For much of my 35 or so years in the workforce, I’m proud to have gone the extra mile — like trying to make a solid 8-hour day that has sometimes stretched into a 10 or 12-hour day. And I’ve generally felt satisfaction doing that, and along the way I got some nice comments from employers.
But I will never forget the time when I “silently quit” a job. It was not a happy experience.
By now you have probably heard of silent quitting. It’s a buzz phrase that talks about the idea of setting boundaries at work, if not doing the bare minimum. The idea is that we often work harder than necessary – and we pay the price in terms of our mental, if not physical, health.
Read more: What is silent stopping? Employees set boundaries for a better work-life balance.
In my case, the idea of not giving it all at work came about three decades ago, when I was in my late twenties working in sales — something that was a far cry from the career I’d built as a writer and editor. But it was an opportunity recommended to me by a friend of the company. I wasn’t sure it would be the right choice—and dreaded the nearly 90-minute commute to and from the office—but I honestly needed the money after the previous company I worked for went bankrupt.
Once I was on the track, I quickly realized two things. First, it was as bad a performance as I feared. Second, I was somehow able to keep working without putting in so much effort.
““Even before ‘Seinfeld’ was a thing, I auditioned for the part of George Costanza, the character who made a career out of job avoidance.””
So I took a two hour lunch and used every excuse I could find to leave early. Even before “Seinfeld” was a thing, I auditioned for the part of George Costanza, the character who made a career out of avoiding work. (Too bad I didn’t think about the sleeping nook Costanza had built under his desk.)
However, unlike George, I didn’t enjoy my laziness at work. In any case, I was the most miserable I’ve ever been in my professional life.
I understand that for some quiet quitters, it’s about affirming their need for work-life balance and avoiding burnout. And I have little tolerance for employers who ask for more without offering decent compensation and respecting the lives of their employees outside the office.
Related: The resistance to the silent shutdown smacks of a new attempt by the ruling class to get workers back under their thumb: ‘Am I wrong?
But I think what’s being overlooked here is that work can provide purpose. And that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a job where you’re so satisfied that you’re willing — yes, eagerly — to go above and beyond your call of duty, assuming you can reasonably fit it into your schedule. to suit.
In contrast, it seems like a recipe for a less-than-full life to spend your days figuring out how to do as little as possible at work, because your position doesn’t matter or because you have some meat against your company. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just look for a new job?
It turns out I’m far from the only one who thinks so. I’ve been in touch with several human resources, financial, and mental health professionals who talked about the potential pitfalls of quitting quietly.
“‘Quiet stopping doesn’t happen in a vacuum.’”
Gena Cox, a psychologist and executive coach, claims that quitting quietly comes with its own mental price — and, as she describes it, it’s a price that may be worse than feeling overworked. “Staying in an unpleasant situation can contribute to burnout, stress and emotional distress. It would be better to leave if the situation is so far that staying could cause psychological damage,” says Cox.
Andrew Latham, director of content at financial site SuperMoney, puts it more succinctly: “Life’s too short to spend on a job you hate unless you’re out of options at all.”
There’s also a point experts make that often goes unmentioned when it comes to quitting quietly: By engaging in such behavior, you may be hurting your long-term career prospects. If you have less to show for in your current job, how can you explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the next one you might be looking for? Employers are talking to each other, and your past performance (or lack thereof) can get in your way.
As Rachel Kanarowski, a consultant dealing with workplace issues, says, “If the hiring manager knows someone in your current organization, they’ll likely contact you to inquire more about you.” Or as Latham says, “Silent stopping doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”
In my case, I eventually moved on to another job—and a much more satisfying one—after my days of quietly quitting the sales position. And I’ve done enough work in my time at work to win at least one significant sales contract, so maybe my employer didn’t have such bad things to say about me.
But I found no satisfaction in my tenure – quite the contrary. Who wants to be a quitter?