In The Community
“Quiet quitting” is everywhere, but what does it mean exactly?
In a country where capitalism has gone almost entirely rogue, many might struggle with the concept of not putting their best foot forward at work. Americans have been so conditioned to work without rest, low wages, and decent work benefits that the idea of not centering work in their lives may seem oddly foreign. Enter “quiet quitting,” the workplace trend many professionals are now embracing in lieu of letting work control their entire lives.
“Quiet quitting” is based on the concept of not necessarily actually quitting your job, but instead toning down the importance of it in your life by simply not working as hard while clocked in. Many people explain that they used to burn themselves out in favor of producing their very best results at work, and often went unpaid for their extra efforts. Now many of those same workers are shifting instead to a more relaxed approach of practicing the bare minimum required to get their jobs done.
They are bidding adieu to late nights, answering emails outside of work hours, and stressing about work. Their quiet quitting has allowed them to reclaim their lives outside of work, bringing them more balance overall.
The term itself is new, but as with every new workforce term (“The Great Resignation” is another popular one) comes the question of where it came from and what inspired it. “Quiet quitting” is making it acceptable for workers to essentially unclench the tight hold their jobs have on them, but it’s also just putting a cute name to the concept of enforcing boundaries with employers who take advantage of their workers.
\u201cThey tried so hard with putting a name to Quiet Quitting \ud83e\udd23. The very concept of people setting boundaries and not putting up with wage theft anymore is SO terrifying to the American employer that they had to put a marketing team behind it.\u201d— Jon Kung (@Jon Kung) 1661165577
While it’s important (and often within legal requirements) to set healthy work boundaries, it’s noteworthy that many of these workplace trends are coming as a result of abusive employer practices. Many workers have encountered bosses looking to continuously expand their duties without any kind of compensation or salary increase, and inflexibility and a lack of upward mobility that has inspired the “great resignation” that has now been rebranded as “the great re-shuffle.” As quiet quitting explains, instead of quitting their jobs, many are simply deprioritizing their jobs entirely.
The term is cute, but what “quiet quitting” signifies is that employers have always benefitted from exploiting their employees as much as they can, and this new approach is sure to hit them where it hurts. With star performers lowering their output, the cultural shift of placing less importance on your job and more on yourself is sure to be felt. So while “quiet quitting” defines that approach, what it really means without the negative connotation mass media is ascribing to it is that it’s possible to have a great career with fair compensation, and anything less doesn’t deserve your best.
Whatever the path that workers continue to take, one thing’s for sure - this generation of workers isn’t here to play.
If you’re either of these people, you might have heard of the anti-work movement. Anti-work is changing the relationship many people have with their jobs by redefining the concept (and necessity) of work.
Anti-work is a labor movement focused on people being treated like humans rather than just labor robots, and embracing ideals that place their priorities on being fulfilled outside of just getting a paycheck. The pandemic brought this concept to light for millions of people for the first time.
While some of us aspire to have fulfilling careers, these careers can often be fraught with everything from combating overwork in a world that wants you to be a “girlboss” to imposter syndrome. After all, in a world where women have only recenlty been allowed to meaningfully contribute in the work economy, it seems foreign to trade that to deprioritize working. However, the anti-work movement promotes reclaiming your time and labor for yourself vs giving it to an employer that won’t even appreciate your efforts, the main reason why it is so popular in the first place.
The platform for anti-work is mostly an online movement, most prominently represented by the subreddit r/antiwork. The now-popular community was hovering around 100k people in a pre-pandemic world only to balloon to a present-day presence of 2.1 million people.
While r/antiwork is serving as a big platform for the movement, it’s important to note that it’s not without its chaos. Originally a lesser-known concept, anti-work has been a source of controversy with who has been chosen to represent (or misrepresent, depending on who you ask) the community to mainstream media, making it a sore topic for those who have adopted its ideals over the years.
Defined in its community description as “A subreddit for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles,” r/anti-work is actually filled with everything from stories of workers fighting back against abusive employers to some telling their resignation stories with glee.
Though the community aims to meet its ultimate goal of “unemployment for all, not just the rich,” it’s a decent resource for those new to the concept of working to live vs living to work. Like with all things on the internet though, it’s always good to balance these concepts being presented by strangers on an online platform with parts of the movement that benefit you as an individual. Using this concept to refine your relationship with work to make you your best self is the goal here.
Anti-work is also gaining traction outside of the internet, primarily in redefining the conversation about how people approach work. With companies struggling to maintain employee retention without giving in to more equitable approaches to work like offering everything from better benefits to hybrid/remote work schedules that didn’t exist before the pandemic, we’re seeing a shift in workers owning their value to employers. While this can’t be only attributed to anti-work, the conversations certainly carry a lot of value to those in the movement, and the effects of these concepts are being seen in places that may not even know the movement itself exists.
So next time you’re thinking about your next career move, consider how your job impacts your life and make adjustments to ensure that it is making you the best version of yourself possible. While most have to work and maintain careers to satisfy the material needs in our lives, there’s no harm in letting work be a necessary evil vs it being the focal point of your life. That's what the anti-work movement has managed to bring to the table.
In 2014, Sophia Amoruso’s “Girlboss” novel launched the birth of a new era of feminist ideals in the workplace. Out was the concept of women simply playing supporting characters to others in their professional lives and in was the boss defeating the patriarchy to conquer it all. “Girlboss” culture, as it turns out, is embedded in white privilege, toxicity, and overworking.
Amoruso’s autobiography attempted to disprove the idea that “girlbosses” can’t exist. She attempted to show that women aren’t constrained by the systemic patriarchal barriers that block a woman’s professional accomplishments and earning potential. Nevermind that Amoruso first gained access to real money by working at a Borders bookstore and stealing stacks of bestselling novels to resell on eBay for profit.
Amoruso’s ability to spin her tail of shoplifting, stealing, and lying to justify how these actions allowed her to later found Nasty Gal, an online vintage store full of curated pieces chosen specifically by Amoruso herself, is a privilege no woman of color posseses. Nasty Gal later became a multi-million dollar empire - only to file for bankruptcy and collapse years later.
Amoruso then took the money from that deal and launched none other than the cutely titled Girlboss Media.
This isn’t to say Amoruso didn’t work - she certainly did. It isn’t easy to manage inventory or create a brand all on one’s own, and Amoruso put in the work that got her to her goals. However, Amoruso’s peddling of the “girlboss” mentality being 100% accessible for all lacks the same intersectionality lens that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In did just a year prior to #Girlboss’s original publication in 2014.
White feminism and and self-identifying white feminists often achieve their success at the expense of women around them, usually, women of color or women of lower economic status or privilege. The latest example coming from the notable implosion of “The Wing,” a women’s co-working space that raised millions of dollars peddling diversity and inclusion while they were internally mistreating their employees of color to the point where a high-profile digital walkout was staged.
There’s no doubt that what Amoruso created provided value in empowering many in the next generation of women, but one can’t deny that she only got as far as she did by leveraging her white privilege, just as countless “self-made” white women have done before. Amoruso’s ability to get a job at a museum for health insurance just long enough to treat the lump in her breast, then promptly quitting that job to pursue her passion full-time, is a direct testament that her existence is on an opposite plane of reality to the one women of color and lower-income women live in.
Girlboss culture is coming to an end.
For too many years, the girlboss and lean-in phrases dominated every professional development conference aimed at attracting Millennial and Gen-X female workers. Overcommitting to your job to the point of developing health issues, losing relationships to favor professional accolades, and missing out on time with yourself to get a promotion is finally mostly on its way out.
With the death of girlboss culture also comes an abrupt slamming of the door on unhealthy relationships with work as women (especially Latina women) left the workforce altogether at shocking rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exposed inequalities in the workplace, the same inequalities that white women have benefitted from for years, even in pre-pandemic times.
Amoruso’s book taught women that the harder you work, the bigger the reward (essentially a rebranding of the “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” rhetoric we’ve all been told). A silly anecdote about mistaking a Victoria’s Secret credit card for an in-store offer that destroyed Amoruso’s credit and didn’t allow her to finance the six-figure Porsche she wanted (but was able to purchase in cash, thanks to her great savings habits!) years later would be seen as ignorant were it told by a woman of color, sans the ability to buy the Porsche in cash, of course.
Where financial literacy is seen as a default for privileged, white, college-educated women, it is not as accessible and even foreign for those raised for generations without. The end of girlboss culture finally puts to rest the false notion that the hustle lifestyle is sustainable. In a world where Latinas and women of color are still earning only a fraction of a white man’s salary despite professional achievements, there is no room for myths based on patriarchy and white supremacy.