty common in my field, and I used to be that person who would stay an hour after my shift ended, totally unpaid, to finish up things there simply wasn’t time/staffing to complete during the business hours. The company has plausible deniability, because they never ASKED you to work extra, let alone unpaid. But you know–and you know that they must also know–that there’s not any other realistic way to get all the work done. When people who care about their work and their customer base are put in that situation, most of them will, for a time, go ahead and do the extra work. But likewise, a lot of us start opting out when we eventually accept that management has designed it to be that way as the norm rather than as the occasional exception.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s a great article about this called Sick Systems. It points out that the overwork leads to exhaustion and burnout that actually keeps employees trapped since they’re too tired to look for something better. And besides, it’s just for one more month, and then that raise they promised last year will finally come through, right? Right?

      4. Nina*

        I am salaried, with a salary I agreed to on the basis that I will usually be working roughly 45 hours a week, and that that may go up or down a bit depending on how much there is to be done.
        If my workload and workplace culture are such that it becomes normal and expected for me to work 60+ hour weeks for two years in a row, occasionally going an entire month without a single day off, occasionally working 26 hours in a row, then no, I’m not being paid appropriately and I am indeed doing a lot of volunteering.

  4. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    This should be required reading for all middle and upper managers in every workplace.

    1. Managing to get by*

      Oh believe me, middle managers know how ridiculous is. We suffer as much or more than line employees from our employers intentionally understaffing and we have no ability to increase staffing.

      I have more added to my role every year, am told I need to work on special projects in order to be “noticed” if I’m interested in moving up, and am told to pick up the slack when our team does not have the capacity to meet our volume requirements, and am blamed when the stupid surveys they do show that the team has low morale. And the last two years my raises have been less than 2%, because we need to give the staff higher raises to help retain employees, and we only get one bucket of money to spread around. If someone gets more someone else gets less, and the managers are expected to sacrifice for the team.

      BTW, if your employer does an engagement survey and you answer truthfully, it doesn’t cause leadership to rethink their staffing approach or what they demand from employee. It causes leadership to say there is something wrong with that team, and we end up with stupid, time-consuming engagement exercises instead of getting the staffing we need to do the work, and the managers get marked down on their year end reviews for not being able to make people magically happy to work 60 hours per week for middling wages.

      I’m just a few years from retirement and cannot wait to get out of the workforce. It’s gotten worse every decade.

  5. Michelle Smith*

    I love everything about this article. Thank you for continuing to speak out against this narrative.

  6. Will G*

    Thank you for writing this. Based on your previous output on “quiet quiting”. I previously got the impression you were sympathetic to the management complaint.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In the interests of transparency, I will say that I wouldn’t describe myself as “pro-worker” on every issue; there are some where I am more sympathetic to a different point of view. I try to be pro-human in general, but I wouldn’t back every demand a worker might make. (For example, there’s a letter coming tomorrow about a company that wants to return to their policy of requiring child care if you’re working remotely with little kids — and crucially, child care is back to normal availability in their area, which is a huge factor — and I think it’s perfectly reasonable for them to do that. I suppose you could say that’s not pro-worker — although I do think it’s pro-their-coworkers — but I still think it’s sensible to do.)

        1. Moonlight Elantra*

          I think sometimes people see the title of this blog and think “Of course this person (Alison) will always take the manager’s side!”

          Occasionally, hilarity ensues.

          1. DEJ*

            I still remember one person who got blasted for being a bad manager and specifically wrote in their update ‘I thought as Ask A Manager you would side with a manager.’ I have learned so much from Alison’s even-handed view of situations.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I initially thought that was the horrible Leap Year Birthday Boss, but it turns out that was the Mean Girls Clique Boss who, after that first cringeworthy update, lost their job, got some therapy, and gained some perspective.

  7. Sara without an H*

    I spent 35 years in higher education, where I was expected to do professional service. This usually involved work on committees that required regular travel, but the universities never provided enough travel funds to cover the costs. (Zoom had not yet been invented.) My admins told me I was “investing” in my professional growth, but the “investment” was never reflected in salaries or promotions.

    Passionate careerism was always a delusion.

    1. FORMERHigherEdPerson*

      Oh man, I feel this one down to my soul. I escaped from Higher Ed administration and YES to everything you said.
      The idea of taking on more without compensation because “STUDENTS” or being gaslit into believing that it was the norm to do all of the extra things – ugh, I can’t believe I feel into that trap for so many years! Even over the pandemic, every single meeting was about how we should be going “above and beyond for the students in this hard time” and no one gave a fig about us as staff/faculty. When I left a director-level role, my assistant director was given all my responsibilities. I advocated hard for her to be compensated appropriately, but was told flat out “we don’t do that here.” Ouch.

    2. snarkfox*

      This is why my academic dreams have slowly died. I want to be a professor and had an absolute blast when I was adjuncting, but the required unpaid labor just isn’t worth it to me.

      1. Roja*

        Ditto. I love adjuncting, and am happy teaching one class a semester. I have no desire to be a professor full-time. I saw what my own professors poured into us students, and I’m grateful, but I would like a life that allows time for literally anything other than work.

    3. Wolf*

      I feel your pain.
      For conferences, they took months to decide whether I was allowed to go, so there was no chance to book cheap options. Then we boooked everything on our own cost, and it took about a semester for the administration to decide what percentage they would pay.

  8. The Person from the Resume*

    I agree. I hate the term quiet quitting because it’s stupid. That’s not quitting. Doing your job without taking on extra work is not quitting.

    OTOH I was a bit unsure about some teacher quotes. (“no more grading or planning outside of school.”) My mom was a teacher; she’s been retired a few years now. She wasn’t paid enough, but it was understood that her job included (her low, low salary covered) certain things beyond teaching in the classroom. A teacher needs to plan lessons and grade test/homework/papers. She was an elementary teacher who didn’t get a break during the day for a planning period. She did grading and lesson planning at home, often on weekends. That should be understood. If a teacher’s planning period doesn’t allow for enough time to that while at school then they seem to have to do that “after hours” since lesson planning and grading is a requirement of job. It seems to me that if there’s grading not getting done or lessons not being planned that’s not an employee setting boundaries that’s simply an employee not fulfilling a basic requirement of the teacher’s job. An extra for a teacher seems to be facilitating student clubs or managing the play or the something like that.

    1. get what you pay for*

      Then isn’t is on the system to provide the time and resources to get this done during the workday? Teachers shouldn’t be an outlier job where they’re required to work “off the clock”. Employers INCLUDING school systems, government, nonprofit, healthcare, whatever all need to provide the pay and resources to get work done without underpaying folks and expecting “extra”. Guess what… working on your day off or after the workday is over is your employer expecting extra.

      1. Jaydee*

        This exactly! If a teaching job requires working a full day in the classroom (and other duties that aren’t a true prep period or true duty-free lunch) and then spending hours in the evenings and on weekends doing grading and lesson planning, either the teacher needs to be paid for those extra hours spent outside the school day or the school needs to hire more teachers and staff and rearrange their schedules so that teachers get an actual lunch and sufficient prep time during the day to do their grading and lesson planning.

    2. Ms. Teacher*

      As a teacher who resolved to do all my work during the contacted day (I have 55 minutes of prep), the main thing is that graded items take longer to get back. I find it interesting that you note how low teacher salary is but say it should just be an understood fact of the job – in my view, one thing or the other has to budge. Either you are compensated for work about 40 hours a week or your workload is adjusted.

      It being an understood part of the job is perhaps why teachers are leaving the profession in droves.

      Also, it should be a crime for a teacher to not have a planning period. Another reason unions are so important.

      1. Koli*

        As a school parent, I 1000% support you condensing work into paid hours in whatever means needed. If that means “easier to grade” assignments, ungraded assignments, fewer assignments, longer to get back, whatever it takes. The creativity in approaches and leveraging automated tools probably helps everyone. Save our teachers!!

      2. Selina Luna*

        It should be a crime for a teacher not to have a planning period and a crime for ANY employer to not allow for a duty-free lunch. I’m in a good school now, but one of my previous schools required at lunch that:
        1. I walk my TEENAGED STUDENTS to and from the cafeteria (teenagers should be able to walk themselves, and I think we would have seen way fewer behavior issues with fewer restrictions on little freedoms), and
        2. I police lunch every day, 5 days a week. I also had my prep taken away when one of the “specials” teachers was absent.
        By February, I had burned out of there (I stayed until the end of the school year, but I started job searching in February) and nearly left teaching altogether. I’ve had some difficult times since then, but that was the worst.

        1. Dr Crusher*

          That is shocking. How are they supposed to develop any sense of independence if a teacher is still walking them to lunch in their teens? What happens when they finish school and are suddenly fully independent but have no idea how it works? God help their future employers or university professors.

      3. Stace*

        I’m a parent and I am confused – aren’t public elementary school teachers paid for 40h/week? Since there are only about 4h per day of classes I thought the rest was supposed to be for grading / class prep. I am dismayed because our child’s teacher seems to grade homework and tests so rarely. I don’t even know how they are grading (and if I ask during parent-teacher conferences I get very generic responses). Are teachers only paid for hours they teach? If that’s the case it’s utterly ridiculous and not the teacher’s fault.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          What age of students do you have who attend 4 hours of classes per day? A lot of my family and friends are teachers, and the most common school day schedule among them is something like 7-3. The students will be out of the classroom for 30-40 minutes for lunch, and another 30-40 minutes for specials (PE, music, art), but the rest of the time they’re in the classroom with the teachers. Even kindergarten is full-day in most schools I’m aware of.

        2. dinner for me*

          Caveat: I’m not in the US, but in my country school days are 8:30-3:30. That’s 7 hours. That would give each teacher o e hour per day for: preparation, marking, and dealing with parents.

          Do kids only have 4 hours of school where you are?

          1. Katy*

            And that seven hours is just the time that the students are in school. Teachers are on the clock about a half hour before students arrive and a half hour after students leave, so it adds up to an 8-hour workday. Here’s how it breaks down, typically.

            5 hours of is in-person active teaching, usually on your feet and with lots of physical movement.

            1 hour is planning, prep, grading, emailing, etc, for 5 or 6 classes, 150+ students, and usually 2 or 3 different lesson plans.

            At least 45 minutes is spent setting up the classroom at the start of the day and putting things away at the end, while being available to meet with students and colleagues.

            About 45 minutes is lunch, during which teachers stay in school and are available to meet with students or colleagues, and during which they may also supervise clubs or patrol the lunchroom.

            The rest is miscellaneous – homeroom/advisory/tutorial and passing periods, during which the teacher is actively working.

            So if anyone is going, “Oh, you’re only teaching for 5 hours,” (which btw is sort of like saying “Oh, Bruce Springsteen only plays 4-hour concerts,”) that’s where the rest of the time goes. It’s not time that teachers can spend grading. We have to put in hours outside of work just to have everything planned, and grading is the last thing on our list because it can wait, whereas we absolutely have to have a lesson ready when class starts.

        3. Starbuck*

          4hrs a day of classes? Are you sure about that? That’s definitely very, very unusual. Most teachers are with kids 6-7 hours a day.

          1. BubbleTea*

            It is often claimed that children only spend 3 to 4 hours actually LEARNING during the schoolday, but that’s not to say that teachers aren’t working during all the times that the kids are messing around, putting stuff away, looking for things, queueing etc.

        4. Selina Luna*

          I admit I teach high school, but elementary school teachers are NOT only teaching 4 hours of classes per day. There are usually 2 ten minute recess periods, 1 thirty minute lunch, and 1 forty minute “specials” period. That’s 90 minutes where they’re not teaching, and meetings often take that up.
          They teach about 6 hours per day-the breakdown is different everywhere, but two hours for reading, an hour for writing, two hours for math, and an hour split between crafts (vitally important for motor skills, tool use, and problem-solving skills) and science is not an uncommon set of hours. If there is history, it’s usually thrown in with reading, not a separate subject on its own.

        5. Ex-Teacher*

          When I last taught, my contract hours were 7:45 am to 3:30 pm- just about 8 hours a day. Of that, I had typically 6-7 hours of student contact between teaching and other duties. Planning/prep got an hour a day at most.

          Typically an elementary teacher has student contact from the moment the kids arrive in the morning until they get on the bus and leave, minus usually one special class a day and sometimes lunch period. Assuming lunch and a special are 35-40 minutes each (and assuming the teacher isn’t supervising lunch, something that’s often not true), that’s only about an hour a day to do non-contact work like grading, planning, calling/emailing parents, etc. Even though the classes are only 4 hours (ballpark, and I’m not convinced it’s a good ballpark) there’s still other supervision- recess, taking kids from one class to the next, lunch duty.

          Assuming your teacher is paid for 20 hours/week of prep and administrative work like grading is a faulty assumption.

    3. High Score!*

      Yeah, this tells me that teachers need paid better and, if they’re expected to work more hours than everyone else, then they should have assistants.
      Although TBF teachers get things like summer pay when they’re not working and tenure. A tenured teacher who doesn’t teach is a nightmare – got stuck with one of those once.
      The answer is to treat teaching jobs like other jobs: Fair pay for hours worked, held accountable, no tenure, good raises for good work and no extra hours.

      1. Combinatorialist*

        Most places with “summer pay” for teachers isn’t really summer pay. At least where I am (my husband is a teacher), he can have his 9 months of salary paid in 9 months or paid throughout the year. It’s the same amount of money, just divided differently (because many people find it easier to budget when the amount coming in each month is constant). So he gets “paid” in the summer, but it’s for work he did the previous school year.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          And most of the teachers I know have more than nine months of school. The school year here starts in late August and runs until early June. That’s ten months – and there are three days before and after the students school year where teachers need to be present. One of my recently retired teacher friends said “its really more like six weeks by the time you do before school starts prep stuff and the after school is done clean up”

          So if we do the math on six weeks that’s 240 hours worth of “vacation” – if we spread that over the 44 remaining weeks of the school year (one week off at the end of December and one for Spring Break), you are buying five and a half hours of extra time (based off 40 hour work weeks). I have run into a few teachers who only put in 45 hours a week (and a few who put it less than 40) but they are rare.

      2. Ex-Teacher*

        >summer pay

        Unless the teacher was working during the summer (for summer school or similar) there’s no “summer pay”. You usually had the option to break up your checks in to 21 pay periods or 26, but the amount of salary was the same no matter what.

      3. Johnny Karate*

        Hi. Teacher’s do not get paid for not working in the summer. They are paid for the time they work, and that pay is split into 26 paychecks. When I took an unpaid parental leave for 12 weeks, I lost a third of my yearly pay instead of the 24ish% I’d have lost if we actually got paid for all the weeks of the year.

        Also, tenure does not prevent teachers from being fired. It requires an administrator to actually do their job, document the reasons, and follow a plan. Which isn’t that dissimilar to a lot of big corporate jobs.

        Teachers are help accountable for their performance, which is also affected by a million factors that are ENTIRELY out of their control. I can’t make my students not homeless and underfed, but I’m sure as heck going to be evaluated on if they showed growth on their end of year tests.

        In conclusion, no. Just no.

      4. Language Lover*

        Summer pay isn’t summer pay unless they’re teaching summer school.

        The summer pay you’re thinking about is often a decision in how compensation is doled out. A teacher’s salary is for 9-10 months. As a (former) teacher, I had the choice to get a paycheck for 9-10 months or I could elect to have my pay spread out over 12 months. It’s still the same amount of money.

        The one “advantage” of teaching is they have approximately 2 to 2.5 months of an annual break in the summer. However, they’re often expected to pay to do professional development (more education) during that time so it’s not as much of a break until they reach a certain level.

        And tenure isn’t a thing in every school. It’s often associated with strong unions. Teachers can still be fired but it requires actual effort on the part of administration/management.

      5. Library in the Middle*

        There is no summer pay. I elect to get 26 smaller paychecks every other week rather than only being paid the weeks we work. My contract is 192 days and that is what I am paid for streched out over the year.

      6. CharlieBrown*

        Reality check: Tenure protects good teachers from ridiculous parents, of which there are plenty and their numbers seem to be increasing.

        I’m sorry you got saddled with a bad one, but that’s no reason to ditch the system. You had an administrator who should have been doing their job, but didn’t.

      7. Asenath*

        Summer pay for teachers, in my part of the world, is the money earned between September and June. It’s just pro-rated over the whole year for the convenience of teachers who want a steady ‘income’ over 12 months instead of a larger ‘income’ over 10. I think, way back in the day, teachers were paid only during the school year, and when the system changed, the toal amount they got paid per year didn’t go up.

      8. The Crowening*

        Uggghh, not the old “summer pay” myth. I have heard this used as an excuse to underpay/mistreat teachers for literally decades. High Score, not saying you are anti-teacher at all, but please please please don’t push that myth. Both my parents were teachers. They got paid for 9 months of work during a 12-month period, just so they wouldn’t become incomeless during the summer months.

        No one is getting paid for 3 months of non-work. It’s crazy that this myth persists.

        1. Chestnut Mare*

          Thank you. That and the whole “summers off” myth. Teachers aren’t getting paid vacation for the summer. It’s essentially an unpaid sabbatical. It’s also a complete strawman argument. It benefits the states to have schools closed for the summer, and if it weren’t financially and politically advantageous, year-round schools would be a thing everywhere. Most teachers I know would prefer to teach all year…too many kids spend summers lonely, hungry, and scared.

      9. Clisby*

        Teachers do not get “summer pay” for not working. They get paid for working a set number of days (I think it’s 190 where I live.) They can choose to have their pay spread out over the school year only; or over the entire 12 months of the year. I think a lot of them *do* take it over 12 months because it makes budgeting easier, but they absolutely are not being paid for time they don’t work. (In the US, at least).

      10. Nina*

        > things like summer pay when they’re not working

        My mum is a teacher. ‘summer pay’ is not extra pay for not working. It’s money withheld from school-year pay periods and paid out over summer to give a consistent monthly income. Also, she does the majority of her lesson planning and material gathering for the year during summer.

    4. Sabine the Very Mean*

      The public school system as far as employing teachers is about as awful and exploitative as it gets, IMO. It’s disturbing that we just accept the lack of funding and support for public education. “That’s just what’s expected” further pigeon holes teachers and is the epitome of that generational abuse shit we need to work to end.

    5. Ex-Teacher*

      Former teacher here

      Historically, those things were done after hours and on weekends, but teachers also used to be paid better and well respected. There was a valuable trade-off for doing the extra hours. There also used to be more planning periods during the day where teachers could do these things.

      Between worse pay, micromanaging and loss of respect from all sides, and added daily responsibilities (like extra duty periods instead of prep, and additional student contact time), the job now suddenly demands so much more of your personal time with no added compensation.

      In the past, it was “understood” because teachers allowed themselves to be exploited for that free labor. It’s not at all wrong for teachers to stop accepting that exploitation. Your mom allowed herself to be exploited like most teachers of that time- they were preyed on by others insisting that they did things for the love of their profession and the love of the children (is it any surprise that many teachers were women and the profession is historically underpaid, and that underpayment is facilitated by exploiting emotional labor?)

      Many times they do what I did, which is quit for a job that (despite being a 12-month job) pays more, has better benefits, gives me the time to complete my assigned work, gives me decent respect, allows me to leave my work at work, and all for the same or fewer hours a year than I worked as a teacher. And I say good for them- you need to look out for yourself, because as a teacher there is nobody out there looking out for you.

      If teachers and these functions are as essential as you claim, then it’s time to pay the piper. Give them the money, time, and respect they deserve. Otherwise the teachers will keep doing what I’ve done. And believe me, aside from missing working with kids, I don’t miss it at all.

      1. Katy*

        Historically, also, teachers used textbooks and weren’t expected to design fun new lessons all the time, and email and PowerPoint didn’t exist. It was considered reasonable for classes to consist of lecture, discussion, and textbook work, which meant teachers didn’t have to use their planning periods to reinvent the wheel. Now, teachers are expected to create brand-new, gamified, interactive, quality edu-tainment for every lesson, but the amount of planning time hasn’t gone up and in some places has gone down.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Friends I have who were teachers have mentioned that the the “tools” their school systems put in place added a great deal to their workload – having to design, develop, upload, manage online course materials, enter all their grading into online systems, communicate with administrators, colleagues, students, parents in online systems added nothing to the quality of education they were providing to kids. And the fact that the systems changed every couple of years meant having to adapt their materials, grading approach etc. Requirements for multi-media experiences, on shifting platforms, that fulfilled the current term’s new mandated required curriculum.

          All with no additional time to do any of this and with planning periods vanishing.

          I mention they *were* teachers. They loved teaching, they loved the core parts of their jobs, their careers. But all the extra uncompensated stuff which added to their workload, the time required to do their jobs, stuff that didn’t improve the quality of the education kids were getting (and sometimes dragged it down) caused them leave the profession.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            This exactly! I teach from 9-3 daily with 4 hours in front of students and 1 hour prep (this is better than both high school (an hour every second day) or elementary (30 mins here and there). I spend from 3-4 or 5 prepping materials for the next day’s lesson, uploading material to Google Classroom, pre-researching topics, emailing parents and reconciling my marking software (Joachim turned his work in on paper, Nyx turned theirs in thought the Classroom portal, Jane shared it with me (so now in my email) and Fergus, for reasons unknown, sent it to the email I never check.). I usually spend an hour – an hour and a half at home marking more in depth assignments that need my attention, or that are electronic so I can’t evaluate them with students in the room unless I ignore the kids (not advised).
            Luckily, I’m far along and secure enough in my career that I ignore a lot of the New! Exciting! ways of… making a power point or doing a joint brainstorm on the white board. I do try to pick up new things (I don’t want to be that teacher who is 30 years out of date) but I’m also not buying uncritically into the gospel of Jamboard, like a lot of newer (or more ambitious) teachers try to.

    6. CharlieBrown*

      A huge part of this is that teachers simply have too many students. Research shows that effective class sizes at the middle school and high school level is 15-20 students; I have been in classes that are easily 35 kids. Also, schools in my state have gone to a seven hour day instead of a six hour day (and when we had a six hour day, one of those hours could be study hall).

      When I was a senior in high school, most of my teachers had about 120 kids on their rolls. When I left teaching, I had over 250, thanks to split scheduling. You just can’t keep up with that and expect kids to get the education they should have.

      1. Rara Avis*

        I have 67 students (private middle school — our max class ix 22). My husband has 250 (public middle school — he gets extra pay if his class size goes over 45 (!)). I give my kids a lot more feedback and grade a lot more things than he does.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          Yep. I remember being told I should assign my students more papers to write. (And I agree.) But I also figured out that if each paper took a mere 10 minutes to read, reflect upon, and thoughtfully grade, that would take just under 42 hours to grade 250 papers. And a lot of papers take far longer to grade.

          The people who suffer are the students–because they don’t get the writing practice that they should. It’s a sad state of affairs, and made even sadder by the fact that half the country is trying to destroy what’s left of the public education system.

      2. Gracely*

        I don’t have any research for this, but as a former teacher, I think this is also at the core of why bullying/violence at schools seems to have gone up, too. Fewer students per teacher means students are getting more educational/instructional attention; it means that teachers actually get to know their students better, and can more easily keep an eye on troubled students (bullies *and* the bullied). Better class ratios have an impact on *so many* things that are never even quantified.

        1. OyHiOh*

          Dataset of 1: I have a student who is on an IEP and behavior plan, who can be both a bully and the bullied depending on a whole range of factors and the only reason my student is (finally) succeeding this year is because the combo of IEP and behavior plan requires the kind of closer attention to this student’s behavior that would just generally be more possible with fewer students in the class. In other words, in the case of my student, if school could have smaller classes, they could also have less paperwork because most of the behavior plan would be mitigated by smaller class size and closer attention to individual students.

          The behavior plan, not at all incidentally, ends up benefiting at least two other students in my student’s grade because my student has decided (for no reason that I or teachers can discern) that they do not get along with A and Y. The way the behavior plan is phrased means that teachers are more aware of what’s going on with A and Y (and probably what’s going on in groups that include A and Y) as well. But all of this could be resolved in a systematic way with smaller class sizes to begin with, that would benefit all the students.

        2. one off*

          I agree with you here! Not just bullying, but overcrowded classrooms/schools mean over crowded halls and lunchrooms etc. Everyone needs some space. Kids are walking around shoulder to shoulder and just frustrated at always being in each others space.

      3. Humble Schoolmarm*

        My school district is pushing a lot of ideas that speak to who I am as a teacher (culturally relevant pedagogy, universal design for learning, inquiry and project based learning, voice and choice, for example). The trouble is, we have pd givers coming in and telling us we need to have parentally (or beyond) level relationships with our students, exit tickets that are used to inform planning with a 24 hour turn around, regular deeper thinking conferences with each student and so on and so on. I have 150 students in 6 classes. If I had 4 sections of 12 grade 7 language arts students, I might be able to build those relationships, have up to the minute progress notes for each student and tailor my lessons more precisely, but I have three times that many and while I try, I don’t get a lot further than “most of us are mostly progressing”. The distance between what I’m supposed to do and what I can do pushed me very close to burn out. Adopting an attitude of “I can only do what I can do” has saved my sanity and stopped me from adding to the teacher shortage.

    7. Katy*

      But by that token, couldn’t you require your grocery store workers to stay and work off the clock an extra four hours after their shift ends, and say that’s just the employees fulfilling a basic requirement of the job? Basic requirements of the job are what’s written into the contract, and contractually teachers are at school for eight hours and are paid for those eight hours, with one of the hours being planning time.

      However, because one hour is not remotely enough time to plan, prep, grade, and email for 5 classes, 150 students, 2+ preps, there is an unspoken assumption that they will donate many hours of their time after they get off work and on the weekend. So that what is on paper a 40 hour workweek is in fact a 60+ hour workweek. You can’t call 20 hours of donated time per week a basic requirement of the job, and if you do, that means something is very wrong with the job.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        But teachers are salaried not hourly workers so it’s not the same situation.

        I do think teachers should be salaried. I also think they should be paid more.

        1. BubbleTea*

          It isn’t written in stone that receiving a salary has to mean being required to work more during busy times. I am paid a salary and I have set work hours. If my work doesn’t get done in those hours, it waits til the start of the next work day. Do I sometimes work a little late to finish something? Yes, occasionally I’ll do an extra 15 or 20 minutes. Maybe once every two or three months. If I did more than that, I’d be expected to take time off in lieu at another point because it’s understood that I’m paid for X number of hours a week.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Oh, honey. Salaried is NOT a synonym for ‘working untold hours for $X.00 per year, every year.’

          Your mom was a teacher and worked extra hours because ‘she was expected to.’ The point is, she provided free labor regularly until it became the ‘norm,’ not the exception. That’s the whole point of quiet quitting. No one should provide free labor.

          Annual salaries are based on a 40-hour work week for good reasons. People in salaried professions are expected to occasionally work beyond that, but not as a matter of course. If it becomes regular, that’s a sign of low staffing or other business issue. (Commenters have noted exceptions such as Big Law or C-suite; however the high salaries are compensation for the extra hours.)

          Commenters in this subthread are trying to explain that teachers are asked to do more and more and more, with stagnant, low salaries. What the heck does directing the school play have to do with teaching history? Plays aren’t part of the job description. (I just checked my district’s job lists – not in there.) It’s convenient to have a teacher direct the play; rehearsal is after school and Teach is still there, after all…

          I can’t even…

      1. Nina*

        The plural of anecdote is not data, but my mother is a high school teacher in New Zealand, and she is averaging 60 hours a week.
        I’m a scientist, also averaging 60 hours a week, and getting paid roughly twice what she does. Shit ain’t fair.

    8. Generic+Name*

      I’m sorry, but my mind is blowing that the premise of in exchange for low, low pay, teachers work more than 40 hours a week, and that’s “understood”. The teachers union at my sons school district negotiated for a couple of extra “non contact” days this year precisely so teachers can do stuff like planning and grading during their work hours. Teachers should be paid more and should get more built in planning time. Yes, I get that this would mean higher taxes. I’m all for that, and I have voted on numerous occasions to do just that.

      1. Flower necklace*

        We have “non contact days” (i.e. teacher workdays) where I am in northern Virginia, and all of mine are pretty much already filled with training sessions. In fact, my admin just decided to pull me from my classes on a regular workday so that I can get the next training done early. That way, I’ll be free to do some work for her on the next teacher workday. When I pushed back, I got told that I didn’t have a choice.

    9. Humble Schoolmarm*

      It really makes me sad (and frustrated and angry) that the powers that be in the teaching world don’t understand or care that they are already getting free work just to keep classrooms moving and then they add more.
      My principal recently approached me with an “exciting opportunity” to be a a lead teacher in the new curriculum (which has been out for a year at this point) this includes
      – 3 days of off site pd between now and Jan. (so planning for a substitute which takes hours)
      – “several” check-ins via zoom
      – Developing pd on the new curriculum (I could have sworn the district paid someone for that)
      -Presenting PD to my fellow teachers
      All of this for no extra pay or other compensation other than a “leadership opportunity”.
      Oh, and my principal didn’t pick me for my superior teaching talents, her supervisor needed someone to volunteer as tribute and none of my colleagues were exactly leaping at the chance either.
      You can bet I made full use of Alisons’ recent how to say no column (Thank you for that! Worked a treat!)

    10. Starbuck*

      Just no to all of this, wow. I can’t believe you witnessed your mother’s exploitation and think we should continue that. Teachers (and students) deserve better. Would you work your mom’s hours for the equivalent pay today? I doubt it.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I would/could never be a teacher for reasons completely unrelated to pay.

        My mom never thought she was exploited.

        And man, I’m already middle aged so this is a long time ago, but IIRC she brought us home after school around 3:30 and didn’t really get do much school work after school.

        Again she’s never hinted she felt exploited. Just underpaid. So it has never before occurred to me that she was.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I think most teachers, traditionally, haven’t felt exploited. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t or that the model is okay. In North America, at least, we’re coming from an industry that originally employed very young, unmarried women. Working extra hours at home didn’t seem unreasonable because no self-respecting young lady could go out every night socially or was expected to manage her own household. Married women had to quit (in part) because it wasn’t realistic to manage the workload of a 1850-1920s household and teach. Yet today, teachers are expected to manage it all (career, household, social life) and work long after our school day is finished, just to do the minimum.
          Even today, maintaining boundaries with your time (not taking work home) is simply Not Discussed outside of some teacher blogs. I have only once had a presenter (not a teacher) at a union conference tell us that it wasn’t in our contract to be constantly available via email (changed my life). All of the other messages teachers get constantly are “Do more! Do more! It’s for the kids! Nothing matters more in a school than quality teaching! (they always leave out the rest of that statistic which is that socioeconomics and parents have a much greater impact on educational outcomes)” Heck, if I actually made lesson plans the way I was very earnestly taught in my teacher training (2 pages per class hour, very specific template) I would be spending 2-6 hours per day just writing lesson plans. Add to all that greater transparency (need to update online grading software), a constant influx of new methods and computer systems, a system that expects to reconcile providing individual learning experiences with a student load of 100-500 students, all of the extra social services that people discovered schools regularly provide during the pandemic, keeping up with professional learning (My principal is famous for “I don’t want to give you any more work, but here’s a fascinating (200 page) book about completely overhauling your teaching practice that I’d love to discuss at the staff meeting” (in three days), dealing with some increasingly volatile parents (last year someone vowed to come to school and confront me if I ever emailed them about their child leaving class without permission again) and, of course, children that are picking up on that anti-teacher attitude and demonstrating that contempt regularly in the classroom. It’s… a lot… and it is for the kids and most of us do try to grin and bear it (and just ignore three quarters of the pronouncements from on high). That doesn’t mean it isn’t now and hasn’t always been exploitative.
          Last after this long, long rant, yes, teachers also do extras like teams and clubs. In the past, that’s usually been something that fills the bucket for most (we like spending time with kids who are passionate and having fun, that’s why we got into this). Unfortunately, because of above exploitation, there are a lot fewer of those activities now because teachers are so close to burn out all the time. It’s gone from something we love to just. one. more. thing. I had to turn down a new, wonderful on paper, position last year when the principal told me I would have to go Sept-Jan with no prep at all, then produce the school’s (mega, 5 figure budget) musical by the end of April.
          Heck, if you need proof that teaching is exploitative, remember that teachers can’t leave their classes to pee when students are present (unless you can flag down a passing, similarly overburdened colleague). We learn excellent bladder control because it’s the expectation. If people are pushing back on that, I say huzzah!

        2. Pescadero*

          “Again she’s never hinted she felt exploited. Just underpaid.”

          …but underpaying someone IS (by definition) exploiting them.

          exploit: benefit unfairly from the work of (someone), typically by overworking or underpaying them.

  9. Prospect Gone Bad*

    My problem with this concept is that the wrong people are “quiet quitting.” Yet another thing framed as helping the working class when it’s actually the laptop class benefiting. A call center rep can’t slack off because they get rated on loads of metrics and need to be polite on every single call. But someone in corporate can come in at 10AM and whine about new projects and generally not do much, despite a very healthy salary. This is what I’m seeing. “Doing what you’re paid for” gets really difficult when someone earns $90K or $110K. I’m seeing too many corporate workers think they make that much to do the bare minimum of the admin portion of their job, which is very much not why they make the $100K.

    1. Neon*

      Interesting, overt the last few year’s I’ve been going the opposite way regarding non-core admin stuff.

      I’m doing the engineering part of my engineering job very well. I enjoy it and it’s the best use of my skills and time by far.

      The extra administrative stuff my employer tries to get me to do for free can now either not get done or get done by somebody else; because I’m certainly not doing it and don’t really care if it ever gets completed or not.

      1. Lurker*

        But the admin stuff might be required for someone else to do their job? Like if you’re not turning in expense reports to finance, for example. Not doing stuff like that makes it hard for your coworkers to do their jobs.

        1. Neon*

          It’s more admin stuff like “somebody needs to go through this list of service parts and makes sure all the costs are accurate”.

          Eh, my week is already booked up doing more interesting work and I don’t really care if the company makes or loses money selling a given replacement filter. That maybe-inaccurate number can stay in that spreadsheet until doomsday if the only way for it to get fixed is for me to stay late.

          1. ferrina*

            Exactly. the company needs to prioritize what they want me to do with my 40 hrs/wk. If there isn’t time left after the high priorities are done, then the lower priorities don’t get done (and I’m not counting a few minutes here and there or real emergencies, but the regular “fit 45+ hours of work in a 40 hour week”. I had one boss that couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting the low priorities done when I was putting out fires for 55 hr/wk.)

        1. MaryB*

          I mean, he’s right. And language is important. Working on a laptop is still work. Working class generally means people who need to work to survive, which most white collar workers are. It seems like you’re trying to pit blue vs white collar workers against one another, but that’s not useful. We’re all workers trying to survive in a capitalistic system. It also perpetuates the idea that remote workers aren’t really working, which, as we’ve seen from the countless letters to Allison about butts in seat management, does a disservice to the expansion of remote working.

        2. Parakeet*

          It’s not nitpicking, it’s pushback on your fundamentally wrong notion of what constitutes a real worker or real work. Which is important because too many people share your fundamentally wrong notion.

    2. Ez*

      This feels like misdirected criticism. Instead of thinking the “laptop class” is too overpaid to “quiet quit,” how about making sure the working class is *also* paid better and allowed to have a work-life balance?

      1. High Score!*

        For example, restaurant employees. I’ve stopped eating out. I will not pay employees for the restaurant (ok, if I have to go out I will tip but I’m not going out). Restaurants need to pay their employees a fair wage and benefits like everyone else. $3/hr is BS.

      2. Prospect Gone Bad*

        I don’t need to work one very single issue in the world? I am talking about the one I see in real life off the internet. In real life off the internet I am seeing people who are paid well adopting these movements intended for other people. That is a problem and since I see it in real life, it’s the foremost in my mind. I can’t change working class salaries since I don’t manage working class people.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          But who said this movement was intended for the working class? Your entire argument seems to be based on an unfounded premise.

          What will help the working class is what has always helped the working class: collective action. If call center reps are required to handle X number of calls per hour, and X is unreasonable, then they need to push back as a group. The company can replace a certain percentage of them, but it can’t replace 100% of them all at once.

      3. Starbuck*

        Yeah I can respect the bitterness but it’s aimed at the wrong target. Do I get jealous that there are people out there with $120k computer jobs sleeping in? Absolutely. Should they be “punished” and brought down to my level – no way. Nor is the answer just everyone going out and getting that same job, obviously. It’s raising working standards (and benefits and pay) for all workers.

    3. another woman in tech*

      On the other hand, as a member of the corporate laptop class myself, I’ve seen it become increasingly normal for employers to expect unrealistic amounts of time/effort from remote employees. Just because salaries are high doesn’t mean that folks should be precluded from having healthy work-life boundaries.

      Any employee setting boundaries at work is a win for the working class. I agree that it is regrettably easier for some folks to “quiet quit” – but I don’t think they are the “wrong” people to do so. Everyone should do it!

    4. Laptop Class Drone*

      Well, this is a pro-capital complaint in pro-worker clothing if I’ve ever seen one!

      I’m an hourly shift worker who works on the computer (not necessarily a laptop). My employment is precarious and I am underemployed and underpaid. I have a “dynamic” schedule where I’m expected to flex for coverage.

      But sure, I’m part of the ~laptop class~. Ok.

      1. WindmillArms*

        YUP. Slightly-higher-paid working class people are *still working class.* There’s no hourly rate or yearly salary that is a cutoff point; the difference is that “working class” means “people whose incomes come from selling their labour” (rather than from investments, trust funds, donations, rental income, etc).

      2. LimeRoos*

        Right? Like I wfh, totally have a laptop, but still need to work for bills and all that jazz. Definitely working class, definitely in the group that would do ‘quiet quitting’ if necessary. Luckily my employer is great about work/life balance, but oof, pitting the ‘laptop class’ against the working class is just pitting working class against working class. Also it’s not slacking off, it’s just doing your job as hired. So the call center rep could just do their job as hired and not volunteer for anything that’s out of scope of that (projects, managing, work late/early, etc) and still be ‘quiet quitting’.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I’m realizing that “class” isn’t a great term for this. Is there a disparity between those who can WFH and those who have to go to an office, store, hospital, school, etc to do their jobs? Heck yes. But the disparity isn’t really along class divides, it’s along safety divides. In some ways that’s always been true; hospital workers, firefighters, police officers have always been at higher risk than stay-at-home parents or office workers. They don’t necessarily make less money than those who WFH, though. The disparity has just become more pronounced and noticeable during the pandemic. “Laptop class” is merely a convenient soundbite for the media to use when they really mean work-from-homers. We need a better term for this, I guess.

      3. Generic+Name*

        For real. I’m much closer in status and mobility to someone who works retail or at a restaurant because I work to earn a salary to pay my living expenses. I do not get my income from sources such as investments or trusts. If I lose my job, I lose my ability to earn a living, even if I’m pretty darn comfortable as a member of the “laptop class”. Squabbling amongst ourselves is just what the corporate oligarchs who run the country want us to do.

    5. Love to WFH*

      I’m in the laptop-class. At some companies, I’ve work long days, plus weekends. At one, I worked every Thanksgiving weekend.

      At other jobs, I’ve worked 40 hours a week, and less on some weeks.

      Month after month of 60+ hour weeks burned me out, and physically injured me (repetitive stress injuries including carpal tunnel). I’m still very much aware that this was better than I’d experience in _lots_ of non-laptop-class jobs. But I still “quit quit” the worst of those jobs.

    6. Roland*

      How do these actions of slightly-better-paid workers hurt the workers who are paid less, exactly? This is the epitome of a crab bucket mentality.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Because movements fizzle out and die if they turn into people riding on the coat tails of movements for their own personal gain?

        1. another woman in tech*

          Literally anyone who is “quiet quitting” is doing so for their own personal gain. Movements are fought for both individual and collective benefit. As Roland mentioned, actions of some slightly better paid workers do not hurt workers who are paid less. We’re all in this together.

        2. Roland*

          Legitimately having trouble understanding what this means in this context. What movements? What coattails?

        3. Parakeet*

          On the contrary…it’s good for working people that white-collar/clerical workers are starting to once again see themselves *as workers* and understand that their material interests are those of workers. Now, obviously, we need to recognize stratification *within* the working class, but that’s true for blue-collar and pink-collar workers too – for instance, a third-generation worker in a high-paying “skilled” trade is considerably better off than a minimum-wage retail worker (and for that matter, than a whole lot of white-collar/clerical workers).

    7. ThatGirl*

      WTF is the laptop class? I would venture to say the vast majority of desk jobs are done on laptops now, from call center rep all the way up to C-Suite.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        this is disingenuous. The “laptop” class has been used all over the MSM for the past 2 1/2 years as shorthand for “people who could WFH during covid.” Trying to “call out” something that is very mainstream seems weird

        1. ThatGirl*

          I have literally never heard that before, but okay, I can accept that it’s been used.

          That said, “desk job” is not the same as “rich” and plenty of call center reps do, in fact, work from home.

          1. LB*

            I was just thinking, this is the second time I’ve read “laptop class” today, and besides that literally never heard it before.

            If it’s referring to people who are able to work from home during Covid, that does make sense, but the other place I read it had the flavor of implying that their (laptop class’s) concerns weren’t real, in a very “if you have a smart phone you’re not poor“ flavored way, the same kind of tone. But that was just my interpretation from never having seen it before.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              To me “laptop class” means the people who had jobs that could be done from home during the pandemic and ergo those people had a larger buffer of safety during that time. Laptop class doesn’t actually have anything to do with the amount of money you are making, since there are definitely lower wage jobs that can be done at home (call center jobs, for one, as someone already pointed out). Are there probably more lower wage jobs that are not able to be done from home? Sure. But there are also a lot of high wage jobs that can’t.

              1. LB*

                That distinction does make sense if we’re talking about things like covid precautions.

                But distinguishing laptop versus not when talking about the quiet quitting issue of workers not letting themselves be exploited anymore seems like a super pointless distinction to make.

                Seeing it brought up in this context give us the vibes of, what are the laptop workers even complaining about, like making how badly your job treats you a competition. Which ultimately seems like it serves the interest of the business owners by muddying the conversation.

                1. Hannah Lee*

                  Exactly! I’ve never heard the phrase “laptop class” before reading this thread. I’m sure someone has used it, somewhere, for some reason, but I’ve not seen it at this site, or at any MSM sites I keep up with.
                  And if it means “workers who could work from home due to COVID era workplace practices” that’s really not a distinction that applies to the subject of “quiet quitting” since workers who WFH can be subject to the same exact pressures as in-office workers to work more, produce more than what they’ve been hired to do (and call center employees aren’t a great example of ‘real’ workers who aren’t WFH laptop class workers these days … just about every ‘call center’ employee I’ve dealt with over the last 2 years has been working from home, with call routing systems connecting inbound calls to them from wherever. )

                  The pressure, expectation that employees will work more, do more, give more to their employers than they are hired or paid to do, with no increase in compensation if they do, hits many different workers in many different work environments and trying to split hairs about one worker class vs another doesn’t actually address the workplace issues that are rampant in many jobs.

          2. ferrina*

            Ditto- never heard it before today.

            As ThatGirl points out, there’s a wide range in the Laptop Class. At the beginning of my career, I was technically laptop class, but wasn’t rich by any means! Yes, I was making more than at my previous “working class” job. But I was also working longer hours (my boss’ attitude was “well you’re exempt, so I can tell you to work whatever hours I want). At my non-exempt job, I didn’t do a minute over 40 hours. At my exempt job, I would regularly do 50+ hours per week for $45k salary (no bonus). Not exactly luxury.

            1. Russian in Texas*

              This! I am a “laptop WFH class”. I am exempt, yet I have to check in for at least 40 hours per week (we have timesheets, and if you are not on the clock at 8am you will get in trouble) AND I am paid $42k/year, while dealing with customers.
              I suppose I am not a working class.

              1. Russian in Texas*

                For this kind of money, and the complete lack of promotional structure, I am doing only what I must not to get fired.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I dunno, seems like a whole lot of people on here haven’t heard of the laptop class. MSM may have been using it since the pandemic started, but I would hesitate to say that it’s “very” mainstream.

        3. Roland*

          Never heard “laptop class” before and have no idea what MSM is. And what “call out” are you talking about?

          1. Nina*

            I think MSM here is ‘mainstream media’ (as opposed to the definition used in some medical settings).

        4. Jen*

          This is the first I’m hearing of the “laptop class”. Maybe it’s not as mainstream as you think.

      2. Burger Bob*

        I would think “laptop class” is just another way of saying “desk jobs.” They read the same to me.

    8. Esmeralda*

      I’m laptop class, I guess.

      I can assure you, like many others in this class, I work my ass off. While I have flexibility as to when I take breaks to read and respond to AAM, I work my entire time in the office. I have metrics too — if I’m rude or unhelpful with students, you better believe I am not keeping my job. I’m asked to do admin tasks too to “pitch in” but I can only do so much of that in the time I spend at work. And I do spend time above my usual 40-45 hrs when that happens, so that I can finish the work I was hired to do.

      You have an interesting take on the “laptop class” — apparently these are people who don’t really do anything much, can bitch and moan without consequence, do some sort of work that requires no human interaction or if it does can be as rude as they like, and can work whatever hours they like. I’d sure like that job, it would be easier than the jobs I’ve been doing for the last 40 years. Are there people like that? I’m sure there are. But I don’t think it’s a whole CLASS of professional or corporate or managerial folks.

      1. Burger Bob*

        I will say, I am often quite jealous of people with “desk jobs” or “laptop class” work, including my husband. It’s not that I think you all don’t work hard or something. But as I tell my husband, you usually at least get to go to the bathroom whenever you want.

    9. anonymousity*

      A lot of people are criticizing this comment but I agree with you. I’ve worked in the service industry throughout the pandemic. Yes, there are working class people who work on their laptops, but this comment is obviously not literal- you’re speaking to the same division between blue collar and white collar workers.

      It’s the same deal as white collar office workers co-opting the great resignation which was a movement of service industry and healthcare workers leaving these industries in droves which led to a rare moment where service industry workers at the very last had more leverage than we’ve had since the 2008 recession. This has had ripple affects into white collar industries where more and more people feel confident asking for better pay/benefits in their office jobs or leaving for greener pastures. The great resignation in its original context had to do with people leaving their entire industries behind because of low pay/no benefits/no stability across the board no matter, which is ultimately a different context than “My job at X firm wasn’t giving me a raise so I accepted a job at Y firm for a 30% raise and I get to work from home.”

      1. Ez*

        You both seem to be creating a divide that isn’t helping anyone in this so-called movement. Everyone engaged in the great resignation did so for ” low pay/no benefits/no stability across the board” — not sure why you are imagining that someone with a desk job has less of a need for a lucrative, stable workplace.

      2. I would prefer not to*

        If they meant blue collar vs white collar workers they should say that.

        In fact, they explicitly said they are using “laptop class” in the way it is used within the mainstream media, in reference to people who were able to work from home during Covid. That is a completely different meaning from the very generous one you’re reading.

        The term “laptop class” is dismissive, particularly as used within that specific post.

    10. Here for the Insurance*

      Let’s say you’re right and that lower paid workers are getting screwed. Is the answer for other people who are being taken advantage of to not do anything because they make more money? If your answer is nobody would should get a better deal unless everybody gets one, what you’re really saying is you’re okay with nobody’s situation ever improving. Because “everybody or nobody” isn’t in any way realistic.

      1. LB*

        Exactly, dividing middle-middle from lower-middle class is an old playbook move of the truly wealthy.

    11. Eyes Kiwami*

      Genuine question, does it matter if “laptop class” aka white collar workers are “quiet quitting” or otherwise doing pro-worker things?

      I can see it as a problem if the pro-worker movement becomes too focused on white collar concerns, and not enough on blue collar or retail/gig economy workers. The language of this movement shouldn’t be shaped by only white collar/desk work concerns.

      But is it bad if white collar workers also push back against exploitation? Being at a desk means having the time to contribute visibly to the pro-worker movement and further the conversation–look at how many laptop class people responded to you, compared to blue-collar workers.
      Also a lot of white collar work is made up of “B.S. jobs” (see wikipedia for a great summary of the concept), and I’m not sure if it really matters in a societal sense whether these people work hard or not.

  10. Tired overachiever*

    Allison, I was wondering when you would do a post on this. I am happy to see it!

    I am the overachiever that can’t say no. I am just not able to do the bare minimum. I did got some bonus or small raise once in a while. But I did end up mostly with depression and anxiety. My current job made me burned out, WHILE PREGNANT, by asking me to do the job of 3 people while I had been doing the one of 2 people for six months…covering for someone who had left for a burn out! I was also covering for my manager who was also overworked. I am done now. I have learned my lesson…no more above and beyond…

  11. BRR*

    This topic always makes me think of when a coworker questioned our performance review ratings where “meets expectations” was basically bad and “exceed expectations” was basically doing a good but average job. My coworker said our employer needed to change their expectations if they weren’t happy with us “only” meeting them.

    1. Koalafied*

      My employer has the opposite problem – they tell managers to only give the top rating to the top 5% of employees who have truly stood out and gone above and beyond, but we’re an organization full of class president types who never got a B in their life and feel like they’ve been insulted if they don’t get Exceeds. Every year HR has this big PR campaign to communicate that most people should expect to get Meets, Meets is a good rating, Meets still qualifies you for a merit raise, etc. And every year people hear that but go on thinking they’ll be in the 5% who get Exceeds an feel demoralized when they don’t.

      1. ecnaseener*

        They should probably just rename the scale, then :P If the top rating means “exceptional,” call it that. If the next-highest rating means “very good [but not exceptionally so],” call it that. I don’t think you have to be a class-president type to say “hang on, I definitely exceeded the stated expectations of my role, it’s not fair to say I only just met them!”

        1. Koalafied*

          They’ve renamed the levels several times, lol, but whatever they call it, it’s still “2nd out of 3 rankings” in everyone’s minds, and none of them really like thinking of themselves as “average.” Everyone wants to be the exceptional one.

          1. Koalafied*

            In fact – several years ago they briefly tried using a 4-point scale, with Needs Improvement, Satisfactory, Excellent, and Outstanding. The idea there was that Outstanding would still be the 5% outliers, Needs Improvement would still be the people going on PIPs, and everyone else would be split roughly evenly between Satisfactory and Excellent with the top 50% getting Excellent and the biggest raises, and the bottom 50% getting Satisfactory and smaller raises.

            Boy, let me tell you, there is no labeling or PR campaign that will convince people that they shouldn’t be upset to receive a 2 out of 4, because a 2 out of 4 simply means they’re doing their job as asked and without problems. No matter what they hear, to most people, 2/4 = 50% = F, and they do are not people who would EVER get an F on anything! They reversed course on that decision the next year.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              How I’ve seen it used, with not great outcomes for employees or departments within those organizations who have recruited well, are well managed and have a high % of strong performers, is that managers have to do a forced ranking of *their* employees, so that if they have 5 employees, one is rated Outstanding, one is rated Excellent, one is rated Satisfactory, one is rated Needs Improvement, and one is rated To Be RIFfed at the first opportunity. Even if every single one of those employees performed at a high level, exceeded their expected performance, knocked all their goals, including stretch goals out of the park. And if there’s another department of 5 that is under-performing, that same forced ranking gets applied in the same way. So you could have a Needs Improvement or About To Be RIFfed employee in Department A who is performing head and shoulders above the Outstanding employee in Department B who is struggling to do the bare minimum. Basically if you’re part of a high-performing team, you get penalized if you’re not at the top of the pile within that department.

              I think it was a practice that came from the dysfunctional, but lauded at the time, halls of GE. It makes no sense unless an organization wants to churn and burn their solid and strong performing employees who just happen to work with people who are just a bit better than them. Because people who are solid performers, know they are giving their all and getting results don’t need to hang around getting mediocre reviews for some arbitrary reason.

      2. John*

        This just seems silly – why not base the rating on performance? If more than 5% of people are reaching fantastic quality, then they should all be getting that rating.

        1. ferrina*

          If it’s tied to raises or promotions, it can get sticky. There can be a limited personnel budget for raises, so if everyone gets the highest tier, then we blow the personnel budget, then we need everyone to be more productive so the company can stay in the black, then the overtime starts being required….

          This should be different than COL adjustments, which are just to make sure that folks are able to maintain buying power.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            This is another one of those cases where the “limited budget for raises” invariably is heavily weighted dollar wise towards the executives, senior management. Those are rarely the folks who have to forego a rich compensation package in order to balance the personnel budget. Giving all your front and mid-line employees doing fantastic work a 6% raise instead of a 3% raise isn’t likely the primary driver of “blowing the personnel budget” … more likely the annual spiffs awarded to the C-suite and other top execs are what accounts for a disproportionate amount of that budget.

        2. Despachito*

          Why have ANY rating at all?

          It seems so snotty and demeaning. It is not high school, I think adult people definitely do not need to “get marks”. If their work isn’t satisfactory, I’d reckon a good manager would take care of this. If it is, then why dangle a stupid carrot in front of them?

      3. That One Person*

        Amusingly had a brief moment of this because at my retail post I was used to getting graded high while my current job I met expectations. Had to remember that 1) I was overworked and given more tasks than I could reasonably complete at the retail job (and constantly depressed over that very fact because I felt like a failure every day) and 2) my current boss isn’t on site anyways and I hadn’t truly felt like I did anything exceptional either so as long as I didn’t get dinged…meeting expectations was GOOD. It meant I did my job and did it well with little to no issue or complaints. I realized I could be happy with that because the grading isn’t like school and I’m also not stressed like I was in my previous job where even trying to go above and beyond felt ultimately pointless. I’ll give credit to the managers/team leads at the previous job though in that there were some privileges and things they did to try and keep myself and some other experienced employees happy, and I’m thankful for them. However they couldn’t counteract just how rough and how much that job asked ultimately.

    2. High Score!*

      At my last job, management has a rating system but they insisted that every employee’s review averaged out to average – even if they were excellent and had gone above and beyond. So no large raises or good things on your permanent record there. I stopped trying. Fine. You want average employees, that’s what you get.

      1. World Weary*

        On my last job with formal reviews, I met expectations even though I ran the entire software implementation with zero help. If working 7 days a week alone on a project meant for five people only meets expectations, no one can ever exceed them. Also, cost of living raise only, no merit increase or bonus…

    3. Big Bank*

      In my company “meets” means you’ve went above and beyond somewhat. If you aren’t stretching yourself then you didn’t meet what they asked of you. So head down, do your job only, hit your metrics, you’d be below.

      It actually spun out of this ridiculous employee program that required employees to be constantly thinking of ways to improve and save the company money. I pushed back my direct line, that not everyone is interested in doing that type of extra stuff. That some people getting the client questions answered quickly and reports done accurately was awesome, not everyone wants promotions, and why were they being told that doing their job duties as written wasn’t enough? Because upper management said it wasn’t. And here we are.

    4. FORMERHigherEdPerson*

      That part of evaluating/assessing my direct reports would always grind my gears. Like I rated someone as “meets expectations” and got raked over the coals by my supervisor because it was apparently a bad rating. Employee cried, we had to mediate…it was a mess. All because she was meeting expectations.
      Now I help to train on productive performance eval discussions, and I was very adamant that we have clear descriptors for “Meets” “Exceeds” and “Does Not Meet”

    5. Aggretsuko*

      At best, all you will get at my org is “meets expectations,” because they aren’t going to give anyone “exceeds” because that might mean a raise. I’ve only gotten exceeds in some areas when they severely marked me down to compensate for that and made sure it all averaged out to the same.

      Why bother? Especially now when I get “doesn’t meet expectations” for every single thing about the job. I don’t do any extra for this job because why bother. They think I’m awful anyway, why give extra? Why try hard? You pay/give bare minimum, that’s what we’ll do too.

      This needs a rename, though, since it isn’t quitting at all, it’s just not giving extra any more.

      1. ferrina*

        I had a manager tell me that I would never get a top rating (we had a 5-point scale) because “we all have something we can work on”. Never mind that I had completely redefined success and far surpassed all expectations for my role. At that point why do we even have a 5-point scale? Why not just stop 4 and have it be “Exceeded expectations, but you still don’t have magic powers”

  12. irene adler*

    “Rightsizing” is taken, but it seems to me employees are “rightsizing” their efforts to match the compensation given. A good thing!

    Shame on any employer that expects “something for nothing”.

  13. MsClaw*

    Thank you!!! Such a stupid term. Doing what you’re …. paid to do is in no type of ‘quitting’.

  14. Qwerty*

    Does anyone know who coined this term? Before the recent media hype around it, I would have interpreted the phrase to refer to someone who wasn’t doing their job and trying to fly under the radar. I see that action sometimes when people have mentally decided to quit but haven’t found a new job – they’ll call into meetings, put a little half-hearted effort into deliverables that other people notice, but once that person leaves you realize how many of their actual duties were neglected. Sometime the people are being shady but often the culprit is just being burned out, bored, or having a case of senioritis.

    But it seems ridiculous to refer to enforcing boundaries as “quiet quitting”. I wonder if a media article misunderstood the term and it took off or if someone was really trying to stir the pot on manager/employee relations.

    1. Squeeble*

      I do think it’s been expanded beyond its initial use. The first time I read it, it was in an article about people doing the absolute bare minimum to keep their supervisors off their back, and almost always in a remote setting where it’s conceivably easier to take a nap break or go to the park for a few hours. The way “quiet quitting” is used now is, I agree, something entirely different.

    2. ecnaseener*

      My guess is someone with a vested interest in discrediting the concept of work-to-rule ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    3. snarkfox*

      See, when I first saw someone describe their plan to “quiet quit” (it was on Reddit), it did mean to literally do the bare minimum, as little as they can get away with without being fired, without caring who picks up the slack. As in, not even doing all of their job description but doing just enough not to get fired.

      But now it seems to be morphed to mean “do the job you were hired to do,” which is something I’ve always done and never felt like I was “quitting” anything!

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        My experience of the term was similar to this. When I first heard it, it did mean a pronounced under-performing–that is, doing less than your actual job. And there was an acknowledgment that of course you’d inevitably get caught, but the trick was to go as long as possible until someone noticed.

    4. Just Me*

      I’ve been in HR for years and have referred to people as “resigning in place” or (more commonly) “retiring in place”, and have heard others use those terms too. But to me, those were people who stopped doing what they’re paid for but continuing to collect a paycheck. Similar to senior-itis in school, like they’re mentally out the door.

      So the theory isn’t new, it’s just been coopted to put employees down.

    5. Tuppence Beresford*

      From what I gather, the phrase gained popularity initially from a TikTok video over the summer in which a guy in a subway station was talking about the idea of ‘quiet quitting’ — basically breaking free from going above and beyond for your job, leaving behind the hustle-culture mentality. It’s a catchy buzz-word (buzz-phrase?) that captures a mood/trend but then has been reinterpreted in a variety of positive and negative ways.

  15. Justin*

    Yeah it’s what I did after my last job treated me poorly. And then when I got a new job I also didn’t go above and beyond aside from occasions where it is warranted. That last phrase there – “where it is warranted” is key. We have a gathering this week after work, but it’s two nights in, like, 6 months.

  16. LB*

    I think what happened was, one or two people wrote about actual quiet quitting, i.e. Office Space-style checking out and doing a shoddy/minimal job that won’t get you fired but isn’t good, while job-searching. And then the employers pounced on the term and twisted it to promote the idea that doing less than uncompensated extra self-sacrificing max for your job constitutes “quitting”. And people validated that interpretation of the term.

    But yes, doing a good solid job at your duties without accepting cotton-candy hints that extra work would lead to rewards isn’t quitting of any sort. It’s “being good at your job”.

    1. Koalafied*

      Yeah, the first places I saw it being used were places like /r/antiwork and /r/maliciouscompliance where disaffected employees were touting quiet quitting as a form of rebellion. At the time, it read to me like people with very little power grasping for some semblance of it – they couldn’t afford to actually quit, so quiet quitting was the next best thing, a way to feel like they were sticking it to their employer without actually jeopardizing their job or income.

      I do think about a month or so in the phrase was co-opted by certain employers/managers who were reading these stories, and adopted the employee’s framing that working-to-rule is a basically the equivalent of muttering insults under your breath or behind the boss’s back – an act of defiance that goes unpunished because it goes undetected. And it really stuck in their craw, not so much the actual logistical/practical outcome of employees declining to do uncompensated overtime, but the paranoid feeling it engendered that their employees might all be secretly disrespecting them behind their backs, and when Wakeen refuses to work overtime it’s not because he’s setting healthy work-life boundaries for himself, it’s because declining overtime is his way of telling the manager where to shove it.

  17. Bunny Girl*

    I rage every time I see the term quiet quitting. I wrote last week about the absurd amount of our lives we give to our employers and how I’m frankly, very tired of it.

    I had a lovely interview last week. The job itself sounded awesome. However, when we got to talking about the company culture, I was immediately turned off. They “expected their employees to be involved in the community and wanted them to volunteer.” Volunteering because you’re expected to for work is… well work. You need to pay people for that. I imagine my eyebrows disappeared into my hairline.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      I hope you clarified that with them! I worked at a company where we got two days per year (could be used together, separately, or even in half-day increments) to use for volunteer time. Paid at your regular wage, and not deducted from PTO. They didn’t bat an eyelash at what people used it for, from what I heard, as long as it was a non-profit organization. Some folks did Habitat for Humanity, I volunteered at the humane society (including later on fostering a few litters of kittens!), some people helped organize events, some folks were already on the board of a non-profit, and that time counted. When it’s open-ended like that, AND paid, it seems a lot less disingenuous for them to encourage volunteerism than if it’s unpaid or “volunteering” for your own company or whatever.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Nope there weren’t paid days or anything. They just expected people to “be involved in the community.” They also expected a lot of off hours socialization with coworkers and a few other things. I’m extremely opposed to being told what to do from my company after work hours so I think it would just be a bad culture fit all around.

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          Oof, yeah. Then that sucks, especially for those of us who are introverts. I just wanna go home and cuddle my cats TYVM.

          1. Bunny Girl*

            Yep! I have the best dog and boyfriend in the world and I like going home and cracking a cold one with them. Plus I have other interests and hobbies that I enjoy so hours of after hours mandatory fun and forced volunteering are not really appealing to me.

  18. Spearmint*

    Thank you for writing this. Another frustration I have is that better performance leads to increased pay/prestige/promotion in some fields and roles more than others. Salespeople and senior managers get big bonuses if they exceed expectations, whereas engineers and project managements and admins don’t. Maybe we get a small raise or a verbal praise at a good company, but nothing significant. So why should the people who don’t get extra from working harder be more than baseline competent?

  19. KHB*

    Stupid term aside, I do love that people are talking about this.

    My team is currently understaffed by two people. HR and senior management have been taking their sweet time in filling the positions (they took months to even post the job ads), and I guess they’re counting on the remaining five of us to do the work of seven people indefinitely. The other day at a team meeting, I suggested that maybe we could just…not do that…and everybody was immediately on board.

    We’ve been understaffed before, and we’ve usually pulled together to keep all the balls in the air, because we take pride in the work we do and the product we produce. But this time feels different. Senior management seems to be getting more and more brazen about taking more of the company resources for themselves (and the growing army of do-nothing consultants they’ve been contracting with) and offering less and less to those of us who actually do the work. This is unsustainable, and something’s got to give.

    1. Wolf*

      Yeah, I’m willing to cover a short gap, but not the kind that leads to “see, you can do it without support, so we stopped hiring”.

  20. CharlieBrown*

    I was having a discussion about this with a coworker a few months ago. I concluded by saying that any work we didn’t finish on Friday would just be waiting for us there on Monday. (We are very understaffed, but we are also actively hiring people to deal with that situation.)

    “Damn straight,” my coworker said. We work 40 hours and no more.

  21. Syzygy*

    Yes! Thank you for this great article, Alison!
    It’s infuriating to see headlines and newspieces parroting the phrase “quiet quitting” to describe the act of doing your job without allowing your employer to burden you with uncompensated labor.

    Earlier in my career, I worked long hours – late nights, early mornings, weekends, all-nighters, all with the understanding that it was ‘expected’ and never compensated for the extra time and effort. It’s one of these industries where people are told ‘if you won’t do it, there’re a hundred others wiating to take your job.’ I’m so glad to see people pushing back.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I literally thought, the first time I heard this phrase, that it meant not showing up and just hoping nobody would notice, perhaps due to the new WFH options – like I think we’ve had letters on here where someone’s boss was completely MIA but still drawing a salary. Then I found out it just means … working your job? Without killing yourself? So weird!!

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        Yes, weird because the original meaning was much closer to what you thought it meant. (I think it was more along the lines of showing up for work and immediately taking a nap than it was not showing up at all.) Somehow and for some reason, the meaning shifted and now everyone is confused.

  22. Rara Avis*

    I have 67 students (private middle school — our max class ix 22). My husband has 250 (public middle school — he gets extra pay if his class size goes over 45 (!)). I give my kids a lot more feedback and grade a lot more things than he does.

  23. Sloanicota*

    Thank you so much Alison for *not* closing with the typical ominous “but the market is shifting and soon these uppity workers may regret their complacency” ending that seems to haunt these types of stories. It’s as if the owner class is trying to speak it into being. Alison is consistently one of the pro-worker, pro-union voices in the business/financial advice sector IMO.

    1. Ashley*

      I’ve seen so many smug comments from people saying “well then don’t expect the promotions!” and it’s like, THAT’S THE POINT. People are busting their asses and no matter what they do the promotions/raises aren’t coming. So why put in all the extra effort when it wasn’t leading to those things?

      1. Koalafied*

        LOL! I’m reminded of an episode of That 70s Show where Red decides he’s been “too soft” on Eric and needs to get even more strict. He declares, “Playtime is OVER!” and Eric’s response is, “There was playtime? When was playtime??”

        Hard to threaten to take away something you were already withholding!

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Right? I’m on my fifth boss is less than six years and have kept things running between bosses / with one horrible boss and I have yet to see a promotion, so why should I continue busting my ass?

      3. Fishsticks*

        Right?! The problem with this “carrot and stick” managerial style is if nobody ever sees the carrot, you can’t motivate us with the imaginary carrot any longer. We know there’s no carrot. And the stick only works until we take it from them.

  24. Elle by the sea*

    Finally someone talks sense about this. I feel like plucking my hairs out one by one whenever I hear people talk about quiet quitting. The fact that the way normal people work is being given such a name is an indication of how unhealthy people’s relationship to work has become. Instead of quiet quitting, call it simply working, having boundaries, having work life balance, and realising that our work isn’t our identity.

  25. danmei kid*

    I like the people talking about getting “quiet promotions” where they give you more responsibility but the same pay & job level …………..

  26. Susie*

    I think of it as quietly quitting doing unpaid and/or extra work. I did all the things mentioned- nights, weekends, calls on vacation, missing life events ( I worked every Saturday and every Sunday for 2 years straight) and now I just don’t. So far, management has not noticed or mentioned it, so I guess they never noticed I was doing it, so I quit.

  27. Bob-White of the Glen*

    “The whole narrative of “quiet quitting”—that doing only the basics of your job and nothing more is somehow akin to resigning—is the kind of thinking that lets employers take advantage of employees in the first place. It’s not quitting to do your job without burning yourself out or to decline to take on extra work without compensation. If a company’s business model requires its employees to go above and beyond, the problem isn’t the employees; it’s the business model.”

    This is a great summary. I’ll be passing it on to people who like to preach at me about the evils of quiet quitting.

    Hopefully that phrase (and “Karen”) will phase out soon.

    1. KHB*

      I don’t think “Karen” is going away anytime soon. Too many people love their misogyny too much.

      1. It Actually Takes a Village*

        As long as white women continue to weaponize their white femininity, “Karen” will also continue to be used.

        As an Indigenous feminist, the term has nothing to do with misogyny and everything to do with white supremacy and the way white women have perpetuated violence against BIPOC by using toxic white femininity.

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Except that I have two incredibly nice friends named Karen who are literally abused by this terminology. Because it hurts real women, who would never hurt you, it is misogyny. They would never use a slur against you, and they should not be punished or embarrassed because of the name their parents gave them.

          Can’t we just call these horrible people TWFs? (Toxic White Females.)

          1. Becky-No-More*

            You could say the same for every Chad, Stacey, Kyle, Tyrone, Becky, anyone named Thomas with niblings… As well as every Black woman whose name was used as a punchline in the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. As a former Becky, I understand it sucks to hear offhand, but I promise that I know the difference between A Karen and a nice lady named Karen.

            1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

              As well as every Black woman whose name was used as a punchline in the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond.

              This, so much this. I wonder how many people defend those named Karen who also laughed cheerfully at those jokes.

            2. Bob-White of the Glen*

              I have no idea how any of those names have been used in a negative manner. Not one has a social or negative connotation to me. Why is Becky bad? And yes, horrible things happened in the 80’s and 90’s to black women especially, how does it now make it socially acceptable to do to another person?

              Karen is EVERYWHERE and it is now basically a slur. It’s also a way to stop women, mainly white but I keep hearing things like Mexican Karen and Asian Karen) from voicing legitimate complaints.

              I think the whole “this group can now suffer” because this other group did decades before, is not the mark of an enlightened society.

              1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

                If you’re actually interested in the context, the link below has wider information, including on the name “Becky” and the origins among Black Americans pushing back against racism. That would require acknowledging that racism didn’t end “decades ago”, though.

          2. linger*

            TEPs = Toxic Entitled Personages?
            I’m not a fan of any term implying that women typically can or do engage in acts of entitlement any more than men do — or that women somehow deserve a higher level of criticism than men for doing so. The behaviour trope isn’t primarily driven by gender so much as by pure unmitigated privilege. One notable example: NZ National MP Aaron Gilmore, whose “Don’t you know who I am?” outburst quickly made him a former MP. It’d be overly derailing to list examples from American or British politics here, but you can bet they’ve mostly been (i) male, and (ii) able to avoid serious consequences.

            1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

              “TEP” is a good initialism. *makes a note*

              The unfortunate term ‘Karen’ was originally meant to describe a specific subset of ‘mere’ entitlement — it was about summarizing how White women could combine privilege, defensibility, and invoking oppression to crush people of color, frontline workers, and so on. Take the instance where a White woman called the police on a Black man who was birdwatching in a park and claimed he was ‘threatening’ — she was invoking both White privilege in general and the idea that as a White woman she should be defended from ‘threats’ such as a Black man existing near her.

              Unfortunately, the term got co-opted to castigate any White woman who has an opinion, and that is both sexist and diluting. I do wish there were a term for this phenomenon not linked to a name, both because it’s unfair to people with that name and because many people use pushing back on that unfairness to deny that racism and classism exist and thus to promote those bigotries. Maybe an acronym is what we need.

              Links to follow.

            2. linger*

              Classic TEP Talks
              Coming to a venue near you, with regular repeat performances:
              * Don’t You Know Who I Am
              * I Pay Your Wages
              * It’s PC Gone Mad
              * I’m The One Being Oppressed, Actually
              (Extra points for throwing a “woke” in the spiel.)

          3. Fishsticks*

            Oof, this is a conversation that won’t end well.

            I have doubts as to whether or not your friends are being abused, although I’m certain that they are hurt to see their first name become the punchline of a joke, and to hear “ha, Karen” on occasion.

            But I’m not sure that attempting to downplay the reality of racism and how it’s weaponized by some white women against men and women of color is going to have the result you are hoping for.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          The problem is, there’s not an equivalent term for men, who do a lot more damage in the world.

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Oppression is having people say cruel things to you because of your name. Oppression is having your name equated with bitch. oppression is demeaning one group today because another group suffered in the past, and making sure the current group pays the price even if they are nice people who never did any of the oppressing.

          1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            As a Black woman I can tell you a thing or three about having one’s name mocked, but you seem to think racism is generally over so we’re probably posting from different universes. Good luck to all the disprivileged people you feel compelled to rescue White women from.

  28. Oofandouch*

    As someone who has been engaged in “quiet quitting” for about a year now, I’m starting to get nervous about the ramifications if I’m honest. I’m still considered a high performer but some of the boundaries I set have been taken badly by the C-suite. This may be in part because I’m on the management side myself. I’ll go above and beyond for my people, but I will no longer give more of myself than I’m obligated to to a company that has proven they don’t feel the same obligation to me.

  29. 1-800-BrownCow*

    First time I’ve heard the term (I tend to be out of touch with trendy terms until they’ve been around for a few years).

    On another note, I completely get why employees and balking at all the extra work. I have a former manager that I occasionally chat with regarding career stuff and he’s constantly pushing me to do more and more, take on project work outside of my area, be noticed by upper management and says it’s all to help me in my career and get raises and promotions. Problem is, I’ve done that in the past and like many others have said, it did nothing for me. No recognition, no promotion, no raise, nothing. And like many employees coming out of the pandemic, I feel like all that I did through the pandemic to help the company stay afloat meant nothing. We lost our raises in 2020 as they were supposed to go into affect April 1st, but ownership halted all raises and promotions the last week of March when the shutdown started. 2021 they did give us raises, but it was lower than our normal %s because we increased base pay to non-exempt new hires and across the board to our non-exempt workers. And to “afford” that increase, they reduced raises to all the exempt employees. 2022 also saw a small raise, because the other locations under the company top management struggled, even though our location broke sales numbers by quite a lot. We all heard about the amazing year we had and how we even reached sales goals in 2020, despite the pandemic. But again, we had to give up bigger salary increases to “help” keep the other divisions afloat, even though we have nothing to do with their successes and failures. They run under their own management and we run under ours. And on top of that COL expenses have sky-rocketed so I feel like I’m worse off that I was pre-Covid. My company invests nothing in me, so why I should I continue to invest in the company.

  30. PinkCandyfloss*

    We’re going through the shift to “activity based working” which is the new buzz term for “open space and no assigned desk, so good luck everyone!”

    No personal work space, plus widespread reduced benefits, expected 24/7 availability, why are employees so disillusioned with how employers view them? It’s a mystery

  31. Chauncy Gardener*

    Thank you for this article, Alison! This term is so stupid and inaccurate. It’s just employees doing what they are paid to do!
    I’m SO sick of all these other articles on it drumming up hysteria and potential backlash etc etc

  32. Doctor What*

    “Quiet Quitting” = employee taking their non-paid hours back from their employers.

    I work to live, I don’t live to work. Maybe if more employees were treated better than replaceable units, this “trend” might end?

    Two things have changed how I view my work/life balance:
    1) My father was honored by his company for working there for 25 years. They fired him the next year, because they could pay someone younger less $$. Company loyalty…repaid.
    2) A major illness almost killed me 10 years ago, leaving me with a strong: live for today you could be dead tomorrow, so enjoy it attitude.

    You never know about tomorrow, “quiet quit” today!

  33. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

    Does anyone feel like the pendulum is swinging back to organizations though, away from employees? I am not feeling like employees have much capital for change. More and more jobs are requiring 2-3 days in the office, people are hiring at lower levels, salaries do not seem to be moving. Or is this just in my corner?

    1. Alex*

      This is my feeling too. After many many months of touting total flexibility, completely optional in-person work, etc., my organization is going back on its word and requiring some in-person work (for no good reason, I may add. Our work has literally no collaboration component nor benefit from office presence.)

      It seems that they were worried everyone would quit (and they would have) but are now feeling more secure in making unpopular demands of the employees.

    2. A Girl Named Fred*

      Not sure what your corner is, but this is how my corner has been as well. It’s incredibly frustrating when viewed against the backdrop of all the talk about how good the market is, but I’m genuinely thrilled for people who’ve been able to take advantage of their strong market. Just hoping I can find something better too before the pendulum swings ALL the way back.

    3. Generic+Name*

      I’m in a STEM field and the general feeling is that a dire worker shortage is looming, if it isn’t already here. Money to do public works projects isn’t stopping and the injection from the infrastructure and jobs act hasn’t even “hit” yet. We are expecting more projects to be released the beginning of next year. Even if you don’t have a STEM degree, there is room for you at STEM companies. Jobs like HR, editing, recruiting, even grant writing are plentiful. My small company of 80 people has 10 job openings right now. It’s nearly impossible to hire experienced project managers. Many of our jobs are first posted to local candidates and then when we can’t hire anyone locally, we expand our search nationwide for remote candidates.

      1. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

        Interesting. My jobs do not say project management, but that’s absolutely what I do just in a very specific sector.

        I feel so hopeless about all of it.

        1. Generic+Name*

          I’d encourage you to see what skills you could transfer to a different sector. Construction is hiring like gangbusters.

  34. Clawfoot*

    The only good things that have come out of the term “quiet quitting” have been the terms “quiet firing” and “quiet promotions.”

    “Quiet firing” happens when a company expects the employee to go above and beyond but doesn’t reward it in any meaningful way, and the lack of any true recognition and/or raise in salary prompts the employee to look for a new job somewhere else.

    “Quiet promotions” are when a company just keeps piling more and more work and responsibilities on an employee without any title or salary bump to go along with it. Usually because their coworkers have been victims of “quiet firing” and the company just shuffles around those duties instead of filling the now-vacant position.

    “Quiet quitting” is a misnomer and deserves the scorn it’s getting. But the pushback — “quiet firing” and “quiet promotions” — are very useful terms.

  35. I don’t post often*

    I’ve been wondering when you would write an article on quiet quitting.
    I hate this term because it’s been pitched as a “new thing”. I’ve always know people that showed up, did their job within the exact specifications, not one thing more, logged off. Done.
    I’m the beginning of my career, I did volunteer for projects. Now as a mid-30s veteran I’ve learned out to be helpful but drawing firm boundaries. Most of my “extra” work I bring on to myself because I have a need to know how everything works and I can’t stand to see something wrong. At the same time, within the last year I’ve said “nope! Not within scope of this project.” Or “nope! That’s not part of (job) anymore. Sorry!”
    With that being said, I work in the financial industry, which tends to merge, re-organize, or whatever ever 3-5 years. I know I’ve been saved from many lay-offs (3 at this point, although I did get RIFed at one point, I was rehired before the ink was dry on the RIF package) because I’m known as someone who quickly pivots and dives in.
    I do wonder if this is people in certain industries or certain types of roles that are “quiet quitting” more than others.

  36. Txag18*

    All this fearmongering about “quiet quitting” is designed to whip up another moral panic about “kids these days” and paint workers as lazy. This is propaganda aimed at preventing workers from collaborating and achieving class consciousness.

  37. Esmeralda*

    And on top of all this:

    Over the last two years we’ve demonstrated that we can produce at the same or even higher level when working remotely and/or flexibly, but now we all have to come back to M-F, 8 -5, butts in seats because “reasons”.

    Over the last two years, employers have made it very clear that workers’ health, safety, and *lives* are a very low priority, if they’re even considered at all. Why should we do more than you pay us for when you don’t even care if we die?

  38. Trek*

    My issue with quiet quitting is that from my experience management demands more work from 70% of the employees while 30% coast, barely complete the work assigned and are usually gone a lot. Tipping point for me was when HR refused to support management in firing these employees no matter how much documentation they had and everyone received the same 3% merit.
    They literally made it clear no one could be fired and no additional merit would never be awarded and hard workers would need to work harder. I think alot of companies have had similar standards and during covid people had enough.

    1. scurvycapn*

      Am I misreading this? Your employer is expecting employees to go above and beyond, for no additional pay, and they should expect to get worked even harder if not everyone buys into this nonsense. And your concern is that they won’t fire people that are apparently getting their work done and not suckered into additional stuff? Maybe your employer should hire more people or increase wages if they are expecting people to take on more work.

      1. Trek*

        No thats not correct. Those employees were not resisting a heavy workload they were not capable of performing the job and the rest of us were supposed to pick up the slack. They wouldn’t fire them so extra work was put on everyone else. In other words there was no reward for working hard except more work and no consequences for not performing.

        I left along with others and it’s getting worse for the employees.

    2. Neon*

      Seems like the move in this situation is to start acting like the 30%.

      They do a fraction of the work for the same pay, leave when they want, and face no negative consequences. They might have the right answer here.

      The other 70% are busting hump with no reward for some reason.

      If nobody can be fired and no merit raises are awarded for hard work then why work hard?

  39. Worker Bee 83*

    I bristle at the use of “absurd” in this case. Yes, I understand all the arguments for why this term is not technically correct, but it’s also an example of language trying to describe feeling. “You must give 110% 24/7 or you are slacking off” has been shoved down employee’s throats for years. Even Allison’s advice is regularly punctuated with “but your manager can make your job whatever they want” “job expectations aren’t definitive” “in the real world, in some businesses not doing X will impact your ability to get a promotion/raise/etc.”. Rebelling against that, even just cutting back to only doing your job expectations “feel like” quitting after all that indoctrination, and that is what the term is trying to describe.

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      This is a good point. Plus, quitting anything in life is often pretty empowering! In the US, we’re brought up to equate quitting with failure. Rejecting that and taking your life into your own hands is really powerful.

  40. Aggretsuko*

    Reminds me of this article I just saw on “why are there no nurses?” You treat people like crap, they will quit, you can’t get more easily. Dug your own holes there. Too bad nobody learns.

  41. Burger Bob*

    I would probably be labeled a “quiet quitter,” and at the bottom of it, there’s really just a lot of work to rule behind it. I’m a pharmacist. The pandemic was chaotic for us just as it was for the rest of healthcare. In the middle of it, I wound up unexpectedly taking on some interim management duties. By the “end” of peak pandemic times, I was very burned out but looking forward to what looked like upcoming re-stabilization and a less hectic work time. And that was right about the time our company hit us with drastic staffing cuts. When we complained, my partner and I were essentially told to get over it or find new jobs. We have seen so many of our fellow pharmacists cope with poor staffing by putting in hours of unpaid labor every week. We have been those pharmacists ourselves. But after that, we were done. We agreed that we will not come late, we will not leave early, and we will not work during our lunch period. We would put in good work during the hours we were paid and we would utilize our legally protected channels for reporting staffing issues, but we would no longer be giving extra to a company that clearly didn’t even want to give us the minimum. We’re good workers. We regularly get good feedback and the maximum raises/bonuses we’re eligible for. But our days of providing ten hours of free labor every week are over, and we’re happier for it.

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah. Healthcare is brutal. I worked 90 hours this week–like, physically at work–and then I got emails requesting volunteers to teach a seminar to students for free. No, thanks.

  42. Mystic*

    I’ve wondered about this. I got a promotion earlier this year, worked through the pandemic before my promotion- state govt and our services actually increased because of the pandemic-food assistance. While I understand the need and agree w/ it…it became demoralizing to see people on UC earn 3-4x more than me, and I..hate to admit it, but i didn’t go above. I’m barely going above now because we were told we’re probably not goign to get raises..but those getting promoted this month and going forward will be earning more than me..not much, a dollar difference. but def makes me consider never going above and beyond again when it all it does is hurt me emotionally.

  43. Anonny*

    I have a work phone and a personal phone when I get into my car I am official on my own time and if I get a call i may answer but all tasks will be completed tomorrow. However when i was working from home i was available 730 to 530 and that was it. All other hours were personal time and that was it. I wouldnt answer my phone and i was ceetainly not checking email etc.

  44. CommanderBanana*

    Really well said. I’ve been at my current workplace for almost 6 years. I have worked insane hours and am now on my fifth boss. I have kept the department running during two director vacancies, taken on a number of additional projects, spun up our virtual learning program single-handedly, and am in a tiny department with a missing FTE that will never be replaced.

    I haven’t gotten a promotion, title change, or a raise in six years. It goes against so much of my nature to do the ‘minimum,’ but here we are.

  45. iiii*

    Wouldn’t ‘lean out’ be a better name than ‘quiet quit’?

    I get why people are done with going above and beyond for no reward. I get why abusive bosses are whiny about peons drawing boundaries. I do not get why none of the articles about ‘quiet quitting’ suggest what seems to me an obvious and less worker-hating name for the phenomenon.

  46. Alex*

    I do have to say that I’ve noticed an overall difference in the work that I receive from people. In my job, I am often getting work from others and then doing something with that work. And it has been a disaster–missing, wrong, late, or simply MIA. I don’t know what is going on exactly but I think there is a general “low effort” attitude that has bloomed in recent years. In turn, this has made me dread opening up anything a receive because I’ve come to expect a hot mess, which makes things a lot harder for me and probably affects the quality of my own work, both because of my frustration and the fact that I’m working with less. It’s a vicious cycle.

    Note that these people are external to my company and largely from people I’ve never met in person, so I can’t really do much about the quality of what they deliver to me.

    1. Bubba*

      This is always what I thought “quiet quitting” meant– phoning it in without caring much for the quality of your work. Usually people will get away with that, for a while at least because other, more conscientious employees will step up to fix their mistakes. I am dealing with the same thing in my job right now, the person who was here before me actually quit and left a mess behind. Who knows how long they were quiet quitting/phoning it in/dropping the ball or whatever you want to call it before I got here.

      I guess what most people are calling quiet quitting though is actually meeting the requirements of your job without going above and beyond–which in theory should hurt no one!

  47. Ginger Pet Lady*

    Excellent article!
    Can we also get rid of the idea that “you have to be doing the job BEFORE you can get promoted to the job?” Because that’s ridiculous, too, and expects the going above and beyond. Once you’re doing the job at the lower salary, the company has zero motivation to actually promote you and pay you more. It’s a SCAM.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Adding to that, in many situations, there is no clear progression path, and the employee has to take on more work before earning the promotion because no one really knows what the higher-level job looks like. Which also mean no one has any idea how to help them grow further once they are promoted. Rinse, repeat.

      In my experience, it all leads to job titles being created out of nowhere in misguided attempts to retain employees, and once they begin to see the pattern, they leave anyway. And, to their further disadvantage, sometimes it takes them years.

  48. 40 Years In the Hole*

    What is the difference between “quiet quitting” and work-to-rule? I do think there’s a nuance here. Having worked adjacent to, and then worked for the federal public Service (not in US), “work-to-rule” here has very union-y connotations. It’s often the first long drawn-out low rumblings, before work slowdown/stoppage, pre-strike. More likely to do with govt policy or senior management oversight that involves vast numbers of union members/bargaining units.
    But I have worked with/for individual supervisors who were just – “nope, not gonna detonate my weekend because someone higher up or stakeholders couldn’t get their collective feces together to meet the (well-known) deadline.” That’s my supervisor looking after herself/family needs.

    1. I am Emily's failing memory*

      This is a good distinction. Work-to-rule has historically been a collective action, and it’s in a context where the union contract protects people who meet X minimum standard from being fired, and there’s some gap between “firing threshold” and “average worker performance/productivity across the entire company” – the company agrees tolerate some workers performing below average some of the time, but there’s an understanding that it functions as a grace/courtesy for a handful of mildly underperforming employees and that the average employee will be able to deliver something better than skating the firing threshold most of the time.

      In that context, threatening for every employee in the union to deliver the bare minimum that prevents the employer from firing them, instead of just a handful of below average employees, represents a loss of productivity that the business model is not equipped to deal with. Much like a company can offer a certain level of PTO to everyone but can’t necessarily run if everyone all takes their PTO at the same time – the allowance for one employee to produce less only works if not everyone is claiming the benefit at the same time, and the union knows that gives them leverage.

      What they’re calling quiet quitting is very similar, but it plays out differently when it’s a result of individual employees refusing extra work because they don’t want extra work and doing it in an under the radar fashion, vs a collective using the explicit threat of tanking productivity to a level they know will hurt the company as a tactic to negotiate better working conditions or compensation.

  49. Third or Nothing!*

    I’m one of those who kept getting more and more responsibilities without a corresponding increase in pay, at least beyond the usual cost of living increase every year. The last straw for me was when I asked for a raise big enough to reflect how much I actually did and was told that the COL one should have been enough. At this point I was doing the work of 2-3 people and about to take on more, and for a salary far below market value to boot. After 10 years working there, I absolutely was able to take on that work and do it well because I’ve gotten very efficient over the years. But I want more money or more time for my experience, not just more work!!

    Now I’ve got a new job that pays 40% more with fewer responsibilities. And my old company is going to have to pay that higher wage after all if they plan to replace me.

  50. Morgan Proctor*

    “Quiet quitting” has also just made me a happier person overall. I’m not emotionally invested in my work anymore, and every time one of my coworkers who hasn’t “quiet quit” gets emotionally worked up over something at work, I’m reminded of how on edge and consumed with anxiety I always used to be. I’m dealing with this right now, actually. A coworker is venting to me on Slack about a project shifting focus, and I just want to grab him by the shoulders and scream “It doesn’t matter!” It seriously doesn’t matter! Even if the company hadn’t shifted that project, his work would not have earned him any accolades or extra money. Just let it go!

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Becoming less emotionally invested in my work was a big part of it for me. I was raised by two workaholics who sacrificed everything for work and seeing how sad and empty their lives are now has made me realize that this is a losing game.

      1. allathian*

        Hear, hear. I’m the daughter of two people in a STEM field who had very different attitudes to work. My dad was a career scientist/academic who burned himself out and had to take early retirement when he was 55. My mom was a SAHM until I was 8 and my sister went to preschool at 5, and after that she mainly worked as my dad’s lab assistant. When he retired, she spent ten more years in the workforce, and retired at 64. My dad was a Ph.D. and my mom would’ve had the capacity to get hers, but she lacked the ambition. Instead she was happy to be his assistant until he retired, and afterwards contributed as a M.Sc. to various research projects, including one where my sister, who went into their field, was the lead author with her brand new Ph.D. My sister is a lot more ambitious career-wise than either my mom or I. She works much longer hours than I do, but she’s also childfree, so it’s a lot easier for her to do that.

        I was at home on maternity/parental leave until our son was 2, pretty standard for the time, although now it’s becoming more common for birthing parents to take a year out of the workforce and the non-birthing parent to take 6-12 months leave afterwards.

        I guess I’ve always been a “quiet quitter” in the sense that I’ve always had fairly strong boundaries between work and life, and for as long as I remember I’ve always worked to live rather than lived to work. I’ve never been particularly ambitious, either. I do want to do a good job, because I feel better about myself if I do, but that doesn’t mean that I want to work longer hours or spend a lot of my own time on trainings, etc.

        A few years ago we had a problem with resourcing. I was assigned a project where my manager and the PM had seriously underestimated the work required. For the first time in my career, I ended up working 11+ hour days and half-days on Saturdays, and I nearly burned out. It culminated in me yelling at my manager in frustration just after the project ended. This led to mandated appointments with our EAP, me apologizing to my manager, and her practically ordering me to take a week’s sick leave.

        After the sick leave I was thankfully able to take comp leave for all that OT, and then my long vacation. In total, I was out for 6 weeks straight, and I really needed the break. After that my manager and I agreed that in future, projects needed better resourcing, and that I needed to learn to say that a request was unreasonable. I’ve learned to be much more proactive in telling my managers when my workload is getting to be too much for me to handle, and they’ve also become better at estimating the resources needed for projects.

        It helps that I work for the government and can’t be fired for as long as I meet expectations, or if there’s a good reason for failing to meet expectations (this year I won’t be meeting the expectations for networking, because I got sick both times that I was supposed to attend a scheduled networking event). They also can’t fire me and hire someone else to do my job, even if they can lay me off if they decide to outsource my job function.

  51. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    The first time I “quiet quit” was after spending a summer vacation becoming certified to teach Cisco to high school students. I was promised classes with no more than 18 students (Cisco requirement at the time) and only the schools highest achievers. What I got was 40, primarily special education students with massive IEPs and for the most part, no chance at learning Cisco at this stage of their lives.

    I emailed the powers that be and began teaching a general business curriculum. A month into the school year, we had a surprise visit from “downtown administrators” and Cisco. I saw some very displeased bigshots.

    I was transferred to another school at the end of the school year (no great loss) but was able to use my Cisco certification for some great after school part time income.

  52. Critical Rolls*

    For what it’s worth, every comment section I’ve ever seen on this topic has been full of well-earned ridicule for the term and those attempting to make it a thing.

  53. Cringe cringe cringe*

    Just last week, one of my past employers posted a LinkedIn post with generic content about the quiet quitting trend, and a survey along the lines of “do you consider yourself to be quiet quitting?”. I cringed three times.

    Once because among the possible answers were things like “Yes, I only work my regular hours” and “No, I always go above and beyond” (the temptation to comment “my regular hours are an exchange of labour for money” was strong).

    Once because I remembered that the biggest audience for that company’s post are its own employees, constantly prompted by Marketing to share, react and comment so the content appears in people’s feeds.

    And once more as I saw the privacy setting detailed above the survey, stating “this survey’s admin can see how you vote”. No prizes for guessing the “above and beyond” answer will get 100%.

    I get it, it’s all done for LinkedIn clout and quite probably to get leads on industry contacts salespeople can message. Still, reading it felt so annoyingly tone-deaf.

  54. Girasol*

    I keep thinking about the management fad a decade ago of “employee engagement.” If employees got some sort of intrinsic satisfaction out of their jobs, the story went, they would do more and do better just because they enjoyed the work. So management columns were filled with ideas for how managers could engage their employees and spark their interest in the work. A lot of managers were disappointed in the results of their efforts though. So after awhile, the story shifted to say that managers can’t actually *make* employees feel an emotion toward the job; that sort of intrinsic interest in one’s work has to come from within each employee. Good employees have it and show it by going the extra mile. Or so the story went. Those who didn’t go the extra mile demonstrated that they weren’t good employees, and in the layoffs that were common just then, out they went. IIRC that was when the relationship between workers and employers shifted such that workers were expected to go above and beyond as a regular thing and employers owed nothing for the extra work.

    1. Neon*

      I like to note that these sorts of “engagement” and “intrinsic interest” concepts generally don’t apply to upper management, who are paid enormous sums of money for their services.

      If we’re all supposed to be motivated by job satisfaction then why does the guy at the top demand $10m per year? Is he not sufficiently “engaged” by the joy of a job well done?

    2. Fishsticks*

      Yep. I had a workplace that did an internal survey for employee engagement that they ended up scrapping, because every single non-management person who took the survey stated that regular raises and promotion opportunities were more important than ‘engagement events’ like Casual Friday.

  55. Alice Watson*

    I prefer the alternate term “Work your wage”. I think it captures both the employees need and their objections to certain businesses practices better. I’ve heard people use it even on social media but the quiet quit phrase just caught on more quickly

    1. Despachito*

      I find this also much more exactly describing the situation.

      When I pay my language tutor, I am paying him 60 minutes of his time. We start at 10 sharp, we end at 11 sharp, plus like three minutes of technical talk like the timing of the next lesson. I do not feel entitled to any more of his time, and we are on the same page with this. It would be absurd to want him to give me more time for the same pay. And with the employer it is (or should be) the same.

  56. Melting HR Guru*

    It is not quiet quitting bosses came up with that it is however Acting your wage. Do what you are paid for nothing more. If the bosses want more then they should pay more. I work in very small business and I never work late or on my time off. This is my line in the sand I am acting my wage . I do what you want to pay me for and you get to do all the rest welcome to owning a business

  57. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I mean, this kinda covers it: “It’s just me doing only my actual job and not providing additional labor to my employer that they aren’t compensating me for.”

  58. Constable George Crabtree*

    I *really* want to believe that this fundamental shift in workers’ relationships to work is a permanent one. I want very badly to believe that this is the beginning of a collective shove that pushes wages toward the upward swing that productivity and cost of living have been riding for decades. I’m in my late 20s and things like home ownership have seemed pathetically out of reach since before I even started working, and this little beginning of something is like a spark of actual hope that maybe pay will increase across the board and I’ll earn enough someday for the good ol’ American dream. Here’s hoping

    1. Constable George Crabtree*

      Side note: I went above and beyond for my first job. It was complicated work in a frustrated department, and so many coworkers loved working with me and noted the difference I made in making things run smoother and improving office relationships. I became the de facto liaison between my department and everyone else. I was desperately underpaid, but was willing to take on anything to work my way up. My reward? Laid off after one year. So much for that.

  59. TW1968*

    I, too, HATE the term. I think on reddit I saw the better phrase, “acting your WAGE”. Does your employer go above and beyond and say “Hey, here’s $1000 just because!” No. No, they don’t. So don’t feel bad for not going above and beyond without extra pay.

    It’s about as DUMB a phrase as “resting b*tch face” is when used on women. NO, women DON’T have to be smiling all day long for everyone else’s pleasure.

    Both of these dumb phrases should be folded in sharp corners and shoved where they will hurt the most.

  60. Amorette Allison*

    YAY!!!!! I agree 100%. If doing your job isn’t good enough for your boss, your boss needs to rethink the job.

  61. Sans Serif*

    I’m a couple of years from retirement and I came to the realization by my upper 20s that extra work just got you taken advantage of. And that I didn’t want to be a VP, anyway, which seems to necessitate 70 hour weeks. I always looked at these people who seemed to care so much if this or that marketing campaign had a better response rate or what the A/B test results showed. I realized I didn’t care. At all. So I guess I’ve been “quiet quitting” for over 30 years. Funny how my career has been just fine, with consistently excellent reviews. Because, of course, the term “quiet quitting” is a load of crap. I did my job. I did it well. And then I went home every night and lived the rest of my life. I’m glad to hear more people are realizing they don’t need to sacrifice their lives just to have a decent career.

  62. Jenny Islander*

    I got “quiet promoted” the other day. Came to work and was informed that my title was not Person What Runs This Office So Boss Doesn’t Have To Do Everything, it was Person What Controls Information Flow and Official Imprimaturs In This Entire Organization. Except that, according to the bank, the IRS, and the founding documents of this here organization, I don’t. And then people started acting puzzled that, with no more hours (and no more pay), I couldn’t deliver on the promise of the job title they had foisted on me.

    I “quiet quit” a long time ago. They get every minute they pay me for and not one minute more.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Reminds me how I am “unofficially” Person Who Runs Certain Section Of The Office, except they won’t give me the title or any credit about it at all.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I was unofficially the Person Who Runs the Department from Below and when they didn’t pick me for the Supervisor position that I had essentially been doing as much as I was able, I have now become The Person Who Lets the Supervisor Deal With It.

        1. Jenny Islander*

          Reminds me of a remark by someone online, to the effect that universities have a cluster of provosts and vice-this-and-thats, but their head office has one person in it who has a title like “Administrative Assistant II” and actually keeps the place functioning and in compliance.

  63. Sandgroper*

    I take umbrage at the wordage. Quiet “Quitting” implies people are… quitting. They aren’t, they are staying in the job. When I first heard the term I thought it was linked to The Great Resignation and people were quitting jobs to go do something else. Instead they are staying in great numbers and putting boundaries in place.

    I also notice that this is more a “thing” of the younger work crowd, where people who are middle aged and above are less likely to be spouting off about ‘quiet quitting’. (Not all people/not all generalisations.)

    As an X generation who came out of school to no jobs in the “the recession we had to have” in the 90s, during a time of unprecedented (in a generation) unemployment, the idea of setting boundaries was hard, but we slogged through, and balanced our work/play/life as best we could, and frankly far far better than the younger generations seem to be now. I suspect the onset of technology has really impacted this, with mobile phones and internet making everyone ‘ever available’. Turn it off! Use a different phone number for work stuff, and one for personal, even if it costs you $5 a month to have a dual number.

    We weren’t caught up in ‘monetising our hobbies’ or ‘gig economy’ or ‘side gigs’, sure some of us had multiple part time jobs, but they weren’t slide in between things like Uber driving or blogging, they were actual jobs, with shifts and pay, dependent on someone running a pay cheque. Younger people must be EXHAUSTED trying to constantly ‘hustle’ now. Constantly pursuing an endless stream of micro benefits out of their micro transactions and micro hustles. Ugh. There’s a constant one up manship that has devalued the labour of the individual. The race to always ‘get value from your time’ has given employers the opportunity to sell younger employees a false promise. If your time is always to be monetised for someone, why not your employer? And they pay you a wage, and you aren’t doing anything specific for someone else paying you a wage at that moment, so now you are available? Uber does this, only paying for the distance driving, not the time waiting, and there’s a lot of people who are asking for the same.

    What is fuelling ‘quiet quitting’? A lack of boundaries. And people are blaming their employers (and not without reason!), but there’s some ‘fault of self’ too. If you value your labour then say “it’s available these hours” and leave it there. While there’s often someone else who might be capable of your job have some confidence in your own ability, particularly if you have a qualification, or some form of experience or length of service. You aren’t as easily replaceable if you are a good employee! When at work never work your ‘side hustle’ to keep the boundaries clear. And when off work say “I am working in another job at that time and not available to you”. Respect your own time, and your peers. When most people are working a reasonable level then it resets the playing field and flows through to a group benefit.

    But it’s not quitting. Quitting is resigning. Call it “Boundary backlash” (pushing back on boundaries) or “self sieging” (keeping yourself to yourself) if you need a buzz name for it, one that correlates to what you are actually doing.

  64. Seacow*

    I agree that the term is poor. However, the movement to do what you’re paid for, and not more, is REAL. As a teacher, I thought doing this would be hard (I do not teach in America). After a ROUGH year being in-person, the school essentially gave us a ‘good job!’ and a ‘high-five!’, even though myself and all of my colleagues showed significant exhaustion starting last school year. Many of us decided to just do our jobs WELL without the ‘extras’. While admin noticed (it was hard for them to get volunteers for outside-of-school activities or supervise non-paid in-school groups), they still did nothing about it.

    I still received kudos for my care of my students, my organisation of resources, support, etc., and being a good model overall. Doing the job description well is STILL A THING.

    Unfortunately, there was a mass exodus in my school, too…including myself. Now looking to do another job WELL with the expectation of prioritising myself.

  65. Milleneumfalcn*

    I have been in corporate America for awhile. I don’t know why it is called quiet quitting. It’s a transaction. You do all that your job requires and you receive a paycheck. Transaction complete.
    Some employees are content at that level. Some employees may want to move up in leadership and do more that what is required
    So they may get more money and a promotion

    I may be incorrect however there seems to be an inference that doing more is wrong

  66. Luna*

    The first inbox response listed there made me think of Dr House.
    “Do I get brownie points if I pretend like I care?”

    Even before the pandemic, I never really kept my brain in work mode after my shifts were done. Admittedly, I didn’t work in offices, I worked in retail, hotels, stuff like that, so it’s not like I had ‘work’ to do after my shift. But once my shift was done and I was out, my brain was off work mode. This was my ‘me time’, my leisure time, and I don’t care what happens at work.

    Even my current job. I don’t *love* the company I work for, but I do enjoy my job enough, I do my tasks, and I might check the What’s App company group once a week, to see if there’s anything mentioned there that I might need to know. (Change of open hours, for example) Other than that, I only care enough that the store makes adequate money that it seems profitable to keep the store open.
    And that still has the ‘selfish’ reason that it means I will continue to have a job.

  67. My Cabbages!*

    It sounds like if employers want to stop “quiet quitting” they need to cut out the practice of “quiet hiring” (e.g. expecting workers to take on a job they aren’t getting paid for).

    1. GreenCrayon*

      Something that I see recommended over and over on AskaManager is to make people feel the consequences of their actions. Meaning, the manager is not going to deal with the problem if they don’t let them feel the impact.

      It seems like a lot of employees have decided not to shield employers from the consequences. A lot of going beyond involves actions shielding others from the impact. Employers don’t like that are and are trying the blame others.

  68. La Triviata*

    I suspect that the phrase “quiet quitting” is from the same people who are saying, “nobody wants to work anymore”.

  69. Jenny Islander*

    Reading all the moaning about quiet quitting makes me wonder how many of these pundits ever read Black Beauty, specifically the bit about the efficiency expert who attempted to train his work horse to make better use of its food by feeding it less and less, and then the ungrateful beast up and quit on him (by dropping dead).

    Or, if you want to milk a cow, you have to feed it first.

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