Issue #39
#39 - The global work trend that just won't... quit
October 14, 2022

What's up, everybody?

We featured "quiet quitting" back in August, when it first became a thing. Since then the phrase has shown surprising… staying power, largely thanks to the backlash against it: from those (including us) who asked whether it was fair to expect employees to do more than they were paid for; from others asking, “What about the ‘quiet firing’ in which passive-aggressive managers engage?”

But precisely because the term exposes the tensions so well, we find it a useful way to probe what’s going on at work. So this week, we use our stories to examine:

  • How "quiet quitting" is a red herring -- via an astute observer of work trends, and the way young people think about their careers.
  • What we can learn from how the trend is playing out in another part of the world -- China.
  • The corporate response to quiet quitting -- via the army of consultants who have amassed, overnight, to help organizations address the trend.

Thanks for reading -- and have a great week!

Aki + Usman


#RethinkingWork #Anti-work #DeeperAndBroader

For all its playful alliterative appeal, the term "quiet quitting" comes up short in two key ways:

One, the narrowness of the phrase betrays a much more broad and fundamental shift occurring at work. If anything, the debates the term has forced -- "Is it a thing? Is the trend new? Who's to blame?" -- are a distraction from something much more profound: a wholesale reevaluation of work, and the way we define success.

Above 👆, Rex Woodbury, an investor who writes about work and young workers, helps make this point (citing as evidence that the "anti-work" subreddit is 4X the size of the "career guidance" subreddit 🤯).

As well, the phenomenon is more global than the term implies, which we learn from our next story. 👇🏻


#QuietQuitting #Perspective #Vocab

As an English term, you might think"quiet quitting" is limited to the US, or to English-speaking-countries. But it's a global phenomenon, even if the manifestations vary by location.

China in particular is a complex place, and the goal is not to suggest that "quiet quitting" is the same thing as "lying flat", above. Nonetheless, a look at the trend in China is instructive because the conversation there has been in progress for longer; it uses several, evolving terms; and those terms appear more organic, nuanced -- and honest.

Chinese netizens started using the phrase "nei juan", or "involution" as early as 2020. The BBC explains:

"Involution -- or 'nei juan' (literally, an 'inward curling') -- refers to a social concept where population growth does not result in productivity or improved innovation. Today, the term is broadly used to express a feeling of burnout."

"[Then in June of 2021], another concept emerged: that of "lying flat" or "tang ping". It began after a forum user stated that although he had not been working for the past two years, he did not see this as a problem - very much going against the traditional definition of success in China."

So, in the US we've got "quiet quitting"; in China, "tangping". But what we're witnessing in both countries: young people struggling to thrive in the system as-is, and expressing a desire to break free of dominant, long-held definitions of success.


#QuietQuitting #Retention #PleaseDontQuit

The start of this read pokes fun at the personalities, and startups, that have ridden the quiet quitting wave to capitalize on the challenges organizations are facing in retaining talent.

Cheek aside though, there are also insightful examples of organizations using consultants -- as well as data, perks, and purpose -- to get people not to quit. Clearly, retention is an issue, and companies are rooting around for ways to solve it.

But missing from the article?

Our recommendation, which we won't charge $15K for: perhaps paying your people more, and treating them with more empathy, might be a good place to start? ✌🏻

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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