June 2020 saw many of our corporate professionals struggling with: 1) where their life choices had brought them, 2) what their lifestyles demonstrated in the midst of the lockdown, and 3) what they would do differently once this mess had moved on. As 2022 moved in, a quiet resignation to the new-normal rolled in alongside it. Busy-ness can be a perfect shield for human nature to kick in, amnesia to take hold, and pre-covid decision making to return.
While the majority of professionals have found their peace with today’s version of the ‘new normal’, many of their colleagues have responded with a clear and loud “Hell No!” The “Great Resignation” & “Quiet Quitting”–post-covid work trends–are the labels applied to the crowds of employees saying no to the new normal and finding the courage to pursue a more meaningful lifestyle with less tolerance for anything that interrupts their version of work-life balance.
The term quiet quitting was made popular by Zaid Khan, a 24-year-old engineer from New York in a TikTok post that went viral. His words are very telling:
Quiet quitting is not quitting your job but quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re no longer subscribing to the ‘hustle mentality’. That work has to be your life. It is not, and your worth is not defined by your labour.
Moreover, the term great resignation was coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management in Texas, who in May of 2021 said a wave of resignations was coming as people digested the lessons of lockdown and reimagined what normal life should look like. His outlook was indeed quite prescient.
While many are grateful for the return of their Monday to Friday routines, full of hustle and busy-ness, many are opting out of the great resignation and opting into quiet quitting to give themselves sufficient space to redesign their work-life balance inside their version of hi-definition (Hi-Def) meaningful.
Generations X, Y, and Z and the rest of us are witnessing firsthand that a lifetime of over-investing in jobs just does not pay. The requirements of corporate life are constantly increasing (9 to 5 seems no longer sufficient) while the rewards are diminishing (high inflation, housing prices, and decreased purchasing power).
After two years of forced lockdowns, isolation, blows to financial security, and strained relationships, for many the pain of staying the same far outweighs the pain of changing the game.
No one is to blame…
This last generation grew up in a world of hustle, busy-ness, and overdelivering, relishing all that came with it, e.g., their identity, their homes, cars, and those trips to Disneyland for their 2.4 kids–as well as the pat-on-the-back praise that came from a job well done. That world is now being viewed in the rear-view mirror as some sort of scorched earth to move on from.
Moving on to what?
Time will tell where this takes us. Some of what we are seeing already is a conscious and deliberate shift to:
- Separating identity from work
- Prioritising fun and experience over a false sense of job security and team building away days
- Changing what it means to be an adult–well being, mindfulness, and the outdoors– are all showing up as cornerstones to build on, not nice-to-haves when and if we can fit it in
- Portfolio careers that allow work to be more on employee terms, that allow for extended travel, that can accommodate 4-day work weeks, and flexible work hours
- Persistent and incremental steps towards meaningful work
Every crisis has an opportunity hiding within it–Covid included.
If you talk to one of these quiet quitters – you will hear them credit Covid for the marked improvements they are making, the new paths they are taking, and the lifestyles worthy of Instagram channels they are now living.
Pursuing what is meaningful has never felt so accessible.