Quiet Quit Quite Quietly Quits


For a while now, one of the most pressing topics globally is employees quitting en masse. The biggest numbers are among people who work in offices – from company staff and managers all the way to programmers and creatives. 

The main reason for the trend is not inadequate salaries or missing benefits. Thanks to technology that enabled a surge in the number of jobs that are remote, people see little sense in losing time commuting to and from work, when they can log in and do their job from any location worldwide. Some seized this opportunity to move out of noisy and polluted urban settlements into nature and smaller cities. 

To quit or resign has become easier also due to the fact that in the changing context of work, people need not work for just one but multiple companies at the same time. The trend has become such a phenomenon that it warranted a special term – „Great Resignation”. The name was coined by Anthony Klotz, professor of organisational behaviour from UCL School of Management. The term was almost exclusively connected to tech companies at the beginning, but it soon spread to other industries as well. 

Covid has additionally normalised the work from home, which prompted many companies to offer freedom to their employees not to return to the office despite the possibility to do so. Cloaked by the generosity of employers that offered flexibility, was a clear business interest of the corporations – decreasing office space rentals. Some even announced that there will be no return to the office, while others limited the number of days per week that employees can work at their desks. 

Soon after, the new setting showed clearly how deep the rift between a company and the people working there has become – impacting negatively on the sense of belonging. This soon led to a new trend, started by the employees this time, so that for a while now many are hushing about the „quiet quitting”. This silent resigning can best be described in the following way: I only work as much as I have to. This, in and of itself is nothing new, but with the new way of working it has become easier to enforce in real life. 

Having all of this in mind, the logical conclusion would be that the companies will have to face the problem of employee shortage, specially top-quality candidates and do something to motivate them into working more.  And this is when news of mass layoffs start appearing online with companies severely shrinking their workforce. 

What is interesting is that some of the most famous global tech giants are leading the way in mass layoffs – Amazon fired 10,000 people, which might be “only” 3% of their entire employee body but is still the biggest layoff since the company started its operation. 

Eleven thousand people were laid off by Zuckerberg’s Meta, which is 13% of the total number of employees. Lyft, Uber, Snap, Salesforce and a slew of other companies joined the trend. There is also Musk’s Twitter, which laid off half of its employees – but that is a story for another time and format.

Apart from the sheer number of people losing their jobs, what is most appalling is the way in which the layoffs were communicated with the employees. No, they did not get a call from a person in HR that their services are no longer required. They just received uniform emails with a notice of termination, while some companies, like Uber, invited employees to a Zoom call where they were just informed that they were fired. Long Live Tech!

The emergence of these two trends in simultaneous fashion seems illogical, at the first glance. However, once you scratch beneath the surface, certain things come into perspective. If the precondition for work is not a fixed physical location anymore, then the workplace is no longer an obligation of the employer but it transfers over to the person actually doing the work. At the same time, everything fits into the aforementioned trend of workforce globalisation. This radically expands the potential choice that companies have, as the physical location is no longer a precondition to headhunt for employees. This turned the market for professionals into a global playground, allowing easier shifts and transfers in employee structures and, more importantly, cheaper labour.

Thanks to the technology, the labour market not only became more global but also way more dehumanised. In the capitalistic setting, an employee was just a small cog in a machine, and now becomes just a number, a program code that is easily replaceable within the system. At the same time, for such an employee the company he works for becomes this hard-to-imagine metaphysical entity in another galaxy that he communicates with exclusively through technology that he is wired to. This invisibility is perfect for modern day capitalism, as it hides class differences and rising inequalities which in turn disable an organised rebellion against the system itself. 

In that kind of a world, terms such as “employment”, “work place”, “working hours”, “work tools”, “annual leave”, “working overtime”, “maternity leave”, “lunch break”, “bonuses and awards” start losing their true meaning. 

Until a few days ago, all these things were a result of a century-long fight for labour rights, decreasing social inequalities and supporting faith in a more just and happier civilization. We have come a long way from those ideas, it seems. 

I am just waiting for a moment when one of the global capitalist mastodons decides to misuse the genius slogan coined by the legendary Slavimir Stojanović Futro and send this as a message to their employees daily: “Work, Do Your Best, Don’t Complain”. ‘Cuz things need to be put in order, you know?

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