Calmness is a fake trend. Why does it look real?

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The most exciting work narrative at the moment is that everyone is “quiet quietly”. Starting this summer, popular TikTok videos that garnered millions of views used the term to refer to the art of getting a job without letting it control your life. Alliteration has crept from this laboratory dish of social media into the mainstream media landscape. since August, The The Wall Street Journal And the Bloomberg published more than a dozen Articles and podcasts about this phenomenon. In the past month, I’ve received countless PR presentations about Quitting Quiet, many of them citing the same Gallup study, where they claim Quit Quit Shine “More than half” of the American workforce. The quiet quitters are said toepidemic“This is the alleged change of workplace It is said that he makes presidents very angry.

You have repeated the word allegedly Because I want to convey that statistically speaking, a quiet takeoff is actually nothing. Or, at least, not a file the new something.

Each year, Gallup asks thousands of American workers about their commitment to their jobs. From 2010 to 2020, participation slowly increased. In 2022 it has fallen so slightly that it is still higher than it was in any year from 2000 to 2014. Look at the chart below and tell me that this is more than two stable lines battling within the margin of error. As a workplace phenomenon, moderate worker disengagement is as new as cubicles, lunch breaks, and aggrieved colleagues stopping by your workstation to mutter, “Monday, my prince?” What kids now call a “quiet take off,” in earlier, simpler decades, was known simply as “getting a job.”

A graph showing trends for two measures of US employee engagement in 2000-2002.  Both indicators appear to be stable over time.
Gabriella Peschera / The Atlantic Ocean

I acknowledge that smoking cessation appears to solve a major contemporary business puzzle. Labor productivity is declining after rising in the first year of the epidemic. However, the best explanation for this decline is not the sudden outbreak of laziness transmitted through TikTok. The record rates of job change in the service sector have created a bubble of inexperience so that many new workers in restaurants, hotels, etc. are not fully trained.

However, this term has spread in part because of exhausted or bored workers They simply desperately need a new vocabulary to describe their feelings. A quiet take-off seems to some like empowering workers. Amelia Nagoski, co-author with her sister Emily Nagoski for the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress CycleAnd the Tell My colleague Carolyn Mimbs Nice says the term “makes great sense” because it comes “from the perspective of people who were selling not just their time, but themselves to their employers.”

But realistically, the term is more likely to validate managers who think their employees are lazy than to help ordinary workers get their spirits back. The sheer number of articles left quiet from the point of view of the chiefs in The The Wall Street Journal And the Bloomberg It strongly indicates that this term is also in circulation among managers. Provides an adequate explanation for ostensibly lazy workers. Complex questions like “Am I managing my team effectively?” and “Does hybrid work really work in our favour?” It can be reduced to the confident diagnosis that young people do not want to work.

For some reason, the media seems eager to confirm these managers’ worst fears. Earlier this year, several outlets –The The New York TimesAnd the New YorkAnd the Figs are popularAnd the Recode—Try to convince Americans that “nobody wants to work,” even as the economy adds hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. The best evidence they had was not evidence at all, but a misunderstanding of government data. The official “quit smoking rate” has risen to an all-time high big resignation It made its way to the headlines, and some commentators saw a general unwillingness to act. But most people have not given up on retirement. They were withdrawing to Take a new job. The workforce, total jobs, and hours worked increased over a period of time when news organizations were telling everyone the business was dead. It was strange.

The popularity of calorie-free employment trends suggests that there is a divergence between statistical truth and deeper emotional truth. Several weeks ago, I wrote about another trend quasi: The supposed catastrophic shortage of national teachers. Despite numerous news articles about the sudden dearth of class teachers, I was not able to find a single educational expert who agreed with the media presentation of the story. What seems to be happening is that long-standing issues in public education – such as the difficulty of hiring specialized teachers – conflict with the new politicization of public schools and teacher fatigue to create an overwhelming feeling Ill. This sentiment found a purchase in the idea of ​​a national shortage of teachers.

In other words, these quasi-trends are bad-looking vehicles — delivery mechanisms for unspeakable negative thoughts around the world that require headlines to be addressed. When people are looking for permission to feel their unspeakable bad vibes, they are satisfied when you give them cheeky TikTok accounts or indigestible trend-chasing journalists. Just as the national teacher shortage is an exaggerated trend that points to a real phenomenon spot (low job satisfaction among teachers), quiet resignations are the kind of new nonsense that may present a chronic problem at work like underrepresentation of unions or deep American pressure to become a professional.

When a phrase begins, it is often because the new words fill an area of ​​uncertainty, such as formulating a new diagnosis. Many workers are looking for an effective way to describe the conflicting pressures of wanting to be financially secure, but not wanting to let work take over their lives, but also have great anxiety about the condition, but also struggle guilt About that state anxiety, sometimes you feel like getting that upgrade, sometimes you feel like quitting, sometimes you feel like crawling into the tank of sensory deprivation to silence all those other worries for a moment. If quiet quitting work is fake, the popularity of new expressions of anti-work is its own data point that deserves to be taken seriously as a cultural phenomenon.


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