Quit with all this
On TikTok business thought, "quiet quitting", and what Benjamin Franklin would have said about the movie "Office Space"
Every so often, someone gets famous for putting a fresh coat of paint on a well-known idea. They apply a new name to a concept, then tout the rebranding with a product -- usually a book, necessitating a book tour. On the book tour, media organizations happily comply because there's no more reliable "yes" in all the interview world than an author on a book tour. (There are entire newsletters devoted to placing authors on radio and television programs.)
■ Now, the process doesn't even require the effort of writing a book. Thanks to the obsessively short attention spans promoted by social media tools like TikTok, one of these recycled ideas can be sparked with nothing more than a viral video blip. And such is the case with "quiet quitting". LinkedIn is on the story. So is Yahoo Finance. And HuffPost, the New York Post, and Fox Business.
■ Someone is going to get smart and dash off a fluffy book on the topic for rush publication. It will be a money-maker.
■ The problem with an idea like "quiet quitting" is that it isn't new. It's just another way of saying "work-life balance" (at best). Or just plain old slacking off (at worst).
■ It's the kind of idea that has a chance to ring true with a lot of people when the US unemployment rate is a mere 3.5%. In some states, it's below 2%. Workers can call their own shots to a very large extent, just like they could when "Office Space" came out -- the unemployment rate in 1999 was 4.1%, which at the time was a 30-year low.
■ Economic seasons change just like the natural seasons of the year, and at some point in the future, the ascendant message won't be about "quiet quitting" -- it will be some new iteration of the fear that employers are expecting more from their workers without paying for it. And, sometime after that, it will be time for another resetting of "work-life balance".
■ Benjamin Franklin counseled, "Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure" -- but he also wrote, "Sloth (like rust) consumes faster than labor wears. The used key is always bright." The tension between work and leisure will always exist. Franklin's advice is just another way of saying "Work hard, play hard", and it's just as sensible in the 21st Century as it was in the 18th.
■ Arthur Brooks has thoughtfully documented the centrality of being needed as a driver of happiness and well-being. Feeling useless can actually kill. Nobody wants to do meaningless busy work, nor does anyone want to be driven to labor like a pack animal. Being needed generally entails doing something worthwhile. It does not require doing that work without fair compensation or adequate relief. Do we really need new buzzwords to convey that?