Why do we work? Who or what is responsible for an individual’s job satisfaction? How much does or should the world around us affect our ability to perform at our vocation? What or who motivates us?
These are a handful of questions that have, rightfully, been on the minds of both employees and employers for the past couple of years as we have all had to learn how to navigate these unprecedented circumstances.
Lately, there is a lot of noise around quiet quitting—the notion that your worth as a person is not defined by your labor, so, y’know, do less at work. The noise includes thinking that millennials and Gen Z are leading the way, to move away from hustle culture and rise-and-grind toward a greater degree of work-life balance.
I find this to be quite reductive. No, not that people are simply doing the bare minimum of what their job description entails, but that this is some sort of recent generational trend. As if this all started with the two latest generations to join the labor force.
What slackers, right?
A lack of job enthusiasm is contextual. It spans all generations and is a function of each individual’s experience.
Here’s the thing, though. In this case, we’ve experienced: a global pandemic (the first in over a century), a bear economy coupled with 40-year high inflation, war, social injustice, devastating court decisions, Zoom fatigue, mass layoffs (twice), learning to live life in hybrid, divisive political ideologies, a literal assault on our nation’s capital, mental health challenges, the increasingly worrisome burden of climate change, countless mass shootings in our children’s schools. I could go on. And on.
This has been compounded by, let’s say, not-great leadership. A lot of people fear for the unknown because major companies that were seemingly doing great have tanked and laid off thousands. Their leaders are hardly anywhere to be found. People are slowly realizing that (like it’s always been) their company does not owe them anything.
This trend—or call it whatever to your heart’s content—is not only understandable, but also it never left. Do not be silly and believe for a second that younger people would prefer to not work hard on something they believe in, in lieu of more time spent doom scrolling. Alternatively, do not blame a generation or two for deprioritizing work when they are not being put first by their employers. My educated guess is that that’s the case for literally anyone.
Yes, hustle culture needs to go. People need to recharge and will be most productive when in balance, that’s a fact. However, work is one of life’s tools of self-actualization. It’s largely how we help others live better lives. Please do not denigrate that by broadly stating newer generations are lazy. It’s contextual and it’s leadership-driven (or lack thereof), as it’s always been.
Fortunately, one very viable solution exists. You should probably get out a pen and write this down. I hope you’re ready because here it comes! Two words: great leadership.
Great leadership is, will be, and has always been the way. Great leadership gets employees to believe in a vision and work exceptionally hard to make it a reality. Great leadership ensures employees feel they can bring their full selves to work, so that they feel seen, heard, and highly motivated. Great leadership helps alleviate fears of layoffs, whether foreseen or unforeseen, by demonstrating time and time again that said leadership will do everything in their power to avoid that route. And, in the event layoffs are inevitable, leadership will always demonstrate a bias to do everything possible to help its employees move forward. Great leadership publicly recognizes the present cultural and business climate, and seeks to deeply understand where things are headed, so that it can manage its most important resource—the human one—as best as possible.
So, if you want to put a pin in quiet quitting, choose to first and foremost be great leaders. Full stop. Act accordingly. Set an example for others to admire and follow. Otherwise, quiet quitting may snowball into, I don’t know, rage quitting. Yes, that’s a video game term—for now.