I had happily never heard of the term “quiet quitting” until last week, and now it is supposedly a hotly-debated ethics topic. There’s nothing to debate about. “Quiet quitting” is not new (the term may be new), nor is there any defense for it. It is un-American to its core. But as so many American values are being eroded by revolutionary fervor of people who simply don’t like the unique history, culture and principles that make the nation the unique entity that it is, it figures that slacking at one’s job and being self-righteous about it would be on the rise.
It is, there is little doubt about that. Ethics Alarms has mentioned the trend of increasingly poor and unaccommodating service in every sector. The usual explanation is the under-staffing that the destructive pandemic lockdown facilitated, but it’s good that focus is falling on the declining belief in seeking excellence in all one does, and putting out one’s best effort at all times. The death throes of American dedication to excellence as a cultural value is what has been newly christened “quiet quitting,” the many ways in which workers reduce the time, energy, and care they commit to their jobs.
In a post that now has more than 3.4 million views—you know: morons—TikTok user zaidleppelin described quiet quitting as a rebalancing of expectations, saying, “You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life.” Nice euphemisms and rationalizations there, zaid (may I call you zaid?). What you are talking about is stealing—from your employer, from your employer’s business and customers, and from the American society and economy. This, in increments, makes everyone’s life a little more frustrating, a little less productive, a little less enjoyable and a little more lousy. It is a breach of the social contract. When this destructive attitude becomes the norm, then everything and everybody suffers.
The attitude is endemic to socialist and Communist nations, and has been the Achilles heel of those failed experiments from the start. Once excellence, diligence and self-respect are no longer required for a citizen to derive the same benefits as “hustlers,” then hustling becomes the mark of a sap. “Quiet quitters are merely fulfilling their duties as laid out in their job description, something that only seems remarkable in the context of exploitative workplace culture that is so pervasive in the U.S.” opines one advocate of workplace slugdom. That’s the language of Marxism: working for compensation is being “exploited.”
In truth, doing a good job, and the best you can, is supposed to be a reciprocal value. I benefit in thousands of ways from all the many people doing their best to serve my needs, and I spend seven days a week, 50 plus hours a week, trying to make the world more ethical. It’s a good deal. The deal doesn’t work, however, if my time is wasted and my efforts sabotaged if, as happened last week, a staff that was being paid to support my work shrugged off little details like deadlines and preparation, and then complained bitterly when I expressed my dissatisfaction. The lawyer who paid for my presentation got a sub-par product. The organization’s concern was that I wasn’t pleasant about its staff’s performance.
What is remarkable is that the ethics argument against “quiet quitting” is the same the one I have been making for decades in the non-profit sector to volunteers who excused their inadequate performance by reminding me that they weren’t being paid. My position: I don’t care. If you commit to doing a job, regardless of what the compensation may be, you commit to doing it as well as you can. Now the lazy standard used to claim virtue while still slacking has moved from “I’m not being paid” to “I’m not being paid enough,” or “other people get paid more than they should.” It is the same failure of character on display.
Recent polling from Gallup found that a large share of the U.S. workforce, including more than half of workers born after 1989, can be classified as “not engaged” at their jobs. No wonder. Increasingly children are being taught that they are entitled to praise, accolades and benefits irrespective of their efforts, demonstrated skill and results. They grow up seeing dim and shallow celebrities treated as fonts of wisdom and becoming rich as a result; now, according to one poll, 25% or more of Generation Z plan on making their living as “social influencers.”
The current Woke World values hold that one’s color or sexual identity should be sufficient to justify an advantage in competitive society. Even criminal acts are not supposed to have more than minimal negative consequences. The President of the United States appears to be “phoning it in.” The idea of a guaranteed “living wage” without any requirements for a minimum benefit to be realized by society in exchange for that wage is increasingly seen as “just.”
But what “quiet quitting” constitutes ethically is startlingly simple. It arises from a rejection of the Golden Rule. I do my best for those affected by my work and those who trust and rely on me, because I want them to treat me the same way. It’s mutual respect and consideration.
The quiet quitters are selfish and unethical, and if they get the cultural upper hand, they will cripple society. They need to be rejected, condemned, and stopped.