We — workers, professionals, journalists, and I — can’t stop talking about work these days. And it’s not just because we spend so much of our waking lives doing it.
Three years after the pandemic that disrupted the work of many Americans, we are now on the brink of a recession that threatens to further disrupt the way we work. Along the way, terms like big resignation and quiet no-smoking drove 9-5 into the rest of the day. They’re both eye-popping nonsensical buzzwords and succinct ways to capture real-life workplace phenomena.
Quiet employment is the latest term being thrown around.explains how Employers are trying to complete required tasks by asking existing employees to change roles rather than adding employees. This is a play on the word quiet retirement, which describes a worker’s refusal to work beyond his own. The term Quiet Quit arose as the basis for the Great Resignation, or Americans’ sustained willingness to quit their jobs in search of a better job during the pandemic. I didn’t have to prioritize work in my life.
When I first heard about Quiet Hiring, my first reaction was to groan and tell the editor, No, I won’t write about this fake. Still skeptical about how this trend will play out But after thinking about these terms and why they make up for a while, I became more empathetic.For better or worse, these terms are powerful.
Don’t just stick to these terms just because they’re catchy. We continue to use them because they describe what is really going on, helping us understand the rapidly changing world around us and seeing ourselves within it. It helps make it possible.
“We come up with terminology to make the unintelligible readable. Or we play around with metaphors a bit to create grammar and structures that somehow make it possible to understand what’s going on.” outside the officesaid to me.
Of course, the shorthand for what happens at work is as old as the work itself. The mass layoffs that began in the 1980s and his 1990s were called “downsizing.” This is because companies have come to view these job cuts as a sign of competitiveness rather than corporate failure. “Gig work,” popularized by apps like Uber around the 2010s, emerged from these cuts as companies sought to fill the employment gap as cheaply and efficiently as possible.
But now the whole process has sped up, from recognizing a new phenomenon, to writing about it, to wanting to retract it. The nature of work is changing rapidly, and the pandemic has only accelerated that fact.
Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller is leading the “Managing the Future of Work” initiative. In other words, the nature of work is changing, and these terms help us fit that change into our worldview.
Perhaps the biggest reason these terms are so prevalent is the simple fact that work is still a very strange and confusing place these days. , there are so many unfilled jobs. We are in the age of worker power and wages are rising rapidly, but not fast enough to keep up with inflation. People find meaning in their work, but their work becomes so demanding that it takes away the meaning of life.
So we create and perpetuate terms that help us orient ourselves.
However, the use of these terms can also have cyclical effects. They’re coined because they happen, but they happen more because people have languages and templates to copy. Social media greatly amplifies that effect.
“Through multiple highly scrutinized and validated studies, we know that what people like you do gives you psychological permission to do the same thing,” said Fuller. “Whether it’s swindling your taxes, throwing bricks out the window, or standing up and screaming like crazy for your favorite sports team, it doesn’t matter.”
And then there are people like me who make things worse.
“In the world of social media, if you come up with a snappy phrase, all of a sudden, reporters are calling up professors at Harvard and asking about it,” Fuller said.
Meaning and meaning of these terms
The big resignation was coined by Texas A&M University Associate Professor Anthony Klotz in a 2021 interview with Bloomberg. He used the term people quitting their jobs when they quit for various reasons related to the pandemic, such as wanting to work remotely or rethinking where work takes place in their lives. Almost every publication has written on the topic since then — applauding, mocking, renaming, and questioning its very existence. Showing 100 million search results.)
The only certainty on this topic is that early in 2021, Americans across industries were quitting their jobs at high rates. Structural factors, such as an aging population and declining labor force participation, also suggest that the trend, which began before the pandemic put it in overdrive, has staying power.
Then quietly quit. The term was coined and then popularized on TikTok. A user described it as “stopping the idea of doing more than quitting your job altogether.” This was seen as a response to the hustle culture of the 2000s and his 2010s, which was celebrated for overwork and where work became a stand-in for community and identity. For many Americans, announcing boundaries with work reflected embracing a more transactional relationship with work.
Quitting quietly was also one of the most excruciating words out there. One reason is that it felt like a new word for what people have been doing all along: not making work the center of their lives. As The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson points out, it’s not necessarily happening at an increasing rate. Worker turnover has remained remarkably stable over time, despite a slight uptick recently, suggesting that feelings about TikTok weren’t leading the fight for the job, but simply that it had been there for a long time. It suggests that it reflects the emotions you had.
This brings the quiet jobs that have been rampant across the internet in recent months. Inc. magazine used it last September to describe Google’s strategy to fill top talent into new roles within the company. And Emily Rose McRae, senior director of research at Gartner and leader of the Future of Jobs research team, said in her CNBC article last week that her report on job trends for 2023 was featured. , can be commended for popularizing the current iteration of the term.
For McRae, quiet hiring means asking existing employees to take on new jobs, while also meeting the needs of companies struggling to find workers amid massive retirements and cost cutting. It is also possible to use a contractor to In an interview, she said the term has a more nuanced meaning than trends such as “doing more with less” and “outsourcing” that have been happening for decades. McRae sees this as a management-driven trend to make the most of existing talent, rather than seeking more opportunities within the organization. She also includes compensating for employee flexibility.
That said, McRae says naming trends is an important responsibility, and she doesn’t take it lightly.
“We’re going to walk into a room full of executives in positions of authority and say, ‘This is happening.’
These terms are useful until they are useless
Like anything out there, these terms for work have grown and changed over time. They were misunderstood and even deviated from their original meaning. Their definitions are inaccurate and changing, and the words themselves can be overused, sometimes even meaningless.
Quiet Quit, for example, began as a reference to performing basic duties and nothing more, but over time Management interprets workers as lazy. The brevity of the term “great resignation” led many people to assume that they were simply taking it easy after quitting their jobs, but in reality most people work to find a better job. I am quitting. We also missed that many of those who quit their jobs were retiring to retire early amid the dangerous pandemic.
As Harvard’s Fuller put it, “Underneath each of them is a real phenomenon, but something like the banner headline doesn’t capture the nuance of what’s really going on.”
But broadly speaking, these terms can inspire people. It’s full of stories of people who quit their soul-crushing jobs in search of things. Words like “burnout” have helped Americans break free from their toxic relationship with work and encouraged others to form unions and improve their jobs.
Such flippant language also has the ability to trivialize real concerns such as workplace safety and fair compensation. Employers employ conditions such as quiet retirement to justify the worst impulses, such as tracking keystrokes or conducting performance reviews, as a way to justify firing an employee. can.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t try to find the next “quiet X-ing” or new “Great X.” The real problem at work remains.
Others may continue to tend to talk about these terms whether they agree or not.
“I’m actually really grateful that there’s this pushback and backlash and the reaction to it,” said McRae, who’s famous for quiet adoption. It means that we are actually investigating, rather than